SAFE at school: OPRF student group advocates for equity

Oak Park and River Forest High School has placed a major emphasis on equity in recent years, but the efforts for reform don’t come only from school leaders. Students Advocating for Equity (SAFE), a student-led club, aims to find equitable solutions to problems in the school community.

“The discussions SAFE has generated and the projects it has supported throughout the years will have an important and lasting impact on the OPRF community,” said senior and co-president Isabelle Jacobson.

SAFE was founded eight years ago and is currently being run by co-sponsors Francisco (Kiko) Achurra and Wilson Caraballo as of the 2022-2023 school year. In the past, SAFE has made a difference by establishing gender-neutral bathrooms, assembling vaccination and voter registration drives, and organizing protests against Asian hate.

“You can come and share your thoughts and have open and honest conversations about equity,” Achurra said.

Although the club is sponsored by teachers, SAFE is student-run by its seniors: Isabelle Jacobson, Tori Hutson and Taylor Montes Williams.

“As a sponsor, we really just help facilitate the discussions and activities that the students want to do. It’s really student focused,” Caraballo said.

The SAFE club has given numerous students “a space to really examine inequities in our school and give (them) a sense of autonomy because (they) are able to work together to solve the problems that (they) see,” Hutson said.

The goal for this semester is to have SAFE “work with the student provide equitable access to college information and support for seniors during the application process,” Jacobson said.

This past semester, SAFE has held a school-to-prison pipeline discussion, advocated for an inclusionary health curriculum and held discussions on equity issues.

SAFE doesn’t work alone; the group has partnered with several clubs and organizations within the school such as Pan Asian Leadership Club, A Place for All, Hispanic leadership club Aspira and the Black Leaders Union.

Through these partnerships, the clubs are able to “build community among passionate student groups throughout the school,” Hutson said.