PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. -- 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 PCSSD.
SAACC originally started in 1982 at Sylvan Hills High as the Black Culture Club. At the direction of superintendent Dr. Charles McNulty, every middle school and high school in the district chartered their own 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. And 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.
“Our chapter is very fortunate to have 10 faculty members directly working with the students of SAACC and another 10 who provide support for the students,” says Prentice Dupins, lead sponsor for the club at Sylvan Hills High School. “Any success we have is due to the support and passion of our sponsors and the desire for knowledge from our students.”
Membership in the SAACC is open to any enrolled student in good standing, complete a student interest survey, join a mentorship group and select 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. Dupins says the membership target at Sylvan Hills High this year is approximately 10 percent of the student body (125 members).
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. The club at Sylvan Hills High School has plans to create a feature film that embodies this year’s theme.