“Building that Bridge to the Future:” The WESS Social Justice Club

World Day for Social Justice by rikkis_refuge is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“World Day for Social Justice” by rikkis_refuge is licensed under CC BY 2.0

William French

On October 21, WESS had their very first club fair. Of the many clubs students presented was the Social Justice Club. WESS Side Stories interviewed the Social Justice Club organizers Ava Napach and Avery Teano, both 11th graders, and advisor and Assistant Principal, Joe Rodriguez. 

Ava started the club two years ago when WESS invited students to create their own clubs. “This is something I’m passionate about.” she said. “I talked to other people who were passionate as well. I thought WESS needed something like this.” 

Avery is equally passionate about social justice issues and joined the club to co-lead with Ava, but she emphasizes that, “everyone in the club is a leader.” 

Both organizers see ongoing education and discussion as a core principle of the club through reading books, watching documentaries, such as 13th and Time: The Kalief Browder Story and exploring other educational resources. “Educating ourselves is important,” Avery explained. “WESS can form partnerships with organizations that we see eye-to-eye with and believe in and continue when we’ve graduated so the Social Justice Club continues.”

With ongoing racial injustice awakening the consciousness of the country, this work is especially important in the WESS community. “There is a need for this type of club at every school across the United States of America because of our dark history around race” Joe added. “It’s a reality that negatively affects us all whether you’re Black or Brown or White or whatever your background is . . . part of taking action is knowing your history and how issues of race and injustice are affecting not only people outside of the school community, but this community in particular.” 

Joe emphasized that it is important to make every student at WESS feel like they belong and create an inclusive environment for everyone. The Social Justice Club plays an important role in educating students and having honest discussions about difficult topics. “It is important  that we educate ourselves and we are not silent because if we are silent that means we are complicit” he said. “So it’s about making sure we open up safe spaces for students to engage in these conversations and this is the kind of work we’re trying to do in the Social Justice Club.”

He also credited Ava and Avery for putting in the effort to start the club, not just for current students, but for future generations of WESS. “These folks are pioneers and you all deserve a tremendous amount of credit for putting so much work and thought behind this club.”

At the Social Justice Club’s first meeting, the members brainstormed strategies to take action, from outreach to social media campaigns, and the club is currently welcoming new members.

The high school chapter of the Social Justice Club meets bimonthly on Tuesdays at 3pm. For more information, contact: Ava ([email protected]) and Avery ([email protected]).

A middle school chapter of the Social Justice Club was just announced and Principal Jessica Jenkins will be the club advisor. Students who are interested should contact Jessica.

Any student who joins the clubs will be playing an important role at WESS. As Joe explained, “We’re building a foundation for social justice awareness at our school and building that bridge to the future.”