By CHRISTINA ANDRONESCU
Countless studies have shown that diversity in schools not only better prepares students for an increasingly diverse society and global economy, but also improves cognitive skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, among students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Students that interact with peers of different backgrounds gain social-emotional benefits as well; the increased tolerance and cross-cultural dialogue only serve to improve civil society.
This year Citrus Valley High School welcomed two new clubs dedicated to fostering understanding between cultures and promoting diversity on campus: Black Student Union (BSU) and Asian Student Union (ASU).
“I noticed around campus that a lot of people feel underrepresented, especially in Redlands,” said BSU President Evadney Brooks. “I also noticed that a lot of opportunities that were offered to my friends at other high schools [through BSU] were not offered here. I just wanted to open those possibilities to our students.”
BSU Vice President Nena Ojukwu hopes that in the long-run the club will successfully “educate students about African American history and culture,” but for now the main short-term goal is “to have fun.”
Brooks further elaborated on BSU’s future plans: “Our long-term goal is to establish an impactful and lasting club. Right now we’re working on making everything more permanent by listing and outlining all the activities we could do for years to come. I don’t want to make a club and once I leave, it dies out; I want BSU to stay.”
At meetings, BSU will hold “Real Talks,” biweekly discussions of controversial political or social topics, and organize games that relate to the matters discussed in the Real Talks. The leadership of BSU strives to involve students of all backgrounds in their discussions, as “having many perspectives from different minority groups is better than having the voice of just one minority group,” according to Brooks.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and we accept all cultures,” summarized Ojukwu.
The leadership of Asian Student Union similarly stresses inclusivity and positive dialogue between peers. President Katharine Ngo agreed that “with Asian Student Union, we plan to empower Asian peers and teach non-Asian peers about our culture.” In order to do so and spread the word, Vice President Kayla Nguyen plans “to have fundraisers and maybe get merchandise” while aiming to “hold events that will help bring fellow Asians together.”
Empowerment is at the forefront of ASU’s mission. Ngo described her hope for the club’s impact on campus: “Personally I would like to see other Asians holding themselves in a better light and seeing themselves like ‘my monolid eyes are very pretty,’ ‘my accent is pretty,’ or ‘my culture is unique.’”
At meetings, ASU will explore the main ideas of different Asian cultures, such as the annual holidays, key country facts and the basics of the language. But, before the club begins learning, Ngo and Nguyen hope to lead “a social circle where we can learn more about each other and reinforce the feeling of a family or a tight-knit group.”
“Outside of our meetings, we currently have a karaoke night in the fall and our own Lunar New Year festival in the early year,” said Ngo. “It would be nice for both Asians and non-Asians to have a taste of our culture in a place where it isn’t so prominent, such in the OC or Bay Area.”
Overall, Ngo and Nguyen hope to communicate to Asian peers the following: “We’re here and we’re a family—not invisible.”
Asian Student Union’s officers are primarily underclassmen; they are a positive example of student engagement and leadership by demonstrating that students of all grade levels can play an active role in influencing Citrus Valley’s learning environment. Ngo and Nguyen both agree that although taking on leadership roles is challenging at times, “in the end, it’s worth it and we’re learning so much about Citrus in general.”
BSU meets twice a month on Fridays (every Friday during Black History Month) in Room C-08
Contact Evadney and Nena through Remind. Text @cv-bsu to 81010 to join.
BSU’s Instagram: @citrusvalley_bsu
ASU meets every other Wednesday in Room C-29
Contact Katharine and Kayla through Remind. Text @cvhsasu20 to 81010 to join.
ASU’s Instagram: @cvhsasu