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Posted October 28, 2014

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BSU Teaches Global Awareness

Black Student Unions set aside regional rivalries to learn respect for people form diverse cultures and traditions.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, it's important to teach students about global issues and encourage them to see the world through the eyes of others, so they can better engage and communicate with people from diverse cultures and traditions. 

In APS, Black Student Unions has made global competency its mission, preparing students through academics, service and mentorship.

“In New Mexico, you are dealing with young people who never leave their communities and don’t have global awareness,” said Joycelyn Pegues Jackson, director of BSU and Language and Cultural Equity. “We get to expose them to new environments and introduce them to people of diverse backgrounds.”

As a district-wide program, the BSU begins its global awareness though local awareness, coordinating projects among the 10 BSU high school programs, setting aside regional divides and school rivalries. For example, recently the La Cueva and Manzano groups came together for a picnic with families to play sports and compete in African American history and trivia.

“There is animosities between kids from different schools, and we can stop the animosity by working together,” Pegues Jackson said. “We can be competitive, but have fun competitions.”

In addition to the community events, the BSU students travel together on college visits. All programs visit New Mexico State University together, and the groups from Highland and Albuquerque High Schools also go on a civil rights tour and visit historically black colleges.

“The civil rights tour is eye opening and inspiring for the kids because most of the civil rights movements was led by young people,” Pegues Jackson said.

The college visits allow students to experience different foods, climates, cultures and sub-cultures while exploring their professional and academic options.

BSU also coordinates a mentorship program between its younger and older students who serve as confidants and tutors. With African American students making up only about 3 percent of the APS enrollment, the mentorship and leadership programs help students identify with their own heritage and feel that they are an inclusive part of a school’s curriculum and environment.

As a member of BSU, students must attend three quarters of all meetings, participate in a minimum of two community service projects each year (although most do much more) and maintain a 2.0 grade point average, or a 2.5 to letter. Graduating seniors who have maintained all participation guidelines and a 2.5 GPA, may participate in the “Rites of Passage” Ceremony and receive their Kente Cloth.

BSU also assists students in applying for more than 100 scholarships and internships to colleges across the United States.

As a result of the high expectations and supported provided by the BSU, Pegues Jackson said nearly all of its members graduate from high school and go on to college or trade schools.

Black Student Unions serve hundreds of students at Albuquerque High, Atrisco Heritage Academy, Cibola, Del Norte, Eldorado, Highland, La Cueva, Manzano, Sandia and Valley high schools. Membership is diverse, as students do not have to be African American to belong. In addition to the academic and social benefits, the groups expect members to volunteer their time to help others, and learn about their culture and history.

“We strive for our kids to not judge but to learn,” Pegues Jackson said.




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