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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Redefining family

By Rachael Buselmeier

 

For adopted students seeking a connection, Western’s Adoptees Alliance provides a safe space to gather.

Founder and co-president Iris Hubbard founded the Adoptees Alliance during winter quarter 2017 with five other adoptees. She created the club hoping for adoptees to share their experiences. The club also wants to be an educational resource to other students on campus who don’t have experience with adoption.

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month in November, the new club put on its first big event. Members compiled photos and writings that shared their experience with adoption. The submissions were displayed as part of an art walk in the Miller Hall Collaborative Space.

“Our Voices” was an exhibit put on by the Adoptees Alliance which shared the stories of adoptees. // Photo courtesy of Western Adoptees Alliance

“Being adopted is tricky because there is so much I want to say, yet only a fellow adoptee will truly understand,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard originally got the idea for the exhibit from Jessie Lutz, who is president of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Adoption Education Club. Both presidents were looking for ways to share their stories of adoption with a wider population on campus.

“Adoption is such a multifaceted topic,” Hubbard said, “I feel like many people talk or hear about adoption from the perspective of a parent or relative, but we don’t usually hear from the adoptee.”

By creating a space exclusively for adoptee voices, the club had the freedom to share more openly and honestly.

“I personally have so many different emotions surrounding my adoption,” Hubbard said. “Being able to share my personal thoughts and feelings really allowed me to finally say and let out some things I wouldn’t normally share with my family.”

The exhibit was titled “Our Voices.” It highlighted personal experience and presented a larger, unified voice to the Western community. 

“As I was putting together everything for the exhibit, I realized many of the quotes I had received from adoptees really resonated with me,” Hubbard said. “It helped me deal with my unresolved emotions and better process what I had been going through over the years.”

“Our Voices” gave adoptees a chance to reflect and visitors a chance to learn.

Club adviser Anselmo Villanueva took the position because of his personal connection with adoption. Villanueva adopted his son 30 years ago and wanted to support the club.

Villanueva hopes to use his experience in K-12 education to navigate the more difficult situations that can come up with adoption.

The club currently has 37 members, but Villanueva pointed out it could serve a much larger population on campus.

“I do not have the numbers at Western, but I would say about 2 percent of the general population in the United States have been adopted,”  Villanueva said. “So I would guess 2 percent of the students at Western are adopted, which would mean about 300 students are adoptees.”

Club member Cindy Johnson heard about the alliance through mutual friends. Johnson said she was excited to have a space to share her feelings where everyone was on the same page.

In the past, any mention of her adoption faced Johnson with the “usual questions” of “Wait, so do you know your birth parents?”

“You don’t know your birthday?”

“Are your parents caucasian or Asian?”

The alliance allows club members to delve deeper into topics they might not get to address with someone who isn’t adopted.

Having a group of adoptees of all the same age provides a unique experience to club members, Johnson said. Instead of a family member or relative to talk with, members can talk with someone their own age facing the same challenges, she said.

Although the club’s meetings for fall quarter have concluded, the club will pick back up in January.

The club is hoping to collaborate with other groups on campus to increase their impact in the coming months. They are also planning to have Shari Robinson from the counseling center speak at a club meeting.

The club is still in its early stages and hoping to expand its community. In addition to providing support for adoptees, the club has open meetings for students who are not adopted but want to learn more about adoption.

“It’s a great group of people who share [their] experiences,” Johnson said. “I found a lot of friends and had conversations that I wouldn’t have ever thought of. I found so much in common with people I would’ve never known about.”

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