At Sequoyah’s high school, there are many extracurricular activities and spaces for students to participate in. These are created by students and teachers providing students a place to stay active, play games, or talk. One such example is affinity groups, which are created by Equity Alliance, a group focusing on equality in the world and in our school. These affinity spaces are made for marginalized groups of people who want to talk with one another about experiences they’ve had concerning certain parts of their identity like race, sexuality, gender, and more.
One affinity group that has attracted a lot of attention recently is the Women’s Affinity Group. Rubina Davila ’24 and Hannah Freeman ’24, the co-facilitators of the group, were able to provide insight into the inner workings of this space. “What I…wanted it to be is a space for girls at Sequoyah to talk about their experiences as a woman in and outside of Sequoyah. You can talk about your experiences as a woman at home or in general. It doesn’t have to just be about Sequoyah.” Davila said. Davila also shared the different experiences women have talked about in this space, such as not being taken seriously, being talked over, dismissed, or discredited.
In this group, participants are able to talk about outside situations regarding professional settings as well, such as the office or part-time jobs. As said by Freeman, “We had a conversation about our experiences and it was really laid back and natural and I felt really comfortable with everyone there, and some of the people there I hadn’t spoken to much before the affinity group.” When talking with others about common experiences, people are also able to bond with one another and meet face-to-face with other students. Ryanne Arbet ’24, another participant in the Women’s Affinity Group also expresses positivity about the freedom given. “It wasn’t very structural and we had questions that we went by, but it felt like a conversation.”
Another common agreement amongst the members is that the lack of facilitation allows much more freedom to express emotions and thoughts. As Davila says, “There’s a teacher at the beginning who checks in and makes sure everything’s ok and then…the teacher will leave, and then it’s just like students, so it’s very relaxed and people just talk and say what they want to.” Freeman also expresses this by saying, “I didn’t know that there wouldn’t be teachers present, and I was actually excited when I found that out because it was really natural.” Arbet also explains how “When teachers are there, you feel pressured to either say something or not say something. You pull back on certain things, but having there just be students your age, just felt very comfortable. I didn’t feel like I had to say something and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t say anything. I felt like it was a safe space.”
Overall, the Women’s Affinity Group offers a space for all women to come together to discuss a common identity, as well as share stories and experiences from their lives that they feel are important. Although the group only meets once a month, most of the members can agree that this affinity space is a very important part of Sequoyah’s community.