Middle School Forms Affinity Groups

Ruby Zeidman '20

The Sidwell Friends Middle School launched fifth and sixth grade affinity groups in January. These include a Black affinity group, the LGBTQIA+ alliance, the Multiracial affinity group, the Asian affinity group, the Latinx affinity group, the Jewish affinity group, the Muslim affinity group, the white anti-racist club, and the Middle Eastern affinity group. 

The effort was spearheaded by Middle School Equity, Justice and Community Coordinator Thu Nguyen – who has been advising affinity groups for 10 years at schools such as Georgetown Day School – and supplements the seventh and eighth grade Black student affinity group which formed last year. The fifth and sixth grade group members intend to help create more affinity groups for the seventh and eighth grade. 

Some Middle School affinity groups have already met with their Upper School counterparts. They have done activities such as reading and discussing articles and planning outings. The fifth and sixth grade Black affinity group participated in a “Love My Hair” day with the seventh and eighth grade Black affinity group. 

Affinity groups aim to provide a space for fifth and sixth grade students to discuss their identity. Sixth grade student Alma Degner explained that “The Affinity groups helped me strengthen my identity and realize that I can be both white and Asian.”

Nguyen created the groups to give students a safe space to discuss their specific experiences. For example, the Asian group discussed model minority stereotyping. 

According to Nguyen “Students have said that they feel safer and more comfortable” around people with whom they have something in common.”

Senior Michael Adeyi, one of the heads of the Black Student Union, shared a similar sentiment, describing affinity clubs as “places where a lot of students feel more comfortable than they do during any other time and in any other place during the school day.”

Nguyen initiated the change after observing that parents and Upper School students already had affinity groups, believing it necessary that Middle School students should have them as well. She hopes the groups will allow students from different grades to get to know each other and feel “like their identities are recognized and appreciated.”

The current Upper School affinity club heads said they wish they had had affinity groups in Middle School and expressed strong support for these new groups. “The earlier kids have the chance to experience this sense of unity, the better it’s going to be for their self-confidence and their character,” said junior Sydney Yi, an Asian Students Association head. 

“Having an equivalent of the Black Student Union to engage with would have been enriching and helpful,” Adeyi said of his Middle School experience and added that he thought “their establishment is long overdue.”

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