The passion of the Noblesville High School Black Student Union members paid off with a $5,000 grant from Noblesville Schools Education Foundation, the largest NSEF has ever awarded.
“We were a little surprised, but mostly hopeful,” said Akwete Purifoy, an NHS social worker and staff sponsor of the BSU. “Grants are competitive. We knew there was a possibility that we may not be awarded anything, but we really believe heavily in the BSU and our mission.
“The students were really passionate and pushed for this project. They worked hard to convey that passion in the proposal and presentation to the foundation board.”
The BSU’s planned usage for the grant includes roundtable discussions; hosting a family reunion-style social picnic for students, families and community members; launching a community film series to showcase Black storytelling; purchasing traditional African “Kente” cords for seniors who would like to wear them during graduation ceremonies; and providing scholarships for select BSU seniors pursuing higher education.
With approximately 100 student members representing more than 60 percent of the high school’s Black students, the BSU’s mission is to promote unity, increase engagement, foster educational success and develop future Black leaders.
“This grant really caught the attention of our board,” NSEF Executive Director Adriann Young stated. “Their strong proposal made it clear that the BSU is worth investing in with our largest award ever. We’re fully committed to supporting their success and excited to see how these funds will grow their vision into reality.”
The NHS BSU was founded in 2019 and is modeled after national collegiate Black student unions and organizations at other Hamilton County high schools.
“We have seen growth in student engagement, for sure, but what is really important to note is that the BSU at NHS was originally just an idea started by students of color who wanted to have a space to engage and celebrate with other students of color,” Purifoy said. “So, in my opinion, the biggest growth we have seen has been to make a dream a reality.”
Freshman Kya Winfrey, who serves as the BSU treasurer, said she expects to have the roundtable discussions in the fall, winter and spring. The roundtable discussions will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“For example, a fall discussion could center on family traditions,” Winfrey said. “Held leading up to Thanksgiving break, the event might offer a window into how diverse families celebrate fall and winter holidays and how all families can be different but equally loving and valid.”
Freshman Kya Winfrey, treasurer of Noblesville High School’s Black Student Union, said her ideas for must-sees to showcase Black storytelling would include a mix of newer movies, such as “Fast Color,” “Black Panther,” “The Hate U Give” and “Harriet Tubman,” in addition to Black classic films such as “Drumline,” “The Wiz,” “Love & Basketball” and “Roll Bounce.”
Junior Ellis Tarver, BSU president, would like to bring the community together.
“The family reunion, or as we like to call it, a ‘block party,’ was an idea that we are working to set in place as an event that we have annually to bring together the Noblesville community and BSU members to laugh, dance, eat and have a good time as a collective unit,” Tarver said.
The BSU wants to grow other development opportunities in the future, including organizing a student visit to historically Black colleges and universities.
“At the end of the day, this money is about bringing everyone together to grow and learn,” Tarver said.
The BSU grant was one of seven NSEF grants awarded in the spring cycle. More than $2,500 was given to the other six teacher/student projects
For more about the NSEF, visit noblesvilleschools.org/foundation.