Activist Acalanes student clubs encourage civic engagement

Activist+Acalanes+student+clubs+encourage+civic+engagement

While free donuts and Kahoots are often the initial way clubs attract students to meetings, digging into meaningful topics keeps members coming back each week. Clubs at Acalanes offer engaging opportunities for students to find and work with peers who share the common goal of taking concerted action in the community.

   Many students have different passions that inspire them to serve the community through the multitude of action-based clubs at Acalanes, which provide outlets for students to explore their interests in a collaborative activist environment. 

 

Feminism Club

   In the Feminism Club, a student group that spurs dialogue on women’s rights and gender inequities, members explore the complexities and successes of female influences on society to combat sexism.

   Providing a place where students can openly engage in conversations on contemporary issues that women face, the Feminism Club meets every other Wednesday at lunch. The club aims to bring women’s rights to the forefront of student awareness to cultivate purposeful change.

   “The goal of the Feminism Club is to give a space for those who want to talk about feminism and educate those who want to know more about it … Our club meetings are usually group discussions about our experiences as women, or what is going on regarding women’s rights currently,” Feminism Club Co-president and Acalanes junior Sofie Foster said.

   The Feminism Club gained momentum earlier this year, and several club members expressed  the importance of adding more participants.

   “We started out with just four [members] and have gotten more people involved as we have progressed throughout the year. I think that the way the Feminism Club can be the most successful is through getting more people involved and aware of the issues we discuss at meetings,” Foster said. 

   The spring semester holds exciting events and informational opportunities for this club. Members are eager to plan and promote different ways to get the community involved in women’s issues. 

   “We have some big ideas coming up for March with Women’s History Month, so we are getting excited for those. We are also currently planning a learning day about feminism, so we are getting excited for that as well,” Feminism Club Co-president and junior Sophia Acuff said. 

 

STEMinist Club

   The STEMinist Club meets Fridays during Academy in Room 303. President of the STEMinist club and current Acalanes junior Drew Ebner founded the club in the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year. The club aims to educate students on the successes and opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. 

   Noticing a scarcity of STEM options for females and the need to encourage young women to engage in science and math conversations, Ebner merged her passion for women’s advocacy and advances in science to create the STEMinist Club.

   “I knew we had a feminist club at Acalanes, but I really wanted to see a club that was focused on STEM, mostly women in STEM, so I started one myself,” Ebner said. “I know how hard it is for women or non-men in the STEM field, and I wanted to make sure others at Acalanes were educated on the struggles women and non-men go through in that field of study.”

   The STEMinist Club provides opportunities for engagement by inviting female STEM professionals to share their career experiences, struggles, and successes during meetings. At a recent club meeting, Bio-Tech, Geology, and Chemistry teacher Sydney Johnson presented her journey and experiences in the field to inspire club members.

   “STEM careers do tend to be more male-dominated, so we want to try to get women into these subjects. Our goal is to try and get some female guest speakers who do work in STEM-based careers to give some words of inspiration and also promote what they do,” STEMinist Club member and Acalanes junior Alyssa Fong said. 

   Fong hopes that women will gain the confidence to pursue predominantly male-dominated careers through this club. The STEMinist Club hopes to highlight gender inequities and correct the gender imbalance in STEM fields.

   “I also think it is important to show that women who do the same things that men do are just as capable… We are just trying to get more women and girls to be interested in taking risks and joining one of these fields,” Fong said.

 

Bring Change to Mind (BC2M) Club

   Raising awareness about the misconceptions and discrimination around mental illnesses, BC2M invites students to spend time in a positive and informative setting each Wednesday at lunch.

   Acalaness senior Sadie Burks, President and founder of BC2M, emphasizes the importance of having candid discussions about mental health and offering strategies to support student wellness.

   “The club, in general, is to end the stigma around mental health. We are trying to open up the conversation and make it easier to talk about mental health,” Burks said.

   The BC2M Club offers a respite to its members from the common intensity of emotional and academic pressure. Many meetings engage students in simple stress-relieving activities.

   “We do a lot of really fun activities that are centered around mental health, and it’s kind of a way to relax and take my mind off of the stress of school,” BC2M Member and Acalanes junior Skylar Tanaka said.

   The BC2M club gathers students for meaningful discussions around wellness, providing a platform to openly discuss mental health as well as offer a supportive environment for questions. 

   “We have gotten up to 30 to 40 people attend discussions before. We talked about subjects like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder and had options for questions and information about the topic of that discussion,” Burks said.

   Sensitive to students’ psyche, the club’s leaders wish to clarify their approachability and desire for students to see the BC2M club as a safe place.

   “I think what we’re doing is so relatable. I am someone who tries to be a good person all around, and keeping everyone’s mental state in mind is something that I really take to heart,”  BC2M member and Acalanes senior Benji Yadegar said.

 

The Climate Alliance Club

   Climate activism and providing students with tangible ways to reduce our community’s carbon footprint is the central goal of the Climate Alliance Club.

   The club meets every Thursday at lunch, engaging in educational workshops and discussions to brainstorm ways to incorporate sustainability into students’ daily lives.

   “Our mission is to educate students on small but impactful things they can do to make their lives more sustainable,” Climate Alliance Club Co-president and Acalanes junior Emily Berkowitz said.

   Climate Alliance Club meetings promote environmentally-friendly practices through fun activities and games. The club also hosts events dedicated to reversing the effects of climate change. 

   One event hosted by the club included a conversation on the United Nations’ (UN) Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November 2021, which brought together 120 world leaders and 40,000 registered participants to discuss global policies to combat climate change. The club reflected on the decisions following COP26 at their Nov. 3 club meeting.

   Individuals join the Climate Alliance Club to advocate for climate solutions while simultaneously connecting with like-minded peers.

   “I like being able to have a community of people who are all passionate about the same thing, and we can talk and collaborate with ideas and solutions,” Berkowitz said. 

   One successful event from last year’s club was writing letters to California’s firefighters following devastating wildfires. Climate Alliance Club members value these efforts in making a change in their community.

   “I have gone to a few club meetings this year, and every time I go, I find myself learning something new about how I can do my part to stop climate change. Everyone at the meetings contributes to discussions, and I love hearing what everyone has to say and new ideas we can come up with together to help the environment,” Climate Alliance Club member and Acalanes junior Gabriela Beneviste said. 

   The club intends to host interactive, hands-on events for members and keep climate initiatives at the forefront of their weekly-held meetings. This space helps energize many students to take action on environmental preservation.

   “I am passionate about doing everything I can to help the environment, and the club offers a space for me to learn all I can and also at the same time take some action,” Beneviste said. 

 

Environmental Club

   For over five years at Acalanes, the Environmental Club has promoted change in the community through dialogues, events, and projects promoting sustainability and other environmental causes. 

   The Environmental Club regularly meets at lunch every Friday. Through the club, students can engage with the community to raise awareness on environmental issues, such as decreasing the school’s carbon footprint through small yet impactful sustainability practices and waste reduction measures. 

   “Our club works to bring awareness to the environment around us with projects everyone can get involved in at Acalanes,” Environmental Club President and Acalanes senior Christine Mlynek said.

   Club members expand their knowledge on limiting waste and successful sustainability practices by learning from local businesses. The club offers informational sessions on limiting human impact on the environment. 

   “I did a presentation in the club last year where I researched some environmentally friendly businesses that used sustainable and eco-friendly clothing, phone cases, and a lot of other things, and I gave a presentation on that,” Environmental Club Treasurer and Acalanes senior Sammy Hess said.

   Members encourage trash sorting and using reusable materials rather than single-use or plastic products. Fundraisers and hands-on projects are critical components of the Environmental Club’s weekly actions. 

   “We did projects where we did a clothing drive. We cut out tennis balls for the bottom of school desk chairs out of recycled tennis balls for classrooms,” Hess said.

 

Black Student Union (BSU) Club

   The BSU seeks to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at Acalanes and within the larger community in addition to creating a safe space for students. 

   The BSU Club meets every Friday and often collaborates with other schools within the Acalanes Union High School District to strengthen community ties. One of BSU’s main events is the district-wide Diversity Summit in February.

    “Our goal is to further equity and inclusion in the community and on campus … We have met with other schools’ BSU clubs and the District, and we are right now planning for the diversity summit in February,” BSU Club Vice President and Acalanes junior Amani Williams said.

   In the 2015-2016 school year, the district held its first student summit, bringing together students from all four schools to discuss the racial experiences of students of color in the district. The Acalanes BSU Club now holds a central role in planning this summit each year. The BSU also intends to expand its inclusion to a broader range of youths.  

   “We are working towards getting more Black students involved in the club. We are planning an event inviting them all in the coming weeks. We are also working with Stanley Middle School to hopefully launch a BSU there … We also have our annual BSU summit coming up in March. We have guest speakers, food, and great conversation with the rest of the district schools,” BSU Club President and Acalanes  junior Ava Freeman said

   Spring brings new initiatives and events for BSU, including antiracist education, recognition of continuing inequities, and celebrations of Black Americans’ successes. 

    “We are planning to have themed BSU events every week during Black History Month. We want to do a memorial for as many Black Americans that lost their lives to racism and hatred towards the end of the month. At the same time, we want to celebrate Black excellence during the month and beyond,” Freeman said.

   As club president, Freeman continuously fights against racial injustices and hopes BSU can provide a space for all individuals to safely discuss racial equity.

   “I joined BSU back in my freshman year because I was asked by the previous presidents. What I didn’t know is that it would be the catalyst for me pushing for racial equity in the community,” Freeman said. “I never would have thought BSU would become such a huge part of my life. I would recommend BSU to anyone who wants to combat racial disparities in a fun and safe environment with like-minded peers.”

 

Students for the Advancement of Global Education (SAGE) Club

   The SAGE Club meets every Tuesday and has been an active club at Acalanes since 2016. Each year, the club partners with Trust in Education, a local non-profit organization that helps raise funds for young girls’ schooling in Afghanistan. 

   The SAGE Club advocates for the improvement of global education outcomes. While the Lafayette community has resources to fund school programs, many other countries lack this support. The club’s initiative is to fill this void and raise money for the cause. 

   “We are so privileged to live in Lafayette and have access to such a good education system and other people who are a lot less fortunate in their situation. I think it is important that we can do everything in our power to support those who are less fortunate to have access to proper education,” SAGE Club Vice President and Acalanes sophomore Jenna Steele said. 

   One event the club hosted this year was an entertaining and informative movie fundraiser focused on inspiring female scientists. Through events such as this one, the club hopes to raise funds to further their cause.

   “We had a really successful movie night that a lot of people came to, and we watched Hidden Figures because it talks a lot about women in STEM and how female inclusion has evolved over the years,” Steele said. “The movie night was super successful, and we also raised a lot of money we got to donate from that. We also did a bake sale right before the break that also raised a lot of money.”

 

GIVE Club   

   The GIVE club meets on the third Monday of every month and supports philanthropic organizations by hosting charity fundraisers. The group also holds drives to collect various donations to aid local families. 

   GIVE Club President and Acalanes junior Alexia Silverberg wants to leverage Lafayette’s more affluent community to assist those in need.

   “We just want to help people as best as we can, and there’s a lot of wealth in this area, so we want to try and get people to donate more,” Silverberg said.

   At GIVE Club’s weekly meetings, members plan how to host donation collection drives more frequently. Club members aim to gather more members to continue and have a more widespread impact.

   “Usually at meetings, we plan out our next drive or volunteering opportunity, but most of the action comes in the donation drives… We are hoping to expand and get new members, and then we can collect more donations and be able to donate to more places,” Silverberg said. 

   In past years, GIVE Club hosted successful drives to fund several local organizations, including the Contra Costa Food Bank, the Monument Crisis Center, and the Crisis Nursery. This year, GIVE intends to bring its activism work directly into the community.

   “The club has mostly done food drives in the past, but this year we are planning to make blankets, do group volunteering, and hopefully host a bake sale,” GIVE Club Member and Acalanes junior Jasmine Latimer said.

   Hands-on action and direct community involvement are highlights for members who embrace the name and sentiment of the club through giving back to communities around them. 

   “My favorite part about being in the GIVE Club is that I can help the community while doing fun projects… my motivation for joining this club comes from the name GIVE itself, and to simply give back to the community in a meaningful way,” Latimer said.