A Look at ITW David Speer Academy’s Newest Club

Photo shows a group shot of Black and Brown students at ITW David Speer Academy assembled for a Black & Brown Solidarity Club meeting. They are all smiling and posing for the camera.

A new club started at ITW David Speer Academy this year, and students and staff alike are excited about its impact on the Speer community.

In the fall semester, three staff members stepped up to sponsor the Black & Brown Solidarity Club. The club’s vision was a strategic response to Speer students’ challenges and needs around creating a more inclusive, supportive community. The staff members wanted to create a safe learning space to foster healthy relationships between students and staff, uplift student voices, and have difficult conversations about racism, colorism, and what it means to be in solidarity with each other.

“We need more leaders of color to step up and make a difference in our Black and Brown communities. If we can get our students to identify what they need at Speer and their voices are heard, that’s solidarity right there,” said Camille Wright, one of the staff founders of the club. “We must train our students to be leaders, to inspire other students to create safe and warm spaces at Speer.”

This photo shows a classroom at ITW David Speer Academy where many Black and Brown students are gathered in seats, working on an activity. You can see a teacher in the middle, handing a sheet of bright pink paper to one student at a desk. Behind the teacher is a presentation slide projected onto the whiteboard. The title of the slide is "Name Plate Activity". This is a meeting for Speer's Black and Brown Solidarity Club.

Bernice Antolin, one of the co-founders of the club, hands out paper for a community-building activity during one of the club's meetings.

Wright said many students feel they are not treated the same due to a cultural disconnect. Sometimes, they feel policed and treated unfairly. Some students feel they can’t share or confide in their teachers/staff because they feel they will be punished, she added. Wright created the club alongside her coworkers to address these feelings and experiences.

So, every Thursday this year, dozens of students gathered to engage in a plethora of community-building activities to move towards building solidarity and cultural connection. They’ve done everything from meditative yoga to self-reflection exercises to volunteering at a nonprofit, Feed My Starving Children.

For Briana T, a freshman at Speer, the solidarity club helped her find her own voice. She says it taught her to advocate for herself and work hard to accomplish her goals.

“Always stand up for what you believe in despite what other people think about you, and never allow anyone to make you feel like you can’t be successful,” Briana said is what she learned from the club.

One of Briana’s favorite moments in the club was when the solidarity group went on a field trip to Hanson Park and engaged in different games and group activities to build community. They played volleyball, catch, and soccer to create team bonding, Briana said.

“It was so nice to see everyone get together and have just fun and enjoy the moment,” Briana said.

Another freshman student, Jesus G-R, said he felt like the club really helps bring unity among Speer students. He’s been talking about the solidarity movement not just with his classmates but also at other schools.

“I feel like is addressing the issues of discrimination, bias, and racism. It’s thought-provoking, and it addresses possible solutions and builds community in general,” Jesus said.

Jesus is excited about the club because it provides an opportunity to connect with other students he might otherwise not connect with and to discuss different perspectives on equality, justice, and how to navigate the world.

Photo shows a group selfie of ITW David Speer Academy students volunteering at a local kitchen for Feed My Starving Children. They are all wearing gloves and hair caps as they stand around a table with food stuffs on it that they are working on packaging.

Jesus said one of his favorite activities in the club this year was volunteering for Feed My Starving Children. Club members packaged meals that will be sent to people in need across the globe.

The club’s staff leaders, Camille Wright and Bernice Antolin, really appreciate how engaged the students have been. They’ve seen that the Black and Brown Solidarity club has been transformative in helping students connect with each other more meaningfully. They’ve also seen it significantly increase positive relationships, community, inclusivity, and even academic performance. Most importantly, they said it has provided our marginalized students with knowledge, resources, and opportunities to overcome inequalities in the classroom, school community, and society at large.

“It feels empowering to see the transformation of the way the students have changed their mindset about what it means to be a part of a community,” Wright said.

“It makes me feel that everything that I do for my students is worth all time and effort and constantly reminds me of my whys and experiences from when I was a student at Noble,” Antolin said.

Both Briana and Jesus hope that the club keeps going and that Speer students will continue to show up and learn about building solidarity together.

“I feel that the solidarity club brings all students to work together at Speer to create a safe, warm, and welcoming environment for positive outcomes for all students,” Briana said, “I hope that we can continue the club because many Black and Brown students and even teachers and staff could come together as one community.”

“I really hope that the club expands more and becomes its own movement and organization,” Jesus said.

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