Madison Sejas Siles, a junior at Fairfax High School and the president of the Latinos United Students Association (LUSA), is busy. She is leading one of the most dynamic clubs in the school with over 20 active members that come from over 18 countries. Madison helps plan events for the club such as a documentary screening, a cultural fashion show, game nights and is already planning for one of their biggest events of the year - the Fairfax High School’s Cultural Festival in early 2022.
“I am really proud of our club,” says Sejas Siles. “We have kids from all over and we work together to be here for each other and to show the school and community our heritage and culture.”
Two of her three teacher sponsors for LUSA, Ms. Bruni Herring and Mr. Rodney Lopez, along with Mr. Arturo Cabrera, have a hard time concealing their pride in their president and LUSA.
Lopez recalls watching the students at the 2020 Cultural Festival, some students in their cultures traditional clothing, others performing dances, with a sense of pride and astonishment. “The skills they are learning – confidence, social skills, presentation skills…along with that sense of pride in their heritage, those skills will be with them for the rest of their lives.”
LUSA was founded in 2009 by then-FHS student Antonio Reyes. It was formed to provide not only a place for students to promote and showcase their Hispanic culture, but as a place to be heard themselves. “Our goal is to promote unity within ourselves – we are all Hispanics – and to promote ourselves within in the school and also our community at-large,” said Herring. The club accepts all FHS students from all backgrounds, knowing it makes their group stronger.
The students meet regularly and share about their cultures and work together on projects for the school. “We have some students who only speak Spanish and some students come from families who are second or third generation Hispanic born here who speak only a little Spanish. We are all here for all of us,” said Herring.
The club does not shy away from current events and topics that are not as celebratory. A documentary screening last year of “Paper Children”, a story about four siblings who escaped violence in Honduras to seek safety, was a place where the students could watch together and discuss in a safe environment. The club also provided resources for the students to learn more.
While there may be a variety of cultures within the group – there are many similarities and they all share the same foundations. “The Hispanic culture is a happy culture that celebrates family and togetherness. We have a caring group of students that really look out for each other,” said Herring.
Sejas Siles agrees, “We work really hard but we are all very good friends,” the president says. “This club is really important to us.”
As a sponsor, Lopez honors the students’ work and commitment. “These students are working incredibly hard both in school and in LUSA and we could not be more proud of the work they are doing and who they are as kids.”