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Generation ROC: Odyssey Academy sophomore founds Black Student Union

todayJanuary 18, 2024 4

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GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — An idea and the will to make it happen are the only kindling you need to spark positive change for yourself or others. Silas Alvarez says he ignited his flame when he noticed some students at Odyssey Academy were feeling left out.

“I think it was the amount of questions that a lot of students would ask, like hey, when are we going to be able to do this fun thing or this thing that represents me and who I am?” he explains to News 8’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Silas says after talking with his mom and mentors about representation and standing in front of a crowd, he started to recruit his friends to be the founding executive team for the first-ever Odyssey Academy Black Student Union.  

Generation ROC: 11-year-old soars skies as local flight student

“It’s a mix of us, because I know that what everyone brings to the table is also important,” he says. “For example, someone who can type fast, someone who can—just like the treasurer—who is able to keep the finances together and use math to the best of their ability. It feels great when we have all our strengths and support each other.”

They were also deliberate in getting members of all grade levels to join. The young scholars say they wanted all viewpoints to be considered when they plan fun activities like a “Black Culture Spirit Week” or a school dance encouraging cultural garb. 

They also want everyone to be comfortable sharing times when they haven’t felt truly part of the school.

“We’ve had people become more comfortable with themselves and stuff. We’ve had meetings where people have talked about situations that have gone on in school where they felt like they were being treated not the same as other people, just because of the color of their skin and stuff like that. So we try to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible,” explains Qiandre Hartsfield, a senior at Odyssey.

“I feel like that talk was very important for us to see how we are being recognized in the school and how people feel in the school,” says Brielle Toe, a sophomore. “Also like, yes we’re the Black Student Union, but we want everyone to know that they’re welcome to join us and we want everyone to be included.”

“Even if you don’t identify as a person of color, boy, girl, whatever, we want everyone to feel welcome here, and it just adds even more perspective to what we’re doing,” adds Silas.

Odyssey’s principal, Dr. Corey Hepburn, says he jumped at the plan when Silas first stopped him in the hallway at the beginning of the Fall semester saying, I have an idea.

“One thing that struck me is that he was very organized. He had it all laid out, and that really impressed me,” recalls Hepburn.

“In this district, we really prioritize a scholar’s voice and choice,” he goes on to say. “We want every scholar to feel welcomed and affirmed, and with knowing that not all did, I think that that is just really something that, you know, kinda opens my eyes and all of our eyes to the reality that we do need more things in place to ensure that every voice feels valued and appreciated.”

In only a few short weeks, the Black Student Union is already branching out to make a difference in the Greece community as well—organizing shoe drives for those in need and a food drive celebrating Kwanzaa.

“Of course, food and music brings people together, so it’s ways to bring people together and learn—which is what we did—with Kwanzaa. We talked about understanding how, like, the different principles and different values and different ways that Kwanzaa is celebrated,” says Silas.

“With the shoe drive, it was Silas’ idea to make that about Sickle Cell and educating people as well about how much Sickle Cell affects the Black community,” says Qiandre.

Silas says although he knows he started the BSU with his drive and determination, he couldn’t have done it without his friends and mentors help along the way, and he feels satisfied if even one student at Odyssey feels more seen.

“It just lets me know that I can keep going, and I know that there’s a reason behind this that is further than just what’s on paper,” he says.

“[Scholars] also build on the school community in ways that I think we would never realize unless we listen,” concludes Hepburn.

Editor’s Note: If you have suggestions for a Generation ROC story, send us your ideas at news8sunrise@wroctv.com

​ GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — An idea and the will to make it happen are the only kindling you need to spark positive change for yourself or others. Silas Alvarez says he ignited his flame when he noticed some students at Odyssey Academy were feeling left out.

“I think it was the amount of questions that a lot of students would ask, like hey, when are we going to be able to do this fun thing or this thing that represents me and who I am?” he explains to News 8’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Silas says after talking with his mom and mentors about representation and standing in front of a crowd, he started to recruit his friends to be the founding executive team for the first-ever Odyssey Academy Black Student Union.  
Generation ROC: 11-year-old soars skies as local flight student
“It’s a mix of us, because I know that what everyone brings to the table is also important,” he says. “For example, someone who can type fast, someone who can—just like the treasurer—who is able to keep the finances together and use math to the best of their ability. It feels great when we have all our strengths and support each other.”

They were also deliberate in getting members of all grade levels to join. The young scholars say they wanted all viewpoints to be considered when they plan fun activities like a “Black Culture Spirit Week” or a school dance encouraging cultural garb. 

They also want everyone to be comfortable sharing times when they haven’t felt truly part of the school.

“We’ve had people become more comfortable with themselves and stuff. We’ve had meetings where people have talked about situations that have gone on in school where they felt like they were being treated not the same as other people, just because of the color of their skin and stuff like that. So we try to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible,” explains Qiandre Hartsfield, a senior at Odyssey.

“I feel like that talk was very important for us to see how we are being recognized in the school and how people feel in the school,” says Brielle Toe, a sophomore. “Also like, yes we’re the Black Student Union, but we want everyone to know that they’re welcome to join us and we want everyone to be included.”

“Even if you don’t identify as a person of color, boy, girl, whatever, we want everyone to feel welcome here, and it just adds even more perspective to what we’re doing,” adds Silas.

Odyssey’s principal, Dr. Corey Hepburn, says he jumped at the plan when Silas first stopped him in the hallway at the beginning of the Fall semester saying, I have an idea.

“One thing that struck me is that he was very organized. He had it all laid out, and that really impressed me,” recalls Hepburn.

“In this district, we really prioritize a scholar’s voice and choice,” he goes on to say. “We want every scholar to feel welcomed and affirmed, and with knowing that not all did, I think that that is just really something that, you know, kinda opens my eyes and all of our eyes to the reality that we do need more things in place to ensure that every voice feels valued and appreciated.”

In only a few short weeks, the Black Student Union is already branching out to make a difference in the Greece community as well—organizing shoe drives for those in need and a food drive celebrating Kwanzaa.

“Of course, food and music brings people together, so it’s ways to bring people together and learn—which is what we did—with Kwanzaa. We talked about understanding how, like, the different principles and different values and different ways that Kwanzaa is celebrated,” says Silas.

“With the shoe drive, it was Silas’ idea to make that about Sickle Cell and educating people as well about how much Sickle Cell affects the Black community,” says Qiandre.

Silas says although he knows he started the BSU with his drive and determination, he couldn’t have done it without his friends and mentors help along the way, and he feels satisfied if even one student at Odyssey feels more seen.

“It just lets me know that I can keep going, and I know that there’s a reason behind this that is further than just what’s on paper,” he says.

“[Scholars] also build on the school community in ways that I think we would never realize unless we listen,” concludes Hepburn.

Editor’s Note: If you have suggestions for a Generation ROC story, send us your ideas at news8sunrise@wroctv.com Read More Generation ROCRochesterFirst  

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