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Your source for CHS news


Your source for CHS news


Club Spotlight: Black Student Alliance

James Ziegler, Black Student Alliance (BSA) sponsor

When and where are club meetings?

We meet every other Thursday after school from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. or so. We either meet in Room E219 or sometimes in the multimedia lab in the media center. It just kind of depends on what we are doing on those days and if we have a guest speaker.

Can you give a brief overview of what BSA does?

One of the big things for us is really trying to create an environment and a space where kids feel welcome, safe and included. It is a spot where students can get together and share their experiences with peers who can relate and sometimes support one another in those capacities and what they are going through. We also do a lot of discussions on issues that impact the Black community, students, LGBTQ+ communities and mental health. We also have a lot of service activities we will do and we just do fun activities like movie nights. Again, it is really just about creating a space that supports diversity, equity and inclusion and is just a safe spot people know they can go to and feel like they are heard and represented. 

James Ziegler (right), Black Student Alliance (BSA) sponsor, and Vanessa Rasaki (left), BSA president and senior, plan meeting activities. Ziegler said BSA members meet every other Thursday after school from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. (Siri Surapaneni)

Who can be a part of the BSA?

We want (BSA) to be a community for the whole school because we keep it open to anybody. You do not need to be Black to join; it is literally open to any student that wants to come in and participate in discussions and support diversity in our school.

How long have you been the sponsor of this club? 

I took over a month before the pandemic started, so I first started off as the sponsor in early 2020.

How has this club changed from the beginning?

I would say the biggest change is in terms of the club’s overall growth. When I first took the club over, that first year we would have seven to 10 people maybe at the meetings. It has just continued to expand each year. Now, our membership has well over a hundred people on our roster and at each meeting there are usually around 40 people that are present. The growth of the club has been awesome to see and as we got bigger we have been able to do more and more activities as a club and with the community. 

Why did you decide to become the sponsor of this club?

When (club members at the time) approached me and asked me if I would be the sponsor of BSA, it was kind of a no brainer for me. Social justice and racial justice issues have always been something I have really been passionate about. It really is important to me that we, as a school, are embracing diversity and supporting those students. It was just something that went along with my beliefs and values and I wanted to make sure those students felt supported so it was a pretty easy decision to take it over.

Are there any events or activities this club has planned? If so, what?

We are going to have a whole bunch of stuff, especially with Black History Month coming up. Some of the things we will be doing is working with the African History and Culture Club to put on a Black college panel discussion where we get students of color who are currently enrolled in college and they can give feedback to current students on their experiences. We are going to be doing a trivia day here in the school during the month. We are going to try to use one of the SSRTs and do a trivia competition centered around Black history. We are also going to do another BSA movie night at the end of the month. We are also looking to put together a little banquet where we can have a party and celebration where we can also invite other schools in the area that have Black student unions and BSAs so that they can connect with their peers at different schools. One of the other things I am excited about is we have about 30 of our students attending the Black Student Leadership Summit and that will be at Butler University and that will be on Feb. 3. It is an awesome opportunity for students to network, connect with leaders in the community, get to hear from guest speakers and connect with other peers to see what they are doing at their schools and what we can bring to Carmel.  

Alan Huang

Why do you think it is important to have a Black Student Alliance at CHS?

I think for any student of color within a predominantly white institution (PWI) to be able to have a space where you are seen, heard and represented is incredibly important. I think it means the world (to students) and it helps from a mental health standpoint for the students to know they have that space. A lot of studies show, academically, it can help student improvement when you have those support systems in place in a PWI. With the history in Carmel of racist experiences in the past, I think making sure we have spaces where any historically marginalized group knows they have a space they can go to and the school does have an interest in security, well-being, and seeing all of us thrive. 

What do you hope BSA will look like in future?

One of the big things is in terms of symbolic representation. One of the things we want is a mural celebrating diversity because you go though the art district in Carmel and you see all these statues and the vast majority are white statues. We want greater representation because Carmel is much more than that. One of the things I would like to see is for us, as a club, to continue working with the district and have that become a reality in the near future. The other thing is just how can we as a club support diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives for staff in our district, because, I think, students are ready and prepared to have a lot of these conversations and I do not know how much staff members really are (prepared). So, just how can we as a club support these initiatives within our district and help our staff members understand how just how much of a priority we have to make diversifying our curriculum, creating safe space in our classrooms, and not allowing microaggressions to repeat which can cause serious harm to people for years to come? Then, for the kids, let’s build a community, network and keep connected with each other even when you leave and go off the school.

Vanessa Rasaki, BSA president

When and where are club meetings?

Our club meetings are every other Thursday and our next one is on Feb. 9. Sometimes we have club meetings in the media center when we have a lot of people and other times we do it in Room E219.

Can you give a brief overview of what BSA does?

The BSA is a club for everyone, despite the name Black Student Alliance. We come together to talk about different minority groups at Carmel and what we can do to make everybody feel included in the school.

How long have you been a part of this club? 

I actually started the club when I went to Creekside in seventh grade and I was the president for seventh and eighth grade. Then, I joined in my freshman year of high school. Then, I became president (of BSA) last year, my junior year. So, now I have been the president for two years.

How has this club changed from the beginning?

I have seen the club change because at first it started off kind of small and you just see it slowly start to grow with more and more members. Also, now people are just more understanding and open to the idea of what we actually do.

Why did you decide to become the president of this club?

I decided to become president (of BSA) because I just saw recurring problems in the school when it came to racial issues, whether it be someone being discriminated against or just people being mean, and I just decided there needs to be something done about this and people need to have a place to talk about their problems.

What are your goals for the club as president?

My goals are just for the (BSA) to continue strong and (that new members) continue what us seniors have built and started with the same passion. Also, (my goals are) to leave the club with good hands and a good leader. I want to leave knowing we actually made an impact.

Are there any events or activities this club has planned? If so, what?

Black History Month is coming up this February so we are planning this BSA gala where we will probably charge for tickets. It will probably be at the school so it is going to be some type of dance. Then, we are going to be doing things on announcements and music on announcements from black artists for Black History Month. So, there’s just going to be some different events around the school to be looking out for.

What are you most proud of this club for accomplishing?

I am most proud of this club because all the members are unique in their individuality and just putting in so much effort into the club and every member is so passionate. I am just most proud that people are building their passion and actually caring about the club.

Why do you think it is important to have a Black Student Alliance at this school?

I think it is important to have a club like BSA at CHS because there are not that many students of color or that much diversity. So it is important to have a group where everyone can come and just focus on those students that are unrecognized here. 

Why do you think students should join BSA?

I think people should join because it is super fun. We have food every meeting, that is a plus, I know people like that. It is just a great environment and everybody hopefully feels welcome. It is a great experience for everyone because you open up and become less ignorant about things you do not know about and you just hear different experiences from different people.


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