First-years launch student organization to foster connections among minority groups on campus

Three first-year students launched Tufts Jumbos for the Advancement of Minorities at the start of the semester, a student organization that aims to create connections between different minority groups at Tufts and beyond. The organization will also provide students with an established network of resources to help reach their academic potential and launch their post-college careers, according to the founders. 

Tebebu Mekonnen, co-founder of JAM, said that part of the organization’s mission is to create a space where minority students can come together to form meaningful relationships. 

“Our purpose, although ever evolving, is to connect minorities students at Tufts with each other, develop a sense of community, cater to their academic and professional needs, and strengthen our ties with the surrounding communities,” Mekonnen wrote in an email to the Daily. 

Mekonnen said that JAM is unique because it promotes collaboration and focuses on bringing different minority groups together. 

“Tufts needs an organization that actively promotes, advances, and uplifts minorities,” Mekonnen said. “We hope that JAM will create a refuge for minority students in the Tufts community, and equip our members with the knowledge, skills, and network to pursue their passions.”

Co-founder Chance Bootstaylor said that JAM hopes to unite the on-campus identity-based centers.

“My friends and I felt as if the various diversity centers on campus were unnecessarily segmented from each other,” Bootstaylor wrote in an email to the Daily. “Our mission is to foster greater connection between minorities at Tufts as well as between Tufts and the Greater Boston area.”

Bootstaylor acknowledged the long-term nature of some of their goals.

“We aim to accomplish more intangible goals like fostering the connection between underrepresented students at Tufts as well as strengthening the Tufts connection to surrounding minority communities,” Bootstaylor said.

Bootstaylor said the group wants to begin by creating spaces for minorities to convene. 

“Our short-term goals include having a place for all minorities of Tufts to congregate, hear from various diverse panels about different professions and fields, as well as host workshops on business, professionalism, and skills necessary to enter the workforce after college,” Bootstaylor said. 

Co-founder Wanci Nana explained that JAM will encourage its members to come together to pursue their own projects and enact change on campus. 

“We hope that JAM will change the Tufts community by bringing together various groups within the community and giving them the opportunity to collaborate on projects that will raise awareness, display excellence, or enact change within Tufts,” Nana wrote in an email to the Daily. 

According to Nana, another goal of JAM is to establish an easily accessible network of opportunities for minorities at Tufts, and provide students with resources needed to succeed. 

“As freshmen we recognized that there are a lot of underrepresented groups that possess vast potential to do great things within the Tufts community,” he said. “We wanted to provide this network with a number of opportunities, experiences, and resources that are not easily accessible.” 

In the realm of resources to succeed, Mekonnen said JAM wants to provide its members with tools that they need to launch their post-college careers. 

“JAM will create a student-led community [—] one where students will learn how to thrive in the corporate world, how to make a resume, how to create a LinkedIn, how to land an internship, how to keep up with mental health and wellness, and so much more,” Mekonnen said. 

Mekonnen said that JAM also hopes to collaborate with several other student-run organizations and clubs on campus. 

“We hope to partner with the Center for Stem Diversity, Africana Center, Latinx Center, and the LGBTQ+ center, to name a few,” Mekonnen said. 

Nana added that part of JAM’s focus is to form relationships not just between minority groups at Tufts, but also with minority communities in different parts of Massachusetts.

“We would like to foster a relationship with minority communities in Boston and in the greater Massachusetts area by recognizing their needs along with the problems they face, and using our diverse network of adept students to address them,” Nana said.

Though COVID-19 poses some challenges to forming these relationships, JAM already has plans to get involved with some of these communities. 

“As of now, we aim [to] foster these relationships and connections through volunteer work, luncheons held at minority owned restaurants, and fundraisers,” Bootstaylor said.