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Handbook makes space for affinity groups

On+page+16+of+the+US+Student+Handbook+the+section+%22Affinity+Groups%22+is+included+for+the+first+time+to+date.+%E2%80%9CWe+came+to+realize+that+one+of+the+biggest+and+most+active+parts+of+our+community+are+our+affinity+groups+and+they+weren%E2%80%99t+referenced+at+all+in+the+handbook%2C%22+US+Principal+Max+Delgado+said.+
On page 16 of the US Student Handbook the section

On page 16 of the US Student Handbook the section "Affinity Groups" is included for the first time to date. “We came to realize that one of the biggest and most active parts of our community are our affinity groups and they weren’t referenced at all in the handbook," US Principal Max Delgado said.

Mimi Geller

Mimi Geller

On page 16 of the US Student Handbook the section "Affinity Groups" is included for the first time to date. “We came to realize that one of the biggest and most active parts of our community are our affinity groups and they weren’t referenced at all in the handbook," US Principal Max Delgado said.

Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

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Although a commonality within the St. Paul Academy and Summit School halls, many students do not realize how many affinity groups meet regularly. With over ten affinity groups offered, Director of Intercultural Life Karen Dye and US Principal Max Delgado felt it was needed to include dialogue about affinity groups in the student handbook, a section that had previously never been included.

Common Ground, the “first affinity group” as Dye calls it, started around 10 years ago. Since then, students have eagerly petitioned for the creation of new groups.

“We didn’t expect so many groups to come out of that. It made sense to make sure that we were giving the groups the significance in the community that they needed. Acknowledging their significance and presence in our community including all the things the clubs do and their practices around student organizations,” Dye said.

Delgado affirms that wording and policy about affinity groups in the student handbook was needed given their swelling numbers:

“We came to realize that one of the biggest and most active parts of our community are our affinity groups and they weren’t referenced at all in the handbook. One of the things that triggered this conversation is that in the last several years we have had an increasing number of students ask what the process was for starting an affinity group. We thought it seemed appropriate to acknowledge this in the handbook and also lay out a path by which student can petition for one to be created,” he said.

Affinity groups at SPA contribute to the community through a myriad of activities. HerSpace, the SPA affinity group for all female-identifying students, annually hosts events during the week leading up to International Women’s Day. Mispacha, an affinity group for all Jewish students, hosted a Hanukkah celebration last year where the entire community was invited.

It made sense to make sure that we were giving the groups the significance in the community that they needed”

— Karen Dye

For some groups, however, community outreach is not at the forefront of their mission. Many affinity groups, like Black and Brown Girls for example, simply get together to have conversations privately. Delgado believes the new wording in the student handbook encourages affinity groups to both to engage the community and spend time in a more relaxed setting.

“The reality is that there are some affinity groups who have always been interested in engaging in the outside community. The other side of that is seeing how affinity groups can work together and support each other in their dominant or nondominant identities. It’s trying to let all students know that you obviously have areas where you need space to recharge and have a family conversation, but also many students have identities that can be advocates and allies to other affinity groups to help support their mission and their cause. This policy is trying to articulate what we already see affinity groups doing,” Delgado said.

The social benefits of belonging to an affinity group have the ability to empower all members through conversation and bonding. Regardless of the mission, Dye believes the affinity groups at SPA give students of any affinity an opportunity to express their authenticity.

“Any space that allows students to be in a community with others like them and be their authentic selves is really important for a school to provide. I think a lot of students, when they walk in the door in the morning, sometimes can’t be who they really are. With everything going on in our country and in our world and some of the ways in which we are divided, more recently affinity groups are important for students because they provide an opportunity not only to feel safe but to have conversations without feeling like people won’t understand,” Dye said.

The “Affinity Groups” section in the student handbook can be found on page 16.

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About the Writer
Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

Mimi Geller is the Director of RubicOnline. This is her fourth year on staff. Mimi believes that high school journalism connects people by sharing their stories while documenting the spirit of a community. Mimi has additionally served as the Assistant Director of Journalism at Orca Tribe Project, a youth initiative that connects local artists in the Twin Cities and has written for The Villager Newspaper in St. Paul. Outside of journalism, Mimi is the captain of Girls Varsity Volleyball, a member of Community Action and Service and a part of Summit Singers. Mimi can be reached at rubicon.spa@gmail.com

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