BSU Returns!

The Black Student Union didn’t just come back to Newberg High School this May, the group made a splash.


After losing its adviser and not running for a year, BSU came back in a big way. At BSU’s third meeting on May 10, the group hosted Dejene Taye (NHS, Class of ‘94), a Trademark Paralegal at Nike, who told the students that BSU students are all invited on a field trip to Nike on May 24. He also shared his experiences as a young Black man growing up. Mountain View Middle School Educational Assistant Rich Sterrett, one of the new BSU advisers, noted that Taye influenced BSU’s resurgence. NHS Counselor Angela Kantz, the other adviser, said that the group was first formed because of a student’s request when there was social and political unrest four years ago.


“The group really came out of a need for a space for Black students to gather,” she said.


Taye’s Tale

Taye’s family moved from L.A. to Newberg when his father got a new job. Soon, Taye enrolled at NHS. The school is more diverse thirty years later, but, at the time, he discovered he was the only Black student. 


“People automatically thought I was different,” Taye said. “I was like, ‘I like basketball. I like water balloon fights.’”


Before long, he found ways to connect with his classmates. He became a standout on the football team and joined the wrestling team. Then an English teacher noticed his writing talent and named him Assistant Editor of the Yearbook. Not everyone was supportive, but Taye had friends now — burly ones. When a group of out-of-towners threatened him, his friends from the football team stepped in.


With support from family, friends, and teachers, he began to see his potential. And he fulfilled it. He earned his Bachelor of Administration of Justice and his minor in Black History at Portland State. He graduated and joined a law firm as an intern. They hired him as a paralegal until Nike poached the standout employee. Before long, he had achieved his dreams. Now, he has not only landed an incredible job, but also married a beautiful woman, had two kids, and bought a home. 


He’s been giving back and is active in the Black Employee Network at work, and he also coaches basketball. But he wanted to reach out directly and tell other Black and African-American students that they will be okay too. They have bright futures too. After all, his supporters were crucial to him.


During his presentation, he told BSU students that every pitfall can lead to growth and change: “Mistakes aren’t mistakes unless you let them be mistakes.”

Students’ Reactions to a Visit from Nike

The BSU students were thrilled to hear from this Nike employee and NHS grad, including ninth-grader Kerene Mushombe, who brought her friend Jasmine Comfort to the May 10 meeting. 


“Pretty special,” Comfort said. 


“I agree,” Mushombe said.


Ninth-grader Kaylee Edmonds said that the BSU itself offers a special opportunity for young Black students.


“It’s very noble to want to put together a group like this,” she said, noting the Black community is expanding in Newberg. “There’s not a lot of things like this. It’s a growing population, so I think it’s beneficial.”


Freshmen Josh Anderson and Jimmy Keary also appreciate the BSU.


“It’s a good chance to meet people, hang out, be social,” Keary explained.


Anderson agreed, saying he didn’t know there were so many Black students at NHS and is happy to have new friends. Ketya Mushombe also said that the social aspect is important.


“I feel like it will be a place to connect with others who will have the same experiences,” Mushombe said. “It’s a safe place to express thoughts and feelings.”


Being in the BSU has other benefits as well, including a free meal on May 10 from Tacos El Oso Loco, guest speakers like Taye, and field trips to Nike. Sophomore Julian Noel was particularly excited about another perk.


“We’re starting to go to colleges,” Noel said.


With so much to offer, the group has generated a great deal of interest, with several students attending on May 10 even without a couple of key members. (BSU Presidents Lisi Jones and Carmen Jorgensen were taking a state test and couldn’t be there that day.)


Seeing several students in attendance (especially at a busy time of year) was important to Taye. He wished someone had encouraged him when he was the new kid in school and the only Black student. So, thirty years later, he made sure he took the time to be a role model for the Black students at NHS. 


He wanted them to walk away knowing this: “You are not alone,” he said. “It’s okay to be different.”