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News from 2021-2022

Posted: February 17, 2022

BSU at AHS Prepares Students for Diverse, Changing World

The Black Student Union at Albuquerque High School, like BSUs in other APS schools, is open to anyone who wants to join.

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Quotes like this one from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. get shared far and wide every year during Black History Month, creating a ripple effect of inspiration and action, building upon his legacy. Albuquerque High School’s Black Student Union (BSU) has been creating a similar ripple effect for decades, with an equally ambitious guiding principle.

Open to anyone who wants to join, the BSU promotes and prepares members to become contributing members of a diverse, changing world with respect and appreciation for the uniqueness of others, while educating themselves and others about African American history and culture.

The Black Student Union at AHS (video)

“I just want people to be more aware of what’s going on around them,” says Ms. Jacqueline Cole, the club’s main faculty sponsor. “Like the bulletin board we put up out there, a lot of kids had no idea—even the kids in BSU—about the history that’s involved in life.” She says classes and history books fall short, with Black history often confined to brief mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, adding, “There are other people they need to know about.”

Ms. Cole has created a legacy in her own right. She’s been a teacher at Albuquerque High School since 1977 and has been involved with the BSU almost from its inception. Ms. Cole’s daughter, Calesia Cole, was a member of the AHS BSU when she graduated in 2000 and is now also a teacher at AHS, and co-sponsor of the club. The legacy continues into a third generation as Ms. Cole’s grandson, sophomore Keon Raynor, finds his place in the school, the BSU, and the community.

“I wish everybody had the same access that we have to information, as people we tend to assume things rather than seeing the whole picture,” Raynor says, “and it would be great if we could all see the bigger picture and not just one side of things so that we can all be less judgmental about each other. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re all here together.”

A sense of togetherness is upheld in multiple ways, from members tutoring their peers in academics to the three community service projects each BSU member is required to participate in each year. “The issue for me is the connections the kids have at the school for their grades, their academics, their social life, their everything,” says Ms. Cole, “because I’ve tried to be a role model and a mentor to all the kids because a lot of them don’t have anybody here to look out for them, so we try to be an advocate for them.”

BSU members operate the school’s snack bar, which acts as a fundraiser for group trips to important civil rights landmarks. For the last 15 years, Ms. Cole has led weeklong field trips around the country over spring break to locations of significance, including historically Black colleges, Central High School, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “It’s been an eye-opening experience for a lot of these kids,” she says.

The trips and membership in the BSU have greatly influenced students like senior Landon Williams, who will be attending the University of New Mexico next year on a football scholarship. “It’s helped me grow as a young man,” says Williams. “It got me out, got to see a little bit more, learn more hands-on outside of the state.”

Senior Sade Smith, president of the BSU and recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship, encourages current and incoming high school students to get involved. “I think that the power of education is untouchable, honestly, so if you are apprehensive about joining BSU, that’s okay,” she says, “but you will come out of it, like, a way more knowledgeable person, and you’ll grow, and you’ll meet a lot of new people.”

“It’s made me be more in touch with myself, I think, in ways that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been in BSU,” Smith adds. “Not only furthering my education about Black history, not only reconnecting with my roots, but definitely just being in this empowering, safe community is really special and allows me to explore different elements of myself, and as I get older I can take these principles that I learned here and really take out into the world.”