RV’s new Social Justice Club: getting “[comfortable] with feeling uncomfortable”

A new student-run group at RV is making waves in efforts to create meaningful social changes

Shea Smith, Editor in Chief

RV’s student body is welcoming the new Social Justice Club with open arms during its launch throughout the month of April. Only weeks after its board approval, the SJC held a Women’s Symposium, collected over 30 bags of clothing for a local women’s shelter and have set numerous goals for the future to support both RV and the surrounding communities. To get a deeper look at what this club is all about, the Holly Spirit interviewed the club’s leaders and attended their conference. 

The idea for this club came from its President and Mental Health Studies committee chair, junior Chloe Edwards, “right after the capitol was stormed,” she said. “I was angry because I remember going the next day to classes and no one was talking about it and I was pissed.” However, it wasn’t just a general lack of attention, but she felt as if it was completely being ignored. “These are things we should be talking about, we shouldn’t be ignoring it and then doing logarithms in Algebra.” 

From there, it was time to build a team of people who wanted to be the change at RV, and Edwards had to look no further than her own grade. Junior Maya Martin assumed the position of Gender Studies committee chair, and junior Elijah Morman became the Vice President and chair of Community Outreach. Together, with help from adviser and English teacher Sarah Sherman, they created a place where they are constantly pushing people outside of their comfort zones in hope of fostering a better school and community climate. 

In light of the events of the summer of 2020, it was clear that a club like this is needed, where students can reflect on and discuss issues which may not fit into the classroom curriculum,” Sherman said. And unlike numerous other student groups at RV, the Social Justice Club “is also entirely student-led; they pick the topics they want to focus on and the projects they want to engage with. We have had a lot of participation and interest from the student body thus far, and I think it speaks to RV’s desire to engage with issues going on in the world at a more hands-on level.” 

[The Social Justice club] speaks to RV’s desire to engage with issues going on in the world at a more hands-on level

— Mrs. Sherman

To be able to encompass all of the many social issues that affect the student body, the entire club, both general members and leadership, was divided into five committees that all focus on a single specific topic. The five committees are as follows: People of Color Studies, Gender Studies, Mental Health Studies, LGBTQ+ Studies and Environmental Studies. While higher levels of organization for student-led groups at RV isn’t an uncommon occurrence, the Holly Spirit wanted a more in-depth look at what each facet of the club was doing.

“I want to create a better well-being for all of our students,” Edwards said. “RV likes to portray itself as all for student mental health and things like that, but sometimes there… are very big things RV kind of ignores and sweeps under the table. For example, my big goal as Mental Health Chair is I want to address the Junior [Health] Project which involves tracking food and counting calories… [as] a requirement… After talking to a lot of my friends, we’ve realized it’s very damaging… and everyone always feels bad about themselves during times like these.” 

As Edwards’s team begins to combat a curriculum-based issue at the school, Martin’s team has been fighting to create meaningful change in the community as well. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Gender Studies committee is working to support all local women this March. 

We [had] the Women Empowerment Roundtable or Symposium [on] Friday in order to spread awareness on different events,” Martin said. This was a discussion-based event where the leadership of this club reached out to “a bunch of different women from all different backgrounds and jobs [to] talk about what women’s rights means to them and how they can empower women at our school.” But to be able to support more than just the student body, they are also doing “a collection for the Providence House of Burlington County, which is clothes for women in the shelter,” Martin said. “The shelter basically helps women who have been abused, assaulted, or are in need of any care, especially abuse by men or… domestic.” 

While the students are making great strides of progress on their own, they also recognize that none of this would be possible without Sherman, a teacher who is becoming a prominent figure in the school’s climate and culture.

I see a lot of teachers around RV that say that they want to make a change but they don’t get as involved as they could, but Sherm is literally involved in everything at RV,” Martin said. “From… Social Justice Club, BSU [(the Black Student’s Union)], the newspaper, she is crazy stressed all the time, but she does it because she loves making that change and you can really tell she cares about us and wants to help make this a better place for the long run.”

RV students and staff will always be affected by the climate of both the school and society as a whole, but together, they believe they can be a platform where people can question events and rules that influence them. The Social Justice Club aims to be a place where anyone and everyone feels safe to speak out in efforts of creating a more inclusive and vocalized student body, and feel as though the commencement of their club is the first step towards progress.

“We want to have those uncomfortable conversations and bring up these difficult things because… a lot of different people are feeling this way, but don’t necessarily talk about it,” Martin said. “It’s just a nice and safe environment where we can talk about [these issues], how we can make that change and how we can make everyone [comfortable] with feeling uncomfortable.”