The whole world in one Houston school

If you’re feeling in need of a tonic right now—something to nourish and pep you up and get you through the end of the year with a smile on your face—I have a suggestion. Have you seen the Houston episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN?

The full episode celebrates the gorgeous, charming, and fascinating people of Houston, including hip hop car enthusiasts, Vietnamese fishermen and shopkeepers, Congolese and Ghanaian urban farmers, Mexican American families, and a larger-than-life Indian American radio host. But for the Alt Ed Austin community, the most inspiring visit Bourdain made down in Houston was to Margaret Long Wisdom High School (formerly known as Robert E. Lee High School). Principal Jonathan Tranh, a Vietnamese immigrant himself, led a tour of “the most diverse high school” in a city where minorities are now the majority. At Wisdom HS, 80 percent of students speak English as a second language, and dedicated ESL instructor Gary Reed is one of the keys to the kids’ future success.

Suffering through a typical cafeteria lunch of chicken sandwiches, fries, and canned fruit salad, Chef Bourdain spoke to students from Iran, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, and El Salvador. You’ll love the little glimpses of these students’ dreams of engineering, fashion design, and soccer—and be sobered by the knowledge that so many of them come from dangerous places to which they dare not return. There’s one theme that’s repeated in every segment of the episode, in every corner of Houston, where each person interviewed praises the city’s compassion, climate, and boundless opportunity: “Welcome to America.”

If you have cable, you can probably see Bourdain’s episode “on demand,” and if not, it’s available on the CNN app, and for purchase on many platforms.

Shelley Sperry

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