AASU is a group of students who learn conflict resolution and who mentor younger student to create a healthy support system. These students are helping others to become confident leaders wherever they end up in life.
Arguably, the best thing about the African American Students’ Union (AASU) is the amount of diversity they have within themselves. Jazmyn Thomas, a former Central Catholic student and AASU member, is now in a two year program for her Bachelor’s degree in fine arts with the American Music and Drama Academy (AMDA). Jared Reed plays for the varsity football team, and signed with Portland State. All of the students within the community are drawn together out of shared experience and culture. As Mr. Blue says, “it’s important for our students to…at least have an opportunity to go and feel like they’re appreciated and be with students who have…a shared educational and lived experience.”
Jazmyn Thomas graduated from Central Catholic in 2015. She was a strong, passionate member of the AASU community until she graduated. Thomas aspired to be a leader. She wanted others to be “confident within themselves as students and African Americans.” After speaking with Mr. Blue, it is clear she succeeded in her goal during her time here. Jazmyn Thomas explained that “it’s hard being at an all white school,” as Central Catholic is sixty-seven percent white and only six percent black. . She finds it’s “important to learn where you come from,” and AASU satisfied the craving to become a leader.
Jared Reed defines the word “community” as a group of people who you’re able to “relate with, share interests with, and connect with. Similar to a family.” He believes that AASU is a community that’s important, and a close-knit group of people. He’s been to every meeting, and almost every conference that the group has attended. Reed appreciates the involvement of Mr. Williams (called Scott affectionately by the community) and Mr. Blue because he can share with them “what’s going on in [his] life, beyond AASU.”
Mr. Williams refers to the group as a community. Their message is clear. As Mr. Williams puts it, “Yes, my life matters. Yes, it does mean something. Yes, I am somebody. Yes, I do belong.” The AASU has existed within Central Catholic, as a community within a community, since 2001, when Mr. Bill Sprinkle approached Mr. Williams about a way to reach out to minority students. Mr. Williams then interviewed a group of African American students at school and the AASU was born from that. They’ve coordinated diversity assemblies and Masses, including the assembly in which Gerald C. Rivers and Charles Holt did his “Martin and Music” performance on Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Williams himself is a graduate from Central and now works as a social worker that provides mental health services in jails, both juvenile and adult. He also works for SoValti, which, in his words, “provides culturally specific programming for adults and adolescents specializing in domestic violence and providing individual and family therapy.” His commitment to this group comes from his own experience at Central, and wanting to come back and assist them in being successful. Mr. Williams believes “it is important to be a part of the solution and not the problem.”