Pulaski County Special School District offers Studies in African American Culture Club

The motto of “equity and excellence” within Pulaski County Special School District is making strides in the classroom this year. Nearly four decades since its inception at Sylvan Hills High School, the Studies in African American Culture Club (SAACC) is now present at every secondary school in the district. 

SAACC originally started in 1982 at Sylvan Hills High School as the Black Culture Club and was created to assist students of all races with the ability to celebrate, explore, embrace, and expand their knowledge of African American history and culture. At the direction of superintendent Dr. Charles McNulty, every middle school and high school in the district chartered a SAACC for the 2020-2021 school year.

“It’s critical for public schools to acknowledge the inclusion of all voices and to ensure those voices are heard,” says Dr. McNulty. “It’s imperative for us to provide a way for every student, especially our African American students, to share their own personal experiences and for us to learn more about the communities they live in.” 

The focus of SAACC is “connecting the past, present and future in one” and the club has three main components when it comes to its vision. The first is to “study the past” which aims to glean understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement from the history and culture of people of African descent in the Americas. The second is to “express the present” which finds ways to celebrate the living history of today in the lives of the organization’s members. The third is to “prepare for the future” by preparing for the eventual exit from high school into life as adults through mentorship and help with college and/or career preparation and selection. 

“The Studies in African American Culture Club at Maumelle High School will become an integral part of our Young Intellect Club,” said Timothy Hopson, lead sponsor for the club at Maumelle High School. “This club is designed to help empower our African American male students by providing more information about black life, history and culture to the community at large. It will also help in promoting academic success through the Carter G. Woodson African American Honor program.”

Membership in the SAACC is open to any student in good standing who completes a student interest survey, joins a mentorship group and selects an area of service. The service areas include activities, fundraising, life plans, and promotions. Every student in the SAACC participates in a mentorship group. Students in the club can also audition for the Kizazi (Swahili for “generations”) performance group. The group includes five tribes with roles like vocalists, musicians, actors, poets, writers, dancers, visual arts and a technical support crew. 

The SAACC at Maumelle is planning to provide college visits, assistance in creating life plan journey maps, and opportunities to meet and spend time with black male college students, successful black businessmen, and black men in political leadership. 

“Our goals are to increase the graduation rate of African American males at Maumelle High School,” said Hopson. “We want to improve the achievement gap between African American males and other students, encourage students to take pride in their heritage by learning about great figures and achievements in Black history, and to provide mentorship programs with successful black male adults.”

For the 2020-2021 school year, the club’s theme across the district is “Discovering and Celebrating the Roots of African American History and Culture.” It will focus on four levels of history: in America, in Africa, in Arkansas, and in family.  

Article submitted by Jessica Duff, Executive Director of Communications, PCSSD