22 February 2022
The return to physical school has ushered in new clubs eager to spread their metaphorical wings, and literal membership. Among these clubs is the African Student Association, sponsored by Carolyn Pilcher and headed by President Betania Adane and Vice Presidents Fetina Andemariam and Elelan Mulleta.
The club is held in Lab Room B of Atholton’s Media Center. At 2:15 every Thursday, the gray room lights up with color and warmth as students filter into it. The lights come on, and Mrs. Pilcher helps the presidents set up their computer. They don’t have much time, only 30 minutes, but try to make the most out of their time together.
According to the president, the idea for the club actually started before highschool. “It’s a long story.” said Betania Adane, “In middle school, I had this group chat. It was called ‘African Family’,” Adane found a way to connect with other African students in her school. She had fun interacting with others and building a community, and realized she wanted to do the same when she came to Atholton. Starting the school year, she got a collection of like-minded friends together to help “[re]create that sort of environment in this school.”
“The African Student Association is a way for African Students–and anyone else who may be interested– to learn about each other, connect with each other, and try to help our community,” said Adane. The club leaders aim to spend most of their time discussing African culture, issues, bonding activities, supporting African-owned businesses, and most recently, donating to charities and fundraisers.
For Adane and her vice-presidents, it’s very favorable to have a club dedicated to the African community in Atholton. Although there is a BSU (Black Student Union) in the school that supports a similar audience, “not all black students are African; there are other ethnicities,” Vice president Elelan Mulleta explained. The club hopes to be more specific for those who may feel drowned out in the collective; they focus on “which part [of Africa] you’re from,” and the importance of those unique identities.
However, the club is not exclusive to African, or even black students. “Everyone is accepted here,” she amended, but the members’ aim is to make sure that African students feel they have a place in Atholton.
Its current membership would likely say they have been successful in that department.
“Our club is very open, and we’re all free to share our ideas…without the fear of being judged.” comments club member Simmona Foto. She originally joined to support her friends in their new club, but now comes so that she can proudly represent her culture as an Eritrean member.
As of now, they only have “about 10 to 15,” regularly returning members, according to Mulleta, which they hope to expand in the future.
Unfortunately, as typical to starting something new, they have some current hurdles in maintaining the club. As previously stated, they do not have a lot of time in their meetings, which they recently have used to discuss ideas for fundraisers and events.
Mulleta is one of the most adamant on finding support for their group, which is difficult with a small, often rotating membership. “It’s hard to get the word out,” she said, especially when they’re not sure which people they’ve told will actually come to the meetings.
She lamented their fluctuating numbers due to being a smaller club, making it hard for them to sometimes secure a morning announcement. “A lot of our members rely on the announcements to come because they don’t have Instagram, where we usually post our updates.”
However, this does not mean that they don’t have things organized. The real mission for the three leaders and their members is getting more support and visibility, which comes from both advertisements and fundraisers. “It would be a lot easier to get to our goal if we had more people,” Co vice president Fetina Andemariam added. The club is ready to “do more fun stuff,” which happens with a bigger group of people.
Andemariam does want the club to still feel comfortable for everyone, though, which may warrant a small group. “At the same time…I would prefer if our group didn’t get too big,” she commented.
The ASA’s ambitions don’t stop there. They hope that, in the future, they will gain more support and grow their membership. Adane admits that as the club is in its early stages, they will have to focus on getting off of the ground. “By summer hopefully we can host field trips and some more fundraisers.”
“Our goal is to create some kind of change by the end of the school year.”
Adane hopes, both in the Atholton community, but also in “Howard county, and Maryland in general.”
Foto encourages those who want the opportunity to be a part of a tight-knight community, “I think it’s a very open space and open environment…it’s very comfortable here.”