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Central’s Progressive Student Union: advocating, educating, and resisting for Palestine and beyond

In the dynamic corridors of our community college, a movement is underway — one that endeavors to amplify voices, question established norms, and foster dialogues on urgent global concerns. The Progressive Student Union, an initiative co-founded by students Marly Koala and Elle Vonada, is a chapter of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, a national student activist organization.

The origins of the Progressive Student Union, initiated in Fall 2023, can be traced back to the absence of political clubs during the club fair — an anomaly, as Vonada perceived, in a student body leaning decidedly progressive.

Reflecting on the catalyst for its inception, Koala states, “Everything happening in Palestine is a significant factor in wanting to get involved and form a group to undertake various outreach initiatives, such as participating in protests.”

The union’s mission is clear: to provide a safe space for students to stand in solidarity and enact positive change within and outside our communities, specifically working against gentrification, imperialism, and intolerance against all oppressed peoples.

Koala and Vonada, the driving forces behind the Progressive Student Union, say the organization started about a month and a half ago. They consider a walkout supporting Palestine one of their noteworthy achievements. The walkout on Oct. 25 saw the union mobilizing students to gather outside the college and later joined forces with the larger University of Washington community.

The Progressive Student Union also delves into ballot initiatives, campaigns, and collaborations with other student groups. Vonada describes a future vision that includes not only activism but also political education—unpacking terms such as imperialism and fascism to empower students with a deeper understanding of societal issues.

Despite being in its infancy, the union faces challenges, particularly in recruiting members from a diverse and part-time student body. “It’s challenging when people have specific capacities,” notes Vonada, highlighting the struggle to balance academic and work commitments. They recognize the disparity between community colleges and universities, where the latter often benefits from a larger, more engaged population.

The Progressive Student Union, however, remains undeterred, envisioning a future where students unite under shared beliefs, contributing to positive change both on campus and in the wider community.

Their long-term goal is to establish a platform for students to voice concerns, collectively challenge societal injustices, and foster an inclusive environment for open discussions on various issues. The focus includes facilitating conversations on the historical roots of conflicts, exploring language definitions, and addressing media usage, with the overarching objective of creating a space for political education and knowledge-sharing.

In articulating their long-term vision, Vonada remarked, “Providing a place for students to voice political opinions and feel heard and feel like they have political power over their lives… it’s very difficult to participate in activism alone, and I think that there are issues that people care a lot about that are very difficult to address without a community.”

Echoing this sentiment, Koala emphasized, “Unifying students on similar beliefs and potentially like other affinity clubs, bring them together to understand shared goals…people aren’t always going to agree on what changes they want to see. But they’ll have some common ground that hopefully can bring about improvement…also having a voice in the school, if you have an issue, you have a place to take it.”

The union has planned upcoming initiatives in the realm of activism, particularly pro-Palestinian protests, as well as teaching events aimed at educating students about the history, specific terminologies, and nuances of the conflict.  Their commitment extends beyond campus, with plans to collaborate on worker’s rights and community protection.

“If you have any anxiety about the way the world is heading, or you feel worried about the lives that we will live in the future and that your potential children will live through, we’re happy to talk about ways we can make the world a better place….generally, it just seems like there is a lot of doom and gloom surrounding a lot of issues right now, and we want to work to fight that going forward,” Koala said.

“In the long run, it is exhausting to do activism work, especially if you have your own mental health, your own work and school schedules to keep track of, but this ongoing battle and struggle and showing up in solidarity will make it all better,” Vonada adds.

The Progressive Student Union invites students to join their cause, providing a platform for voices that seek to challenge the status quo and work towards an equitable and just society.

To connect and join, contact the Progressive Student Union via email at seattlecentralpsu@gmail.com or on Instagram (@CentralPSU).

Author

Danika Djuanda

Born and raised in the lively ambiance of Jakarta, Danika is a burgeoning storyteller. Now, nestled in Seattle’s rain-soaked embrace, she refines her craft as an editor and writer at the Seattle Collegian while pursuing her AA degree. With every keystroke, she senses anticipation, understanding that her words could unveil hidden stories and amplify unheard voices. Danika’s mission transcends reporting; it is about infusing vitality into narratives that spark change and resonate with the world, leaving an enduring impact.

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