three students wearing masks

Black History Month: Extending beyond February

About 40 middle and high school students from Willamette High School and Cascade and Shasta middle schools gathered last week at Willamette for a joint Black Student Union meeting – and the atmosphere was buzzing with positivity and support.

Students made their way from all three schools to the lecture hall at Willamette on their lunch hour to get some pizza and enjoyed time to chat with their friends. Black Student Union President Dante Brolin-Smith provided a short overview of upcoming events, including some field trips, and updated students on how they could become involved in BSU leadership.

Staff who lead the group at Willamette say that the bi-monthly meeting provides a place for Black students to feel understood, comfortable and process what they’re going through.

“Our BSU provides a sense of identity,” said WHS teacher and Willamette BSU leader Nate Jackson. “It’s also a place that allows them to process what they’re going through.”

A couple of students from Cascade Middle School had similar sentiments, stating that they could be themselves in the BSU group gathering.

Ashley Foading, an eighth-grade student at Cascade Middle School said BSU “feels like home” to her.

“BSU helps us not only to see our uniqueness, but also allows us to feel at home,” Foading said. “It’s nice being surrounded by people who look like you once in a while. I feel like that no matter what, I have people here and I can be myself.”

Brolin-Smith, who has been involved in the Willamette BSU for all four years of his high school career, said that the student union group is important for a lot of people.

“It provides space for acceptance,” he said. “And a place for students to have community and express their culture. It’s a great place to be.”

Cascade, Shasta and Willamette each have their own Black Student Unions, but got to come together for the first time this school year and were thrilled to be able to interact with one another over lunch.

“It’s just a great opportunity for students from other schools to get to know each other and build community and affinity across grade levels,” said WHS Assistant Principal Alyssa Dodds.