Apart But Together

Fostering spaces to connect with each other at a critical time

Image%3A+Elena+Tello+%28left%29++and+Ana+Montes+%28right%29+perform+Flamenco+

Photo: E-chieh Lin

Image: Elena Tello (left) and Ana Montes (right) perform Flamenco

“Having a space where we can collectively take time to talk about what is on our minds is really important for us to process everything that’s going on in the world”

— Jiwoo Hyun

Amid an ongoing pandemic, the tribulations of online school, uprisings across the world for Black Lives, and a recent presidential election, the UPrep community is dealing with a lot, all from a distance. For affinity group members such as junior Adriana Hernandez from Latine Student Union, hosting meetings online has been challenging, especially since it is her first year as leader.

“Trying to host meetings and especially bigger events has been difficult because communication is hard and we don’t really have a space to get to know new members as we have done previously,” Hernandez said. “It has also been tough reaching out to new members. We have been having really few people at our meetings”

Members of LSU have had to get creative in order to connect with one another.

“We play a lot of online games such as Scribbl.io and Imposter,” Hernandez said. “That has been really fun. And we are also talking about food we can cook and other activities we can do for virtual culture night.”

Junior and leader of the Black Student Union Hermona Hadush has also faced similar barriers trying to find ways to celebrate identity online.

“Remote learning has brought a lot of challenges because we’ve had a disconnect with some of our members,” Hadush said. “At meetings we greet each other, talk about how our week has been going, and share a Black excellence moment,” Hadush said. “[A Black excellence moment] is where we each highlight a Black celebrity, a Black author, a Black-owned business and talk about their significance and success.”

Hadush is still grateful to have a space like BSU to both learn and connect.

“Getting to discuss current issues in my affinity group has taught me a lot about what is going on around the world and given me space to share my thoughts without feeling like I had to speak on behalf of a whole community,” Hadush said.“While the rest of the year has great uncertainty, I know that our club will always be a space for comfort and support.”

Meanwhile, members of the community such as senior and facilitator leader Jiwoo Hyun, are working to engage all students in discussion and reflection of current events and social justice issues.

“This is my fourth year as a facilitator,” Hyun said. “It started as something I just wanted to try out but now it means so much more to me. It is how I reach out to my community and these conversations make me feel like I’m part of something bigger than just being in the classroom.”

Hyun also sees heightened importance for community conversations this year.

Having a space where we can collectively take time to talk about what is on our minds is really important for us to process everything that’s going on in the world,” she said.  “As facilitators, we are like that initiation point for connection building across community .

For Hyun, facilitating conversation spaces online has been surprisingly successful.  “Coming into community conversations we didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Hyun said. “But it’s actually been pretty great especially with the help of the breakout room feature. I think as people are educating themselves more about current issues and how to show solidarity and support, there have been a lot more productive conversations. I’m seeing people not only having conversations and moving on but actually taking time to ask themselves, ‘how can I do a better job? how can the school do a better job?’”