For years, there has always been talk about starting a Latino and African-American club at Riverside-Brookfield High School.

This year, that talk was turned into a reality, and both groups were born during the 2004-05 school year.

The school is now home to the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) and the African-American Cultural Association (AACA).

“This is something the kids have wanted for a while,” said Sandra Galvao, an RB counselor who is the faculty sponsor for the OLAS. “We started to have some meetings about the club during the middle of the year last year, but it wasn’t officially launched until the start of this year.

“There are 42 kids involved, and it’s now the largest club at Riverside-Brookfield. They have really surprised a lot of people with their dedication.”

Galvao hasn’t been surprised at the turnout, however, seeing that Riverside-Brookfield is 13.6 percent Hispanic. Meanwhile, the number of African-American students, which still small?”at 2.6 percent?”is growing.

“It’s been a busy year for everyone,” Galvao said. “All of the club officers are seniors, because the kids in the club wanted strong leadership from the start.

“That way the club would get off the ground strong. I know the excitement has spread throughout the year.”

The AACA also has made it presence felt in its inaugural year.

“The kids wanted to start a club that promoted a positive experience and positive imagine in the community for African Americans,” said Alison Jackson, Student Health Services supervisor and faculty sponsor of the AACA. “The kids are dedicated to this club.

“They come to school for meetings at 7:15 a.m., because they want to make a difference,” Jackson said. “I have been here at the high school for seven years and during that time I have talked to kids that have wanted something like this.”

While OLAS and AACA are two separate clubs, the two have the same purpose in mind.

“I think both clubs want to embrace their cultures, while doing positive things in and outside of school,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. It’s all about being a good role model and doing something positive.”

Since the clubs became official last September, they have done countless hours of community service.

“These kids have been doing stuff all year,” Galvao said. “I think these kids feel like they belong now, because they have seen the impact they have had on the school and community. Someone told me the other day that they can feel the excitement from the kids when it comes to the club.”

Senior Kelley Boyd, who is one of the 15 members of the AACA, echoed Galvao’s feelings.

“It’s nice to finally be recognized as an official club,” Boyd said. “We’ve made some big sacrifices to make this club a success, but it’s nice to give something back to the community.”

Mario Triplett, a sophomore member of the AACA, believes the strong bond between club members is a big reason why things have run so smooth in the first year.

“Everyone seems to be on the same page, and there really is a strong bond,” Triplett said. “This is a great thing for our culture here at the high school, and hopefully it continues to grow.”

Galvao added that while some may believe the clubs are only open to certain students, they are open to students of all cultures.

“We welcome and want other students to join,” Galvao said. “Since the beginning, there hasn’t been any negative vibes about the clubs from any of the students in the school.

“The funny thing is that at the Latino dance we had, there were more non-Hispanics there than there were Hispanics. These kids are doing a good thing, and they believe in themselves. We’re all very proud of them.”