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Student Spotlight: Liberty BSU Helps Students Connect

Student Spotlight: Liberty BSU Helps Students Connect

Liberty High School’s Black Student Union is nearing the end of its first year as an official club, and its student leaders say they’re eager to see how the organization continues to thrive in the future. 

Black Student Union (BSU) officers and members have accomplished much in a matter of months, said club President Minot Elias, a senior at Liberty. “We've gained acknowledgment from students, staff, and the district. This highlights the importance of our presence and validates our efforts to create a space for black students and allies.” 

Elias also serves in a leadership position in Liberty’s ASB (Associated Student Body), and said that as the only Black student there, it was clear to him that creating the BSU was vitally important. 

“Seeing the existing clubs, I felt it was crucial to create a space for Black students and allies to connect, share experiences, and advocate for our collective interests,” Elias said. “This initiative aimed to address the absence of representation and support for Black students at Liberty High School.” 

The other founding club officers are senior Te’O Armstrong, vice president; senior Dwight (DJ) Jones, treasurer; and junior Greggory (Greg) Shine, secretary. The students started talking about the need for a BSU in the spring of last year, then began organizing last September. Their meetings typically have seven to 10 students in attendance, plus officers. The club is open to all, and meets each Tuesday after school. 

Parent Lovenia Hardin, who has been volunteering with the BSU, said she is grateful for the addition of the club at Liberty. “These students feel welcome. It’s wonderful,” Hardin said, noting one person shared with her that this club is what they’ve been looking for, for a long time. Like the club officers, she stressed that it is open to all students. “My greatest hope is that students know BSU is for them, too. It’s about building community.” 
“While I can't speak for other BSUs, here we have to look to our allies and the individuals – those who seek to contribute to our community," she continued. "We aim for our Black students to actively engage with BSU, but it's equally important for everyone to understand that our BSU is about nurturing a supportive community for all." 

In addition to establishing the new club and beginning to create and share their collective goals, club adviser Andrea Marquez said the BSU members have worked together on a number of projects this year, including: 

  • A video that they produced in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 
  • An art installation collage of BSU members’ eyes with Black leaders showing in each eye. 
  • Daily announcement presentation for Black History Month. 
  • Information about the club to share during Incoming Freshmen Night at Liberty. 
  • Reviewed the district’s Equity Framework and offered feedback. 
  • Posters with several themes: 
    • Highlighting Black ethnicities around the world and those represented in the club, such as Afro Latino, Afro Caribbean and various countries in Africa. 
    • Celebrating and educating people about natural hairstyles. 
    • For classroom doors, featuring an important historic or modern Black leader with a connection to the subject that is taught in that classroom. 

Elias and Armstrong say they’ve gotten a lot of great responses to the club’s work so far.  

“When we finished the video, we made one of our teachers cry because the video was so touching,” Armstrong said. “At least to me, that was one of the most meaningful pieces of feedback.” Some of the other impacts have also been intangible.   

“We’ve also seen people smile who we’ve never seen smile – and laugh who we’ve never heard laugh before,” he said.  

Four of the officers will graduate in June, so the club leadership is looking ahead to what’s next for the BSU. “The club is really important to me,” Armstrong said. “I hope it’s still here. I have high hopes!” 

Elias said when he thinks about what Liberty's BSU might do next, he’s excited about the potential for expansion and increased community outreach. 

“It's bittersweet to have founded this club during my final year of high school, but I'm grateful to know that it will continue to thrive and make a positive impact for years to come,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the word of the club spread and its positive influence expand, reaching even more students and fostering a stronger sense of community and advocacy. My hope is that future generations of high school students will keep the club alive and continue to build upon the foundation we’ve laid, ensuring its longevity and enduring impact.” 


Senior Shares Why Sense of Belonging Matters  

When Te’O Armstrong started attending Liberty High School as a freshman, classes were all online. He had just transferred to our district in eighth grade, and hadn’t had a chance to get acquainted with people – a situation that the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated. “I didn’t have a lot of friends or know anyone,” Armstrong recalled. He says he felt isolated, and not able to connect with or reach out to other students.  

Four years later, it’s another story. Armstrong attributes one part of that change to Liberty’s Black Student Union (BSU), a club that he and a group of other students helped found. 

“We wanted to build a place where Black students could go to feel seen and heard. We just wanted to make a place where students could be themselves,” said Armstrong, the club’s vice president. He noted that the BSU welcomes all students. “We would have a lot more people if they knew it wasn’t just for Black people. Our whole theme is community. We wanted to allow (everyone) to come into a space without feeling judged or having negative comments made.” 

Liberty HS Senior TeO Armstrong stands in a courtyard at the school, smiling

Above, senior Te'O Armstrong pauses for a photo at the end of a recent school day.

As a senior preparing to graduate, he says his feelings about his classmates and the school have changed. “There’s a big difference. Now I can walk up to anyone and start a conversation.” 

Besides building connections and simply feeling more at home at Liberty, Armstrong says two things that helped him succeed in the past couple of years are making the best possible use of his flex time and learning how to advocate for himself and ask for help when he needs it. 

Sharon Roy, Equity and Family Partnership Specialist for the district, met Armstrong several years ago, and says she has seen the change that he describes. 

“When Te’O first started attending Liberty, he didn’t see where he fit in. He was quiet and was not able to bring his whole self to school,” Roy said. “As he has progressed through school, he has been able to embrace his authentic self, creating relationships with others, bolstering his confidence and self-esteem.  He has always been appreciative of the opportunities Liberty High School has allowed him to have and has found friends that align with his authentic self, like the students in the BSU. Enough so that he led a dance in front of the school with other students during an assembly.  It was so great!” 

Armstrong said he grew up performing and one of his favorite activities has always been dancing – hip hop in particular. He said he also loves singing and is currently taking guitar class. With just a short time left before graduation, Armstrong is thinking about what’s on the horizon for him. He would love to make a career out of music, if possible. Armstrong says his mom is supportive of him – in fact, he attributes a lot of his success to her. “She’s loving, but she’s also realistic. She says ‘you can do that, but you need a backup plan.’” 

He has been visiting Liberty’s career center, considering pathways in medicine, computer science or real estate. “I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet,” Armstrong said. 

Asked what advice he might give to his younger self, he said “I would tell him: ‘Don’t be afraid to meet new people and make new friendships.’ And also, ‘If you’re not going to do it, nobody else is.’”