Northwest’s Black Student Union makes strides to decrease racial struggles

First year teacher Matthew Shulman started the Black Student Union with the help of several students in hopes to bring awareness to the racial inequalities found at BVNW.


Ethan Minter

Senior Hayleigh Arnold speaks with other students during the Black Student Union meeting.

Tessa Regan , Writer

With more than 1,600 students at Blue Valley Northwest, 3.77 percent of the whole student population is African American, according to Kansas Report Card 2018-2019. In an effort to bring light to the lack of diversity at BVNW, social studies and human relations teacher Matthew Shulman, along with many of his students, started a Black Student Union at BVNW.  

The Black Student Union, BSU, is a national group that provides students of color a place to discuss issues they struggle with, Shulman said. 

Shulman said being part of the Black Student Union at the University of Kansas allowed him to bring ideas from his past experience to the new organization he formed at Blue Valley Northwest.  

In the 27 years Blue Valley Northwest has been opened, the school has never had a Black Student Union, according to Shulman. This comes as a shock to Shulman, he said, as he is not sure as to why it has taken the school so long to form the union, Shulman said.  

According to Shulman, the inspiration to start a Black Student Union at BVNW came from the lack of representation of African Americans in school, as well as the fact that students do not feel comfortable talking about racial relations in diversity club, a seperate club at Northwest.

“We are trying to bring a little bit of a change, allowing not only African American students, but really all students of color and all students period, to have a place,” Shulman said. 

Along with Shulman, senior Mackenzie Iszard said she was interested in helping to start this organization. Iszard was aware of the Black Student Union at other schools, but the idea of one at BVNW was never thought of, Iszard said.

“I have had family members in BSU at colleges and their high schools,” Iszard said. “It never occured to me that we could start one here as much as I’ve always dreamed of a place where minorities are represented.”

The BSU, Shulman and Iszard said, is not just a place for students of color, but for all students interested in attending. 

“We welcome and encourage all individuals of any color, shape, size to come and experience the Black Student Union,” Iszard said. 

One such student is Camryn Threinen, a senior at BVNW, who has been attending the meetings since the beginning of the school year. With the organization having a name specific to one race, Threinen said, she still feels welcome to use her voice.

“One of the things that stuck out to me was their mission is empowering the student body as a whole [and] being a safe place to express academic and political issues,” Thrinen said.

The structure of the meetings, Iszard said, are set up in in different styles depending on the meeting. For example, the union had speaker Anthony Butler come in and read poetry to the group, sharing life lessons with the union. While, in other instances, a meeting can be informal for students to talk to one another about issues they may be struggling with.

“We welcome and encourage all individuals of any color, shape, size to come and experience the Black Student Union.””

— Mackenzie Iszard

In the time the union has been at Northwest, Shulman said, they have grown in number. Although they started with 15 students, the union now has around 25 to 30 students every meeting.  

Along with the small size, Iszard said the first meeting had little student participation, however, that has changed since then. 

“Not a lot of people talked [in the first meeting],” Iszard siad.  “Now our most recent meeting everyone was talking, and we had more people spreading ideas which was really interesting to hear.” 

As for the future, the BSU plans to perform a step routine as a way of communicating African American history during the Diversity Assembly next semester, Iszard said.    

By the end of the year, Shulman hopes to see the group grow in size as well have a wider range of grade levels. 

“I’d love to get [the number of students attending] above 40,” Shulman said. “I’d like a lot more underclassmen.”

If a student is interested in joining, Shulman said, go talk to one of the senior students involved including Sasha Mitchell and Jordan Nevels. 

As the Organization continues to grow, Iszard said, this new group will allow students of color a platform to connect with other students alike. The union is a place for students to discuss issues from both inside and outside of school.

“[Students of color] don’t have to be nervous about other people not understanding their problems and their issues,” Iszard said. “They don’t have to fear feeling alone.”