FHC’s POC Student Union provides community and a learning opportunity for all

The+POC+Student+Union+logo

Melinda Xu

The POC Student Union logo

Searching through the halls of FHC, sophomore Jiya Patel was looking for a club she felt she belonged to. It was an unsettling and confusing feeling, so Jiya and a couple of other students decided to start the POC Student Union. 

“I feel like, for a while, I wanted an [inclusive] community like that at FHC,” Jiya said, “and I didn’t really see it. So I was like, ‘If I start it, maybe it can actually happen,’ so that’s what I did with a couple of other students.”

Creating a community where everyone at school feels welcomed was something Jiya strived to do. By starting the POC Student Union, there is now a place for students of color and allies to join together. The main effort of the club is to simply make students feel more included. 

“We wanted to create a community for people of color and allies just to sort of come together as a group and make people feel like they belonged somewhere and had people that supported them,” Jiya said. “We wanted a place where people could talk openly about issues and, even just as a school, see everyone come together.”

The students are excited about having people join together and making a safe place for people from a variety of backgrounds. In addition, one of the other club’s founders, junior Amant Grewal, spoke about some of the amazing volunteering opportunities that come along with joining this union. 

We wanted to create a community for people of color and allies just to sort of come together as a group and make people feel like they belonged somewhere and had people that supported them.”

— Jiya Patel

“We’re going to be doing some volunteering as well,” Amant said. “We are planning on working with Family Promise in the future too to help with housing stuff. We might end up working on a coat drive with a couple of Downtown organizations, and we want to try and go to town halls Downtown as well.”

While other schools, like Forest Hills Northern and Eastern, and most colleges have diversity clubs, FHC was lacking that. Sophomore Melinda Xu has personally had her own experiences with an absence of diversity but knows many others at school have felt the same way.

“We had our own experiences in our school when we thought we were treated unfairly or heard insolent comments because of our race,” Melinda said. “We want a place where all students can feel welcomed and appreciated no matter who they are. We want open [discussions] about this topic because it isn’t talked about much, [to] eliminate the comments we hear in the hallways, and for students to feel comfortable in our school. Learning about POC will raise awareness and enhance empathy, as well as help people feel more confident about their own identity. We hope to decrease bullying, offensive comments, prejudice, and stereotypes by appreciating our differences. It will also benefit places outside our school because we will also be expanding our teachings through volunteering.” 

If students are interested in joining the POC Student Union, they can simply just show up to any of the meetings. They can also contact the leaders through email, Instagram DMs (@pocstudentunion), their website, or by simply talking to any of the members if they have any questions. Although each meeting will follow a slightly different course regarding volunteering, hands-on opportunities, and discussion, there will always be something new to experience and learn. 

“Our first meeting was a breaking barriers activity,” said Melinda. “Students and staff members came to discuss questions we usually don’t think about, such as security and safety of POC in our school. At the next meeting, we [will] have a guest speaker from Family Promise to talk about how housing crises affect POC and how we are approaching that issue. Our future meetings include community outreach, research, group discussions, presentations, hands-on-based activities, cultural appreciation, other guest speakers, and more breaking barriers activities. We have many ideas that we still want to implement, such as cultural appreciation days/weeks, fundraising, international student welcoming/inclusion, cultural books, and other things that people suggest to us or we think about. We accept and learn.”