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Black Student Union Kicks Off Black History Month at GHHS

There’s a new student group looking to make lasting changes at Gig Harbor High School (GHHS). The Black Student Union (BSU) began meeting in January and is already planning ways to create a more inclusive environment for all of their peers. 

The student group, which has attracted around 30 diverse students from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities, is already working on some projects for Black History Month and has brought in community leaders to speak with the students. 

For February, the group is creating a list of inspiring Black role models from modern history to create portraits and quotes to hang around the school. Some icons include tennis star Serena Williams, motivational speaker Tevin Lucas, and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Black Student Union, which meets once a week at GHHS, was started by students Jasmine L. and Leila J., and is advised by GHHS Art Teacher Alyse Yeaman. Jasmine, a Black student at GHHS, said the idea to start the BSU came the day she met Leila, who is also Black. Leila, who’s family recently moved from Seattle, transferred to GHHS and was offered a tour by Jasmine. 

“I gave her a tour and she asked if we had a Black Student Union,” Jasmine said. “I said ‘no.’ And she’s like ‘You want to start one?’ And that was that.” 

“I always had access to a Black Student Union at my old school in Seattle,” Leila said. “So I was surprised when I came here and saw that there wasn’t one, so I knew I just had to start one. And I met this awesome girl who was ready to start one as well.” 

The girls gained support from Yeaman, the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader, and from GHHS’s Community In Schools Liaison O’Shea McLaughlin. By January, 2023, the student group was formed. 

For many of the group members, the new BSU is a space where they feel like they can be their full selves. 

“It’s a safe, equitable environment that I was to surround myself with,” GHHS student Sam H. said. “It’s very positive and the good vibes drew me in.”

During the group’s second meeting, Mike Bellerive, with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, spoke to the group about the department’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. 

“It’s allowed us to recognize blind spots culturally,” Bellerive told the group. “We enter a lot of people’s homes and we serve a multicultural area. What it really boils down to is the interaction that we have when we go into someone’s home, and they are having a bad day, and we want to make a connection with them. The DEI initiative is a way for us to connect better with our community, with our people.” 

Bellerive said for the first time in his career, the department has started to recruit firefighters due to a drop in applications. Part of the DEI initiative is to find ways to recruit more diverse applicants into a first responder career.

Yeaman said she is excited to see how the group is growing, and hopes it’s a positive influence on the culture at GHHS. 

“This is the happiest club at school,” she said.

Two young Black women stand in front of a diverse group of students in an art classroom

Jasmine L., left, and Leila J., right, stand and speak to the Gig Harbor High School Black Student Union. The two students founded the group. 

Jan. 31, 2023.

A young Black woman smiles while offering her headphone to another young Black woman at a table in a classroom

Two Gig Harbor High students listen to music together during a Black Student Union meeting. 

Jan. 31, 2023

A white firefighter stands and speaks in front of a a student group

Mike Bellerive, a firefighter with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, speaks to Gig Harbor High School's Black Student Union about his departments new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative. 

Jan. 31, 2023

A white woman sits and listens to a speaker, two young Black women sits at a table behind her.

Gig Harbor High School Art Teacher, Alyssa Yeaman, sits and listens to a speaker during the Black Student Union meeting. Student Leila J., president of the group, sits behind her listening. 

Jan. 31, 2023

A young Black woman with a clipboard stands next to her teacher in a full classroom

Gig Harbor High School student Jasmine L. and teacher Alyssa Yeaman stand together while collecting ideas for Black History Month from Black Student Union student members. 

Jan. 31, 2023

A Black teacher sits on a table, crossed legged, with a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King behind him

Gig Harbor High School Communities in Schools Liaison O'Shea McLaughlin sits on a table and listens to a speaker at the Black Student Union meeting. 

Jan. 31, 2023 

A young Black woman stands in front of two other Black students in conversation

Gig Harbor High School student Jasmine L. speaks with student members of the Black Student Union about ideas to celebrate Black History Month. 

Jan. 31, 2023


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