May 03, 2013

GLSEN Northeast OhioDear Camp GLSEN, I’m home now and I think I got the point, 23 actually.

  • Camp GLSEN provided a safe environment for me to receive affirmations about my assets as a youth leader, peer leader and facilitator.
  • Inside of sessions the facilitators from GLSEN National modeled effective facilitation techniques which highlighted the strong Jump-Start curriculum.
  • Facilitators walked participants on the Jump-Start track through the resources that can be used for effective implementation of their Jump-Start program.
  • Jump-Start adult and youth coordinators had time to practice working together, brainstorm and strategically plan the implementation of their Jump-Start program and collaborate with other Jump-Start coordinators.
  • Large meetings with Eliza Byard and the department heads at GLSEN National made sure that all chapters and Jump-Start leaders were on the same page to meet our annual goals and up-to-date with the evolving and static components of GLSEN’s mission and vision.
  • I was able to connect with other Jump-Start coordinators with various levels of experience in the organization to benefit from their prior experiences and efforts.
  • I was also able to gain knowledge about the various roles Jump-Start teams serve in their chapters around the country.
  • I connected with chapter leaders and coordinators in my region to discuss regional resources and options for collaboration in the next year.
  • Outside of formal sessions, I was able to have conversations about how we all came to be involved with GLSEN. These very discussions lead to the quick formations of personal bonds. After the first full day the presence of small supportive families, not cliques, was easy and heartwarming to observe and be part of.
  • We also had a chance to share the why behind our continued involvement in GLSEN.
  • The environment at Camp GLSEN was extraordinarily safe allowing me to feel comfortable sharing my story, my opinions and values. Everyone there was very affirming and it was a pleasure to give and receive complements and encouragement. Rarely in my life have I received such or given such sincere and meaningful personal affirmations.
  • The positive environment, including the complements and encouragement, positively impacted the youth. It was clear that they were comfortable being themselves and sharing their opinions, values and personal stories. It was beautiful to see the youth engaging in affirmations of their peers and the emotional reactions to receiving sincere and meaningful personal affirmations.
  • I was fortunate enough to speak with many of the youth who expressed that this was the first time they had experienced an environment like this before.
  • All participants and facilitators reacted positively to the environment created and supported at Camp GLSEN, eager to create such community for themselves and other LGBT individuals and allies at home.

I feel a deep appreciation to have had the Camp GLSEN experience for the following reasons:

  • The positive affirmation and encouragement I received about my assets as a leader, facilitator and a mentor to my youth coordinator boosted my self-esteem and lead to some personal healing.
  • I am now a member of a support network of diverse, caring and energetic chapter leaders and Jump-Start coordinators.
  • The Jump-Start modules, workshops, templates and resources will provide a structure that will make our Jump-Start team successful.
  • I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the negative impact power and privilege can have on others irrespective of whether I acknowledge or participate in the systems of oppression.
  • I also have a deeper appreciation for the active role and responsibility that I posses to redistribute my power and privilege.
  • Though it may be only partly related to Camp GLSEN but directly related to my involvement in GLSEN, I am now aware that the trauma suffered as a victim of child abuse and bullying for my perceived sexual orientation during middle school and high school, served to repress my personality and confidence in my ideas and abilities. Through the conversations with other adult and youth coordinators and my experiences as a middle/high school teacher, it is clear to me that similar trauma and similar consequences are still an issue for today’s youth and have been an issue long before I was born. The very special environment fostered by the very special individuals of the Camp GLSEN Class of 2012 gave me back much of the self-confidence I have been missing for year.
  • Based on my experiences at Camp GLSEN it would seem to be true that each volunteer has a different ending to the following sentence: GLSEN’s mission is to create safe k-12 schools for all students so that…

This is how I personally convey how the mission of GLSEN works in my life, personally and professionally: GLSEN’s mission is to create safe k-12 schools for all students so that the personalities and self-confidence of k-12 students can remain intact, free from undue fear or pain.

  • Lastly, I am very thankful to those volunteers and employees past, present and future that have enabled the work of GLSEN to continue; turning languages and actions which promote fear, low self-esteem and lasting hurt into those which promote compassion, confidence, build communities.

Signed, Greg Donnellan Jump-Start Adult Coordinator GLSEN Northeast Ohio I would like to dedicate this blog posting and all of my future work with GLSEN NEO to the memory of the kind and passionate Gene Ashley; the reason I came to work with GLSEN NEO. 

May 03, 2013

Sixty seconds — that’s all it takes to help GLSEN secure much needed additional funds. Each year CREDO* Action asks customers to nominate nonprofits for membership in the company’s annual donations pool. Once selected, members vote to determine how donations are distributed. GLSEN is on the ballot again this year and we need your votes! The best part is — the more votes we receive, the more funding we can secure. Voting is a simple and effective way to support GLSEN! If you are already a CREDO member, all you have to do is click here and vote. If you're not a member please sign up for free CREDO Action Alerts and you will be able to vote immediately. Last year, thanks to the support of our friends, GLSEN was awarded more than $70,000 — an increase of about $10,000 from the previous year. This would not have happened without your votes. This year we're shooting to break the $100,000 mark; that would allow us to place more resources in schools and help create safe learning environments for even more students. Please help us win! LGBT and allied students are counting on your support —please vote now!

May 03, 2013

GLSEN Greater CincinnatiAs I stepped off the plate at the world-famous JFK airport in New  York City, I began contemplating what my first Camp GLSEN experience would be like. Would this be another one of those camps where instead of learning how to be a leader, I'm instead learning the art of appearing to pay attention while I'm secretly goofing off? Would this be one of those camps where the veil of boredom quickly consumes the participants and everyone looks about 5 seconds away from a mid-afternoon nap? These doubts were quickly proved wrong. Upon arrival, I started meeting some awesome people. Other students and adults from across the country, doing the work I have come to love. These people have become individuals I yearned to talk to; individuals whose stories constantly inspired me to keep working toward safe schools for all. The next day began our workshops. They were really good! I approached each workshop with only the experience of running our school's GSA. Yet, with each workshop, I developed more confidence in my skills to do more, to be more, and to create something lasting in the community I call home. Camp GLSEN not only helped me with my organizing skills, but has also encouraged me to conquer a goal that I've had for my Jump-Start team for a while now: networking. I was able to make amazing connections with not only other participants from Ohio, but from people across the country.  I can’t wait to work on the Jump-Start program in Cincinnati with everything I have learned at Camp GLSEN. I'll take this experience with me throughout this year and years to come. Jason Jump-Start Youth Coordinator GLSEN Greater Cincinnati If you are an elementary, middle, or high school student and would like to get involved with GLSEN Greater Cincinnati's Jump Start program, applications are now open!

May 03, 2013

Today is a day of huge moments at the Olympics for several friends of GLSEN on Team USA. Right now, the women's basketball team is on the court for a semi-final match up with rival Australia. At 2:30 ET, the US women's soccer will face Japan for the gold in one of the most highly anticipated rematches in the history of the women's game. These Olympic high points feature great role models who have openly stated their support for a K-12 sports world free of anti-LGBT bias and violence, as well as some world-class athletes who are out as lesbian, gay or bi. Basketball standouts Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, among other Olympians, appear on GLSEN's Changing the Game website as WNBA players who have taken our "Team Respect Challenge." Same for Seimone Augustus, WNBA league MVP in 2011, who happens to be out. And breakout Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who came out just before the London games, has spoken in support of GLSEN and Changing the Game, citing the "freedom to be herself" as one of the sources of her game-changing creativity on the pitch. All of these great athletes are tremendous role models for young people everywhere but there are athletes who serve as role models in local schools and communities as well and GLSEN’s Changing the Game Advisory Board Member Jeff Sheng is helping to share their stories in image and word. Over the last nine years, Jeff has been photographing "out" high school athletes as part of his "Fearless” Project. This powerful work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and this year the project has been a feature at the London Olympics Pride House. You can see the presentation here  and you can support Jeff’s efforts create a print edition of this important work here. “I am proud to be part of GLSEN’s Changing the Game initiative because together we are focusing on making our schools safer for our LGBT high school student athletes.” Jeff describes the students he has photographed as some of “the bravest individuals” he has ever met - students who even though they face the prospect of being bullied, harassed or beaten up by their fellow teammates, have had the courage to instead say, “I’m going to be who I am.’ Changing the Game is helping to create climates in K-12 sports and athletics where students do not have to face the kind of anti-lgbt bias that sidelines so many and where all LGBT students can participate as fully as possible in an environment of respect and inclusiveness. You can get in the spirit of these games by promoting GLSEN’s Team Respect Challenge to high schools in your area. Share the challenge on Facebook and Twitter to remind students and educators about the importance of respect, inclusion and sportsmanship among teammates, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or religion. Simply click the links above to share!

May 03, 2013

  GLSEN recently sat down for an interview with actress Brittany Ishibashi. In a casual conversation, Brittany dishes about her latest role as Anne Ogami on "Political Animals," who inspired her in high school and why schools should be safe for LGBT students.

You're an actress who has worked on some big shows including Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives, The Office and Grey's Anatomy. Did you ever imagine going into acting when you were in school?  I've known that I wanted to be an actor since I played a pilgrim in kindergarten, haha! I grew up in a very creative environment. My parents are musicians so I was lucky to have a built in support system from a very early age that nurtured my artistic spirit and really fostered my growth and exploration as an actor Growing up, did you have any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) friends? Did you have a Gay-Straight Alliance or Diversity Club in your school?  We did! And it was a long journey to get there! A sophomore named Tony applied to start a GSA at our school - El Modena High School. He was a few years younger than me. The club was expecting some controversy because of our conservative area but was not expecting the lengths to which the school board and parents would go to prevent this club from forming. After a lot of really disturbing and ultimately very sad attempts to thwart it --Tony succeeded with a federal lawsuit win! And El Modena High School had our GSA! I really respect the courage that took. I am so grateful for and inspired by Tony. Currently, you're playing the role of Anne Ogami on USA's Political Animals. What about this show made you audition for the role? I loved how Greg Berlanti wrote these characters and relationships! He was able to reveal so much about these people in very simple, beautifully crafted moments. I fell in love with the "quiet moments" that happened... You don't see much of Anne in the pilot -- but what you do see is so telling...there were these really juicy nuggets that were so revealing. Ultimately that's what drew me so strongly to this show. I knew that with writing like that, I was in really good hands! Your character Anne is set to marry the dapper Douglas Hammond who has a gay twin brother named TJ. What do you think Anne might say about gaining a gay family member? You know, out of all the Hammonds, I think Anne relates the most to TJ. Being gay or straight isn't the issue. If there is an issue, its his behavior. Yeah, Anne finds it annoying that he'll stop by in the middle of the night unannounced ... that Douglas is constantly bailing him out ... but it's all about control for Anne, and I think ultimately what bothers her so much about TJ is that he is able to wear his emotions on his sleeve -- put it all out there -- and she doesn't know how. She gets the demons that plague him, she sympathizes and understands the overwhelming pressure of trying to live up to a family and public standard. There is this idea of presenting as "normal" in a world that expects the best of you, but harboring these staggering secrets...feeling like you don't belong. I think Anne shares that with TJ. They're both outsiders in a way and really just want to prove themselves on their own. On August 4, you will be attending our "Women Who GLSEN" event to support our work. Why does GLSEN's work to create safer schools for LGBT students resonate with you? It is so important to have a welcoming, safe environment for everybody -- and it starts in the home and in schools. That is such a formative time -- behavior and education is tantamount in creating open hearts and minds. I had a couple friends in high school that would literally hide in classrooms between classes because they didn't want to face the possibility of bullying or judgement. That fear is unnecessary and ruthless. I truly believe and support what GLSEN is doing to encourage a positive sense of self for each member within a school community.   --- Tune in to watch Brittany and the rest of USA Network's Political Animals cast on Sundays 10pm/9pm central. Follow the limited series television event Political Animals on Twitter and Facebook. Did you know GLSEN is a partner of USA Network's "Characters Unite" public service program? Learn more about this award-winning program and its work to promote understanding and acceptance.

May 03, 2013

I was born in Middletown, CT. African American, Islander, Gender Variant Male. I come from a place of many identities; some easier to express than others. My childhood was rough for me. I had to deal with many challenges including a learning disorder and health issues. Needless to say, school was not my favorite place to be. Classes were rough; I didn’t feel a part of anything as I walked through the halls, sat through lectures and socialized in common areas. That was, until I found the dance studio and theater. It was here that I was able to let all my other worries fade away quietly as I took the stage or floor. I felt free. I felt as if I found my home at school. In my sophomore year I came out to my friends and teachers; later that summer I came out to my parents. It was liberating to share this part of myself with those closest to me. It also left me with an undying thirst to get involved with this community. This led me to the Rochester local gay alliance. It was here that I learned about GLSEN, specifically GLSEN’s Jump-Start program. Almost instantly I fell in love and joined the team. A year later, I found myself the student coordinator of this remarkable group of individuals. I was driven more than ever to make schools safe for all LGBT students and allies. We did this through leading trainings, facilitating workshops and student organizing. We increased the presence of safe school issues to the forefront of many student bodies in our community and began to witness a pivotal shift in the way those in Rochester talk about bullying. My time as the GLSEN Rochester Jump-Start Student Coordinator has served as a cocoon for me. It was provided me with the space to evolve as a person to who I am today. I became more comfortable with myself, began to love myself more, and to find my voice. I was able to attend Camp GLSEN and the SOCO Summit. I met friends, supported many people through their personal journey, and helped other students, like me, find their own voice. My metamorphosis has provided me with skills and willpower to know that no goal is unreachable. In my senior year I found myself soaring in the sky to Scotland for a theater competition, humbled as I met President Obama and gleaming when I made the principles list. Now graduated, this 19 years old and former Student Coordinator is not going anywhere. My evolution continues as I take the helm as GLSEN Rochester’s Jump-Start Adult Coordinator. I cannot begin to express how excited I am to provide a space for others to experience such a journey. I have learned a few things. At the end of the day, live for you. The race in life isn’t about how long you go, but rather how meaningful each day becomes. It’s about knowing what you have done to make the world a better place. No matter what you go through, your struggle, your trials, remember, you can get through it. Don’t let anyone bring you down. Find a space that you can call yours, use it as a way to grow and soar to new heights. You only live once. Y.O.L.O! Dontaee Williamson Jump-Start Adult Coordinator GLSEN Rochester

May 03, 2013

"Ew! Look at her hair."

"OMG is that guy really wearing those pants?"

"I hate her."

Blah blah blah.

There was always something with me, finding the worst in every little thing, bursting with judgment. But one day, I got a call, a call that changed everything entirely.

I received an invite to a movie screening. Unprecedented to this simple minded arrogant child, I set off for the movie titled BULLY.

Anticipating a possible cheesy film that would leave me indolent and lethargic, I found it was the exact opposite. I was  knocked off my feet and, well let’s just say, bewildering. "Purely galvanized" and "so good" couldn't begin to describe the experience; I hesitate to even use the word "inspired!" After the show, people were talking about all kinds of different organizations that fight against these terrible injustices. I noticed an enormous weakness our species as a whole obtained: hate. Something I had been so negligent towards.

You know what they say; if you're not working up, you're working down. I was ready to start working up. Luckily I introduced myself to the right lady, Madelaine Adelman, the co-chair of GLSEN Phoenix. She's amazing. Before I knew it, I was contemplating on going to the Students of Color Organizing (SOCO) Summit, a program of GLSEN. It was only a matter of time before I was racing to my bunk at the Holiday Inn and meeting other students from the southwest region.

Though my journey to end bullying and create change in my community started with BULLY, I am so fortunate of where it has taken me. Anthony Salazar, a board member of GLSEN Phoenix, called me to offer me another great opportunity,  attending Camp GLSEN. I was jazzed! I very much look forward to gaining knowledge, experience, and friendships. As Gandhi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world,"I am looking to do this every day in my life and most certainly ecstatic to be around others doing the same.

Cerena is a JumpStart Student Coordinator for GLSEN Phoenix.

May 03, 2013

When I first learned that I had the opportunity to attend Camp GLSEN in 2011, I was ecstatic. When I discovered that it was to be held at the Edith Macy Conference Center, owned by the Girls Scouts of the USA, I became even more excited. Not just because the Girls Scouts are well-known (and well-loved) for their inclusive policies, but also because I couldn’t wait to discover a Thin Mint waiting on my pillow upon my arrival. In the days leading up to camp, I dreamed of discussing safe schools programming while enjoying heaps of Tagalong cookies. Even though not one Girl Scout cookie was to be found, Camp GLSEN still exceeded every expectation I had. Of course, when one hears the word “camp,” one automatically envisions bunk beds, bug bites, and s’mores. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t that rustic (although some s’mores would have definitely been a welcome sight; especially since the Girls Scout cookies were M.I.A.). What I got from Camp GLSEN was an experience unlike any other. I had no idea that so many wonderfully talented and impassioned people were doing this work across the country. It was refreshing to see that we shared the same enthusiasm, needs, and challenges. It’s a beautiful thing to see all of that mirrored in others. It gives a renewed strength and energy for the important work that needs to be done at home. And the students? Wow. With every turn, they rocked my face off. They were so happy to be in a space where they could be authentic and true, and it showed in every way. It was such an honor to be part of a process and an organization that allowed these young people that freedom. I can’t deny that I shed a few - ok, many - tears because the beauty of it all was simply too much for my heart to bear. I returned to Nashville with a fervor unseen since the early days when I decided to start the first GLSEN chapter in Tennessee in early 2010. My co-chair and I set to work immediately putting into place all the tools and resources we gained at Camp GLSEN. We’ve since redefined our Board structure, connected with area GSAs, started a Jump Start program, organized our first annual Student Action and Empowerment Forum (SAEF), hosted the National Safe Schools Roundtable, battled our state legislature’s obsession with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, threw our first annual Singing for Safer Schools fundraiser, and provided professional development trainings to over 300 Metro Nashville teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and administrators using the Safe Space Kits as our guides. To say that I’m looking forward to Camp GLSEN this year would be an understatement. GLSEN Middle Tennessee would not have seen such success without the guidance, support, and love found throughout the Edith Macy Conference Center. Now if only they could find those Thin Mints . . . Brad Palmertree is a co-chair of GLSEN's Middle Tennessee chapter.

May 03, 2013

When tolerance isn’t enough, activism must happen  

This year, that phrase transformed University School into a school that accepts all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, religion, socio-economic background, or gender. From the founding of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, to the theater department’s interpretation of The Laramie Project, to the inaugural Summit on Human Dignity, the school’s administration, students, and faculty have proven to be active supporters of the LGBTQ communities and equal rights. The Summit on Human Dignity takes place during the last week of October and emphasizes acceptance of all people. This year’s inaugural Summit focused on respect and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. We hosted several guest speakers for the student population, including  Kevin Jennings (he founded the first GSA at the school in which he taught in Massachusetts; he was the first executive director of GLSEN; he was the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools in the Department of Education under Barack Obama), Judy Shepard (she was the mother of Matthew Shepard, the boy on whom the Laramie Project was based), Jessica Lam (one of the most prominent transgender individuals in the country, she has been on the Larry King show and on 20/20), Jessica Herthel (a hate-crime legislation attorney), and Jenny Betz (Education Manager at GLSEN). In addition to having guest speakers, teachers also geared their curricula toward focusing on LGBTQ rights (English teachers would focus on LGBTQ literature, social studies classes focused on the history of gay rights, and science and math classes learned of gay mathematicians and scientists such as Alan Turing). There were question-and-answer booths set up during lunch to educate students on LGBTQ issues. Several students also made presentations about LGBTQ rights and displayed their presentations during their classes. The effects of the Summit have been evident throughout the year. Many students (including those who are not involved with the GSA) have been correcting others students who utter homophobic slurs—such as “faggot”— or ignorant comments—such as “no homo.” Significantly fewer students have been making sexually ignorant comments since the Summit, and many students have joined the GSA out of support for equal rights. Along with the Summit on Human Dignity, the GSA hosted various fund-raisers for LGBTQ causes—we had a bake sale to fund-raiser for SunServe (a local, non-profit charitable LGBTQ organization), donated a laptop computer to SunServe’s computer drive to benefit its LGBTQ youth center, and sold wristbands to benefit the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and SunServe. The GSA’s efforts have contributed to University School’s improved environment of acceptance. It has inspired students to take a stand for equal rights and respect for all. Being a finalist in GLSEN’s contest has given us more motivation to continue our efforts in years to come. Based on our success this year, I have tremendous hope and expectations for our GSA. Mason Roth GSA president and founder University School of Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Florida

May 03, 2013

The suburban Cincinnati high school from which I just graduated is often touted as “a melting pot.” Though my community is quite diverse, this region of Ohio is politically and socially conservative. As such, I found my high school environment quite stifling. I believed that frankness regarding my bisexuality was no option. I had simmered with confusion and anger for years. My demoralization deepened into depression. I felt pushed to the bottom of a deep emotional well; looking up, I could see no daylight. Upon turning seventeen, after years of hiding my fears and frustration, I knew something would have to change. I discovered GLSEN, and began working with a therapist who helped me accept my sexual orientation. I also confided to a school counselor and an “out” lesbian vice principal. After joining Cincinnati PFLAG, I realized I was not alone. Through these vital contacts with caring professionals, I realized I was not weak, sinful, or inadequate. As a senior, I decided to take the helm of our dying GSA. It had devolved into a club with no members. It was my vision to make it a viable force within the high school sphere. I voted myself president and recruited other students. I asked a celebrated athlete, the star quarterback, to become a board member. With his willingness to stand as an ally, the stature of the GSA dramatically rose. I began to realize I had been wandering in my own psychological desert for years. Previously unaware of GLSEN, I was unable to benefit from its rich network of people and ideas. Each local and national news headline, announcing another incident of LGBTQ teen harassment, solidified my commitment to push for LGBTQ rights. GLSEN’s support helped me bolster the visibility and prestige of our GSA to over thirty members. Perhaps the strength of GLSEN was demonstrated best at a faculty meeting. Administrators asked a representative of GLSEN to speak about the need for safe schools for all students’ regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Shawn Jeffers, a Cincinnati GLSEN chapter leader, spoke to the assembled teachers. His articulate and powerful presentation made an obvious and immediate impression. I also was allowed to relate to the faculty my personal experience as a bisexual student. I provided an overview of my LGBTQ evolution. Then, I related a very pointed example of how adult indifference perpetuates severe distress among students. Weeks before, while walking to class, a male student playfully caught his friend’s attention shouting, “Hey, faggot!” I explained my pain from prejudice’s sharp blade. Although the apathetic teacher was sitting a few feet away, I showcased his failure to act at the slur. Although unnamed, the atmosphere at the faculty assembly became markedly uncomfortable. My point had been made. Working with GLSEN helped our GSA create a genuine presence in the hallways and classrooms of my high school. We initiated Safe Space trainings for school staff, distributed Safe Space stickers, and handed out informational pamphlets. We brought in speakers, including a gay Cincinnati city councilman. GLSEN Cincinnati has recently organized, promoted and hosted another successful LGBTQ prom. None of this could have been done this without Shawn Jeffers and the force of GLSEN empowering myself and many others. Their dedicated work allowed me to make a true impact upon my high school - in just one year. GLSEN is essential in shaping social attitudes and promoting a culture of acceptance for LGBTQ teens. GLSEN changed not only my life, but my school's culture as well. Drew Gelwicks is a recently graduated senior in Cincinnati. He has been involved with GLSEN Greater Cincinnati for over a year and finished his high school tenure being his GSA's president. He continues to work with his GLSEN chapter to ensure safe schools for all.

Take Action to #ReverseTheBan in Erie, IL

The Erie Community Unit School District in Illinois banned the use of GLSEN resources and programs such as No Name-Calling Week and Ready, Set, Respect! in elementary schools. These programs and resources - endorsed by national leaders in elementary education including the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association of Elementary School Principals - had been successfully used in schools in Erie until this decision. And they continue to be used in thousands of schools across the country. We reached out to the School Board in hopes of opening a dialogue, and we asked the School Board to reconsider. Unfortunately, the school board won't budge. So now we need your help. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Sign the Petition

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