Riverside students strive to be change they want to see

Riverside High School’s students do not fit the mold of the average apathetic teenager.

Voices of student justice fill each hallway with clubs led by proud and motivated students dedicated to bettering their school community. On Feb. 2, these student-led clubs introduced their platforms to the PTA, and have now scheduled another forum to discuss their club’s agenda further.

I founded Black Student Union (BSU) after attending North Carolina’s Governor’s School, a six-week summer program that takes students through an intellectual, social and spiritual joyride by expanding and challenging the minds of young students through lectures, performances and extensive classes. Governor’s School is a selective program that a rare number of people get to experience, which is why I was disheartened by the lack of representation of black students at a place that has been transformative to so many of NC's best and brightest young minds. I researched why this was the case, and, with consensus of my fellow black Governor’s School friends, we concluded that the lack of representation was due to inadequate resources and unequal education offered to students of color. I felt though I had a responsibility to ensure that every person of my skin color has access to the many academic opportunities I have been blessed with.

BSU’s mission is to diminish the achievement gap between white students and students of color by advocating for more students of color in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, as well as ensuring students have a support system to succeed with student-led tutoring sessions. We hold weekly discussion meetings of issues pertaining to the black community, host tutoring sessions for the ACT, and even invite filmmakers to talk about Black Wall Street.

I am not the only one with this desire. Riverside boasts five different clubs designed to support all students and advocate for their specific needs by being the change they wish to see.

Destino Success encourages all students to understand and celebrate Latino culture and communities, as well as to raises awareness about how immigration policies affect Riverside students. Last year, when Wildin Acosta, an undocumented student from Honduras, was arrested, detained and set for deportation, Destino Success led a student movement that helped bring Acosta home to finish high school.

Activism Club strives to bring every student at Riverside into the fold of protest and social action. The club has held demonstrations against the Trump’ Administration’s travel ban, the school’s dress code policies, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

Syrian Refugee Club raises awareness and money for Syrian refugees and the humanitarian crisis in Syria holding regular and successful bake sales, which revenue gets donated to nonprofits like American Refugee Committee, Doctors Without Borders, and White Helmets.

The Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) creates a safer, more inclusive environment for Riverside’s LGBT population through speeches in classes about LGBT acceptance in class, informative posters on different sexualities around the school, and organizing its very own drag show.

Our next step, to further our impact, is to create a coalition of Riverside's clubs to fight for change together. We are organizing a community forum to articulate their agendas and to extend the reach of our impact to parents, teachers, and other students in the greater Durham area.

The forum, entitled “Being the Change,” will be held March, 23 at 6 p.m. at Riverside High School. Each group will explain its initiatives, and share what people can do to help. There will be group panels, activities, and question and answers. There will also be food and childcare.

BSU, to me and its members, is our contribution to be the change that we wish to see in the world, as Ghandi once beautifully put it. Our clubs cannot fulfill our goals without complete involvement throughout our greater Durham community. Show support for the leaders of tomorrow creating change in our greater Durham community.

Jaden Jules is a senior at Durham’s Riverside's High School.