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GSA Student Summit

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The past six months have been an incredibly exciting time for LGBT Equality.  In November, several states, including my home state of Maryland, legalized same-sex marriage.  In January, President Obama gave a major shout out to the history of the Gay Rights Movement when he mentioned Stonewall in the same breath as Seneca Falls and Selma.  In March, the Supreme Court took on two cases related to equal protection for gay couples, and just yesterday, NBA player Jason Collins came out of the closet.  The pace of change has quickened, and with it American public opinion is rapidly shifting.  Closer to home, today we had a landmark event at our school.  For the first time, Bullis hosted a major event that brought together LGBT youth and allies from the DC area.

For the past three years, I have been helping to co-chair a newly formed Diversity and Equity Committee at our school.  We’ve found widespread support among teachers in all three divisions, and we are so excited that colleagues from the tech department, summer programs, admissions, and other Bullis offices have joined the effort.  While we spent much of our first two years focused on building an adult community focused on respect, this year we have shifted to supporting and encouraging our student community.

And this is what we have discovered:

1.  If you build it, they will come.  Back in the fall, a newly reinvigorated GSA hatched a plan to hold a Student GSA Summit.  It took five months of planning and logistical work, but today was the big day, and we were thrilled to have more than 110 students from 15 schools on campus for a keynote speaker, workshops, and networking.

2.  Given the opportunity, students welcome the chance to be leaders.  While adult support is needed, the students had true ownership of today.  Rayna and Brittany welcomed the crowd and introduced Dr. Tonia Poteat, our guest speaker.  Gabby S and Gabby M  worked the check-in desk.  14 Bullis students served as small group facilitators.  Sarah and Sean were the MCs for the large group sharing.  Simone wrapped up the day and we all heard how much the event was appreciated.

3.  All students deserve to feel valued, honored, and welcome.  We heard stories of a wide range of student experiences at area schools.  Some schools have active GSAs and a great faculty and administration.  Others have significant work to do.  But as we swapped tales and strategies, we could see hope and possibilities.  Our second workshop asked students to design a “dream school” where LGBTQ youth are truly welcome…the next step is to work to make that vision a reality.

As the Trevor Project says, “It gets better.”  Today, it really did.

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The room was packed

The room was packed

rainbow cupcakes!

rainbow cupcakes!

Dr. Poteat shares her story and her current work

Dr. Poteat shares her story and her current work

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