It was a day Noah Garcia had been looking forward to all year. The International School eighth-grade student was excited to attend his second BOOM Experience (Breaking Out Of the Margin) conference by the Bellevue School District.
The BOOM Experience is one half of the BOOM & SHOUT Experiences. Developed by the district’s equity department, BOOM & SHOUT is designed to engage black, Native American, Latinx, southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, or mix of any, secondary students with adult facilitators who identify with them on racial, cultural and social topics. The BOOM Experience is held for male students in the winter and the SHOUT Experience is held for female students in the spring.
“This is a really great place to get knowledge about how we can support each other,” Garcia said. “It’s a great way to connect with with peers — we’re all the same.”
Hosted at Bellevue College, the all-day conference welcomed more than 300 male students from grades 7-12.
Christian Paige, an equity specialist for the school district, led the event for the first time this year. He said planning the annual conference was exciting and a privilege.
“I absolutely love BOOM, and I felt so honored when I was asked to lead the planning for this year,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts and it can be challenging to organize all the little details, but it’s always so worth it.”
The conference included a welcome breakfast for the students as well as a live performance from HDN, a Seattle-based hip-hop and rap artist, who sang songs from his latest release.
“Every single I’m performing today is for a reason,” he said. “It’s important for you to know that we’re all in this together… It’s up to you to make the right decisions and choices (to do what’s right).”
The conference included two keynote speakers — one for middle school and one for high school students — as well as specific workshops for students to learn more on topics they can apply to their lives.
This was Sergio Garcia Perez’s first year leading a workshop at BOOM. Garcia first attended BOOM two years ago as a junior at Sammamish High School.
“BOOM is amazing, and I really enjoyed it when I first came,” he said.
The following year, he was a part in the planning committee. This year, he led a workshop focusing on the topics of self love and masculinity.
“I think it’s really important that these kids are able to learn and be around people that look like them and have shared experiences… In Bellevue, I think a lot of kids are kind of in this bubble, and they don’t really know what’s going on and how it can affect others,” he said. “I really encourage kids to come to this because you can’t get this anywhere else.”
After attending the high school keynote speech, Sammamish High School senior Rahsaan Corbin said he felt inspired at his first BOOM experience.
“It feels really cool being around other colored kids, ya know? I guess I’ve just got kind of used to being one of the few colored kids in my class, and I didn’t realize how great it would be to be around people like me and share experiences,” he said.
According to Paige, the district is hoping to expand the BOOM & SHOUT Experiences to include more students. He said the event reaches capacity each year.
The SHOUT Experience will be next spring.
For more information regarding BOOM & SHOUT Experiences, go online to https://bsd405.org/departments/equity/boom/.