Student Unions: United in heritage, resilient in difficulties

Organizations establish safe environment for students of same racial/ethnic backgrounds


courtesy of Amber Washington

Students from both the Asian Student Union and Black Student Union gather to listen to ASU sponsor Nam Vu. The groups hosted a conversation about race where students could share their experiences and learn from each other.

Alexia Sepulveda

As a teenager, and even throughout one’s life in general, two of the worst sentiments that a person can harbor are the feelings of being misunderstood and being a social outcast. There are many teens, especially those of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, who experience such feelings on a regular basis and in various situations. To this end, in order to improve the societal and emotional well-being of these teens, student organizations such as the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Asian Student Union (ASU) exist.

The purpose of these dedicated organizations is to establish a safe environment where students of the same racial/ethnic backgrounds can be themselves, freely engage with each other about the issues and obstacles they face on a day-to-day basis without feeling ashamed of who they are and receive the confidence and motivation that they need to strive forward and inspire others around them.

As a result of there being chapters for these organizations, along with many others, at academic institutions nationwide, students of various races and ethnicities in places such as North Kansas City High School have benefited greatly from the tolerance, support, and inclusivity that they provide, including junior and ASU member Lynh Nguyen.

“From my perspective, I feel empowered to just know that I’m not alone with what I had to go through when I was younger. I hope that with ASU, we can help encourage others to speak up about issues regarding racism,” said LynhNguyen.

Although Northtown students who participate in these organizations feel that they now have a safe place to talk about their heritage and receive support from those of the same racial/ethnic background that they have, they still face difficulties with having their opinions being acknowledged outside of their organization and among the school’s population, which students such as junior and ASU Vice President Scott Nguyen have noticed and consequently wish to remedy.

“I know some members have been upset that they feel like their voice is ignored at Northtown, so we’d like to change that,” said Scott Nguyen.

In addition, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting safety precautions that were put in place to curb the virus’ spread, it has become more difficult, with large indoor and outdoor gatherings being temporarily banned, for students to effectively meet and collaborate about their ideas and emotions in their organizations with other members. However, organizations such as the BSU have gradually adapted to these challenges through holding virtual meetings and discussions which serve to emulate the in-person equivalent, ultimately striving to get as close as possible to “normal” pre-COVID interactions, as stated by the sponsor of Northtown’s BSU chapter, Amber Washington.

“In BSU, we are a family, and when you can’t see your family in person, it makes situations that much more difficult. We faced scheduling conflicts, like most. However, our biggest obstacle has been trying to create virtual programming that mirrors the in-person experience our members are used to. The entire executive board must redefine “normal” in order to create more interactive and memorable experiences [for our members],” states Washington.

In spite of the obstacles that these student organizations have faced, however, their members are ultimately confident that because of the strong sentiments they harbor of being a family and team, they will be able to overcome them and continue to flourish.

“I can say that we’ve been able to push through each of them thanks to support from each other. That’s what truly matters: you’ve got to work together in order to succeed,” states Scott Nguyen.