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Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

Middle school affinity groups unite younger community

Gwenie Lee
Unlike other Lincoln feeder schools, West Sylvan Middle School has many affinity groups to support students of various backgrounds.

Affinity groups provide spaces for students to engage with peers through group leadership and create valuable connections to last through high school. Their presences are not limited to high schools, as few local middle schools are forming groups of their own.  

At West Sylvan Middle School, affinity groups meet regularly to discuss current events and provide support to students. The school has nine different affinity groups. These include Students Organizing Leadership through Latino Network (SOL), Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, Gender Sexuality Alliance, Jewish Student Union, Native American Student Union, Neurodivergence Alliance and Black Excellence and Equity Club. The groups meet during lunch or morning advisory, a period set aside for students to either attend a group meeting or complete unfinished work. 

Seventh grade counselor Ricky Almeida joined the West Sylvan staff in 2015 and founded most of the school’s affinity groups. When he first came to West Sylvan, Almeida wanted to create spaces for connection among minority students. 

“When I was a kid, I could’ve really used a space to feel welcome and like I’m a part of something,” said Almeida, who identifies as mixed Latino-white. “In a predominately white school, it’s important to have spaces for people who are not a part of the majority.” 

Despite the young ages of students, the group supervisors, who are made up of teachers and administrators, address serious issues in appropriate and supportive ways.     

“I don’t think we shy away from heavy topics, because you can never know if this might be the only chance [for] students to have these discussions,” said Almeida. “Those conversations are hard and heavy, but if the students want it, we have to facilitate some of that for them.”

West Sylvan seventh grader Gretchen Henderen is a member of SOL. She believes that affinity groups build important relationships between peers.   

“When you are in a big school like West Sylvan, you want to find people that are like you. When I go to SOL, I feel very connected with everyone there because we all have a similar background, so we can connect over that bond,” said Henderen. “I feel like it’s really helpful because it makes people have a community.”

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Gwenie Lee
Gwenie Lee, Reporter
Gwenie is a sophomore this year. She is excited to learn more about photo editing and enjoys writing enjoys writing opinion and news pieces.
Contact by emailing [email protected] and put the reporter's name in the subject line.

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