Black Student Union Connects Communities 

man in a mask giving a thumbs up behind a table covered with bagged supplies

Any student can start an Office of Student Engagement (OSE) student club. If there’s an issue you’re passionate about, a topic you’d like to explore further, or an interested you’d like to gather a group around, you’re welcome to start a club. TCC’s Black Student Union (BSU) provides a great example of a club that has made a difference both to the TCC community and to the larger community over multiple years. Here are some of the things BSU has done to amplify their impact:    

Start Strong

Most student clubs spend fall quarter getting off the ground – forming a new club or reviving an existing club, recruiting members, choosing a leadership team, and setting goals. Starting in 2019, BSU got a jump start on all of that by meeting over the summer. Most clubs have a leadership team consisting of officers such as President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The whole club may not be able to meet over the summer, but if the leadership team can meet a few times to set the agenda for the year and start planning any major events, it can give the club a valuable head start. 

 “Originally, we met over the summer to plan the ‘A Taste of Africa Ebony Ball’,” 2019-2020 BSU Vice-President Von-Na Chism said. “We decided to continue this as we knew that during a pandemic, we had work to do but we could also support each other during this trying time.”

 It’s true that clubs can’t conduct official business, access funds or request funds over the summer. But the BSU leadership team proved that you can get a lot of planning and ground work done in a few summer meetings. Thanks to that head start, they were hosting events at the start of the 2019 fall quarter, when most clubs were still getting organized. And during the school year they were able to devote their time and energy to making sure that the Taste of Africa Ebony Ball, their major event for the year, was planned down to the last detail.

Of course, summer meetings aren’t mandatory. You can start your club in fall, winter, or even spring. Just establish your leadership team, goals, and meeting times quickly so you can shift your focus on planning your events and activities.   

Define Your Goals   

 Some clubs meet for a very specific purpose -- to play a board game or a sport, or to provide a place for students on a specific program or career track to support each other. Others may plan to enter a national competition or send members to a state-wide conference. The BSU leadership team decided they wanted to connect students to one another, to the college staff and faculty, and to people, resources and organizations outside the college.

“We wanted to promote collaboration with other clubs, civic engagement, and community service,” said Chism. “One of our main goals was to bring everyone together in the whole community because TCC is a ‘Community’ College.”

BSU club members leveraged community connections to raise funds and in-kind donations for the off-campus Ebony Ball. As the year advanced, they took on projects that connected the club to large-scale societal issues. They started a months-long social media drive to promote census participation. And when Covid-19 hit they started hosting “personal item drives,” creating and distributing personal care kits for members of both the TCC community and the larger community.

Target Your Efforts

 The BSU’s Personal Item Drive provides an example an exceptionally well thought out club activity. Not only did the club provide a needed service, but they did it in a way that amplified the benefits to people in need of that service. Here are a few examples of the attention to detail that made the Personal Item Drive stand out:

  • They found the perfect time and place. BSU set up their Personal Item Drive tables within sight of the Nourish Pierce County Food Truck that visits TCC on Tuesday evenings. This provided easy, convenient access for the exact demographic of people who would be likely to benefit from their Personal Care Kits. It also ensured that people who hadn’t heard about the drive through other channels would be able to pick up the supplies they needed.
  • They studied the need. At a time when people were being laid off, it would be natural to focus on filling an obvious need, such as food. But Chism and the other BSU leaders knew that the Max and Margi Harned Titan Food Pantry and the Nourish Pierce County Food Truck would provide food for TCC students and the local community, so they focused on providing supplies that aren’t always stocked at the Food Pantry: personal hygiene products for families and art supplies for kids stuck at home.
  • They enlisted partners. BSU partnered with OSE the Personal Item Drive, giving them access to campus at a time when most students and employees had been told to stay home. And they partnered with both OSE and the college’s Marketing and Communication department to get the word out on the college website and social media channels.   

 Though the BSU leaders spent the summer planning for in-person events, they didn’t just give up or cancel their events when the pandemic hit. Instead they adapted, Zooming in speakers that had been scheduled to visit campus for a Juneteenth event, hosting a Census Party online, and continuing to raise funds.

 “The pandemic did not change our goals... it only changed how we would go about accomplishing them,” said Chism. “Suddenly, technology was a huge focal point when it came to our meetings, and decisions we made about how we would conduct events. I'll never forget when we had our Zoom meeting and decided that we were going to continue having our meetings via Zoom. We knew we had work to do, and we wanted to continue to be impactful during the pandemic.”

Grow Your Own Leaders

 Over the past year, BSU’s multiple activities and partnerships have allowed club members to experience organizing, event-planning, fundraising, and other activities that allow a club to flourish – and give club members great experiences to put on their resumes. Chism said that leadership development was one of the club’s goals.

 “We wanted to utilize and highlight the BSU Officer’s and Member’s talents,” said Chism. “For instance, Candice Wheeler, BSU Member, volunteered as our Events Lead Coordinator and planned, coordinated and went above and beyond to bring our vision to life for the Taste of Africa Ball, our Ultimate Game Night, and most of our events. Stephanie Tisby, BSU Member, came up with the idea of the Book Drive for John Bun and coordinated with OSE’s Graphic Designer in designing the Book Drive Flyer.”

Plan to Pass the Torch

It’s always sad when an active student club scales back or even disbands after a student leader graduates or transfers. But the reality is that TCC is a two-year college, and it’s important to have a plan to pass the leadership to a new group of students if you want your club to continue doing good work after you’re gone. OSE has student club continuity a priority in recent years, hosting end-of-year club planning workshops and encouraging club leaders to plan for smooth transitions.

 “My advice is to recruit continuously and build a legacy or tradition that can be passed on to the incoming Officers and Members. Pass the word on and have a great communication and marketing plan. Make sure they have committed Mentors, Advisors, and Co-Advisors that can advise them as needed,” said Chism.

Connect with BSU

This year’s leadership team consists of Ellis Westrbrooks, Candice Wheeler, Vice President, Mariana Wray, Secretary, Stephanie Tisby, Education Chair, and Imony Johnson, Treasurer.

Interested in joining the good work BSU is doing in the community? The club is open to all students and plans to meet on Zoom on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. during fall quarter. Contact OSE to get in touch with them!