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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

WA’s first-ever Black and LatinX Club provides safe space for student voices

Elitsa Koleva
Students attending the Black and LatinX club’s first meeting pose for a photo.

The feeling of belonging — whether it be while sharing a laugh with friends or connecting with people over shared cultural experiences — is a vital part of one’s happiness and well-being at school. For some WA students, however, finding a community where they can truly express all aspects of their identity has not always been an easy task. Hoping to change this is WA’s first-ever Black and LatinX Club, which seeks to create a safe space where all students feel accepted and understood. 

The club, which debuted at its first meeting on Thursday, Feb. 29, aims to promote Black and Hispanic cultures, facilitating student connections and discussions. The club was founded by juniors Aniya Pittman, Iralys Santiago, Nathan Pitts, and sophomore Ranya Fortune, with the help of guidance counselor Tracy McLaughlin. The advisors of the club are WA detective and School Resource Officer Anthony Bernadin, as well as WPS Director of Equity, Curriculum, and Instruction Magaly Ronan.

Black and LatinX Club
The Black and LatinX club’s posters hang throughout the school, encouraging students to join the club. (Created by the Black and LatinX Club)

For the club’s first meeting, students were given the opportunity to get to know one another over shared snacks and discuss ideas for future meetings. According to the club’s student founders, the turnout for the first meeting was surprising, yet incredibly encouraging to see students’ enthusiasm.

“We just want to build a community, that’s really the baseline, and also outreach to people. Some people that [came], I didn’t even know that they were in the school because the school is really big,” Pitts said. “We want to invite some kids that may be shy [and feel like they are not] really friends with anybody that looks like [them] or is the same ethnicity as [them]. At this club, everybody’s welcome, not just Black and LatinX people, and we can just have fun and be a community.”

For many Black and Hispanic students, having a club that focuses on celebrating their cultures allows them to have a place where they can feel supported. In Westford, just 0.8% of the town’s population is Black, and 2.9% is of LatinX origin, often leaving many Black and LatinX students feeling isolated, especially when they first move in to Westford. With this club, these students have an outlet through which they can more easily connect with others that have similar experiences.

“When I moved here and they told me about the diversity, which [had a town-wide Black population of 0.8%], I was always concerned about that because I wanted to be with people I knew could understand me about some stuff. So with a club like this, I feel like [to have more people feel understood] would be cool,” Fortune said.

The club’s formation is a historic moment for WA, as it is the first time the school has had a Black and LatinX club, a recurring need in the community. According to McLaughlin, WA faculty and the WPS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee have spoken about the initiative for years prior to the club’s formation. What spurred it on this year were discussions about how to best commemorate Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the most thoughtful of ways.

After talking through the idea with Principal Daniel Twomey as well as Bernadin and Ronan, McLaughlin reached out to the student founders to see whether they would be interested in getting involved. From there, Pittman, Santiago, Pitts and Fortune took the reigns on the idea and began advertising through posters and the morning announcements to spread the word.

“I am beyond proud of the four students that put work and time into this just because they wanted to, [and] because it was the right thing to do,” McLaughlin said. “I think the students will be the ones that drive it and they are going to make it a success. We’re the people in the background but I am confident that these students are going to just take this and run with it and make it a great resource.”

Joining the students in this initiative are the club’s advisors, who hope to support the students in whatever way they can, helping facilitate activities and foster meaningful interactions.

“Being a person of color, I wanted some of them to have someone that they could identify with and I’ve thought it would be a great group,” Bernadin said. “My hope for the club is that we could expand and it’s just a unified front for anyone that could come forward and have a safe space so that they could discuss however they feel about who they are.”

Looking to the future, the club is planning to have field trips together and celebrate different cultures from all over the world, as well as holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Another way they hope to bring people together is by having a potluck, where students can bring foods in that they grew up with and that are unique to their culture. With so many new members, the club’s founders are looking forward to listening to everyone’s ideas.

“We just want to build a community where you can just celebrate everyone’s culture and have a fun time,” Pitts said. “We might be doing some things to change the school, but we’re open to ideas with our whole entire group, so we’re going to be asking them. We might plan trips, […] but we just want to build a community, that is the foundation of the group so far.”

The club will meet every other Thursday from 2-3 p.m. after school in room 103. Their next meeting is on Thursday, March 14.

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About the Contributor
Elitsa Koleva
Elitsa Koleva, Managing Editor
Hello! My name is Elitsa and I am a junior. I enjoy reading and watching the news, plus I like to write, which are some of the reasons behind me taking Journalism. I like to swim, paint and read! 

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