Mahtomedi Building Awareness Surrounding Equity (BASE) is a recently established student club at Mahtomedi High School (MHS). The founders of the club, Toluwalase Akintola, Chloe Bromeland, Jackelyn Ong and Smriti Samtani, came together during the summer of 2020 after receiving an invitation from Superintendent Barbara Duffrin, Principal Justin Hahn and Associate Principal Carrie Gillund to share their experiences and thoughts about equity work at MHS.
Hoping to create a group of peers who could provide awareness, conversation and advocacy about equity issues at Mahtomedi High School, the students decided to form the BASE club.
The club is a safe space where students can explore their own culture and have awareness for the culture of others. “Equity is a journey that is hard to do alone. We welcome everyone wherever they are on their equity journey,” said Akintola.
The students also see themselves as a resource for the high school’s administration. BASE wants to be a resource for helping adults understand students’ perspectives and ensure conversations happen about difficult topics like racism. BASE also hopes to advocate for new ways that help teachers understand student perspectives and feel supported to have difficult conversations.
Throughout the school year, the student group has focused on equity-focused conversations and awareness both within their school and the greater community. The mission of BASE is to “work towards achieving higher standards of equity, actively educating ourselves and others about anti-racism, and ensuring everyone feels represented and appreciated in our community.”
BASE holds conversations to educate members on current events, provide a safe space for everyone to express their opinions and experiences, and advocate for all backgrounds and cultures.
For Black History Month in February, BASE focused on weekly topics: African American women, activists ages 25 and under, issues gone unseen and LGBTQ+. Each week, BASE shared media resources that explored those themes. The club held weekly meetings during which students were able to have conversations on equity-related topics such as subtle racism and how it affects high school students. The students also hosted virtual interviews with local African American leaders Anisa Omar, Alex Palacios and Kenneth Reid.
The club and awareness events have begun to engage students and open up the conversation.
MHS language arts teacher Elisabeth Haen said, “There is an inviting feeling to the group, where students know there is a place to explore the topic of race and race relations. There is a lot more willingness to discuss the topic of race. There is definitely still a stigma around it (still the feeling of it being ‘hush hush’ and one of those topics not to discuss in public), but it's clear that students are more willing than in past years to ask questions if they don't understand something.”
The BASE group will continue their efforts to advocate and engage and are ready to welcome students and community members into the conversation wherever they are on their equity journey.
For more information about BASE, visit https://sites.google.com/view/mahtbase or connect with the group on Instagram or Facebook at @mahtbase.
Submitted by Mahtomedi High School Students Toluwalase Akintola, Chloe Bromeland, Jackelyn Ong and Smriti Samtani.