MARYSVILLE — Sophomores Alianna Banks and Josiah Frank use the morning announcements at Marysville Pilchuck High School to teach other students about black history.
They’ve shared stories of Garrett Morgan, who invented the stoplight, and Madam C. J. Walker, an entrepreneur who was the first woman in the United States to become a millionaire.
It’s a project the pair took on for Black History Month. Banks, 15, and Frank, 16, recently joined the newly formed Black Student Union, believed to be the school’s first. They hope more of their peers join. All are welcome, they agreed.
Of the 1,170 students at the school, nearly half are white, another 330 identify as Latinx or Hispanic, and about 100 others identify as two races or more. Only 25 students identify as black or African American, according to state data.
Earlier this month, Banks brought a friend who is white to one of the new group’s meetings. Afterward, the girl questioned Banks about whether she should have attended, given her race.
“I was like, ‘OK, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference,’” Banks said. “It could actually be super cool for a white person to be in the Black Student Union.”
“It’s teaching them about different types of cultures,” Frank added. “It doesn’t mean you have to be black to educate someone.”
He hopes the group inspires others on campus to create their own clubs, to celebrate other heritages.
The students meet once a week during lunch. Those who would like to join can learn more at the school’s counseling offices.
Last week, Banks and Frank met with Principal Christine Bromley and Marysville Police Officer Darryn Wiersma,who started as the school’s resource officer at the beginning of the academic year, to get to know each other and brainstorm ways to work together.
Banks and Frank also hope to pair up with Black Student Unions from other schools, and visit middle schoolers who might be interested in the group once they reach Marysville Pilchuck.
Banks hopes they can break stereotypes about young black people.
“I would say my generation is perceived as African Americans who listen to rap music,” she said. “It’s not just that for me. I want to make sure people know not everyone is supposed to fit in that situation.”
The club formed in December after Bromley brought up the idea during a meeting, school counselor Nicole Marcus said.
Winter break, snow and finals kept the group from meeting for a while, but they picked up again earlier this month.
Marcus volunteered to be the advisor.
“If it weren’t for her stepping up to give these students that platform, we wouldn’t be here,” Bromley said.
Marcus hopes to create a space where students can feel comfortable being themselves.
“That’s what we want, is for you to feel belonging at your school and express your true identity,” she said.
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; email@example.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.
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