If you are familiar with Houston, you know that the East End is a predominately Latino community. Like its community, YES Prep East End serves a large Latino student population. For students who are not part of this demographic, there may be times when they might not connect with their peers. In honor of Black History Month, we visited East End to learn how teachers and staff are proactively working to make sure African American students have a community within a community, where they can have access to activities and events that speak directly to them.
Identifying and meeting a need
The Black Student Association (BSA) was founded in 2017 by Brittany Jones, Dean of Students, and Raven Love, seventh-grade math teacher. The mission of BSA is “to celebrate the black experience by promoting identity and raising awareness of black culture and history through building transformative relationships, creating opportunities for learning, and raising academic achievement.”
Serving as the Dean of Students, Jones saw the need to provide a safe space for the small group of black students on campus. “Students wanted a space to be able to identify in a close-knit community, especially going to a school where they’re a minority within a minority.
They wanted to feel some type of familial experience, so we created the Black Student Association.”
BSA offers activities in and outside of campus. For example, BSA started a Brown Bag Series where they invite the public and students to learn about different careers directly from black professionals. So far, they have had a dentist, lawyer, and police officer participate. These guests share about their careers and give insight into their profession and experiences that speak directly to the students. Representation matters and being able to meet and hear from successful black professionals directly helps make professional goals attainable.
In December, BSA took a day trip to New Orleans where they visited historically black colleges and universities. The fact that one of the students on the trip was accepted to one of the colleges they were visiting, Xavier University, made the trip that much more exciting. Students also had the opportunity to learn about personal finance and proper etiquette.
A community for black teachers too
Like the student population, there are also fewer black teachers on staff at East End. With the creation of BSA, teachers now have a special space where they can share life and cultural experiences with students outside of the classroom. Concurrently, they are also connecting with fellow black teachers on a more personal level.
Love shared, “We have our own little group here where we’re meeting and we’re talking about common experiences. We can talk about issues or things that others outside of our group might not understand.
BSA creates a safe space for us, and I think that’s why it’s very important.”
Meet Dylan Julien
Dylan Julien is a ninth–grade student whose two older sisters graduated from YES Prep East End. Her oldest sister Nolan is an English teacher at YES Prep Southside, and Kelsey is currently studying at Washington & Jefferson College.
When asked why BSA is important to her, she said,
“It’s comforting for the black population at school to know that they have this safe space to share and express themselves.
We are also able to talk about things that are happening in our society and learn ways to maneuver or work through them.”
Julien shared that in their recent BSA trip to New Orleans, she was able to experience the culture and see how Hurricane Katrina impacted their city. She also learned how many of the people she knows in Houston are here because of Katrina and she can see how our city is more diverse and rich because of them.
Meet Claudia Clotter
Claudia Clotter is a junior and has two younger siblings attending East End as well. She is the eldest in her family and a first-generation college student. She moved to the U.S from Honduras when she was 14 years old and knew little to no English. During her four years in the U.S, she’s managed to learn the language thanks to the help of teachers and friends.
Thanks to BSA, Clotter explained, “I have found comfort in BSA because I’m surrounded by students who look like me.
Being an Afro-Latina, it has been a journey learning about myself. BSA has provided me with experiences and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Through the BSA trip to New Orleans, Clotter was able to visit one of her dream schools: Xavier University. This summer, Clotter will be participating in a summer business program at Texas Southern University and will be living on campus.
Core Values at Its Best
Thanks to teachers and staff like Jones and Love, YES Prep is not only preparing students to be college-ready but is also helping build strong and confident individuals. YES Prep strives to provide a diverse and inclusive environment at all of our campuses and, thanks to initiatives like this, students like Julien and Clotter have access to opportunities and activities that reflect who they are.
Kudos to the YES Prep students and staff at East End for building a community within a community through the Black Student Association.
To stay up to date with activities and events taking place at YES Prep East End, make sure to follow their Facebook page: Facebook.com/YESPrepEastEnd
To learn how your child can enroll at YES Prep East End or one of our other YES Prep campuses, click here.