With September in full swing, I cannot help but remember many moons ago when I was preparing for my first day of a new grade. Bags packed and the supplies, I most likely just bought with my mom the weekend before, ready to be used as I vigorously attempted to capture everything I thought would be useful on the next exam. Yet, with all of these materials, it sometimes was the invisible school supplies that were the most important. I always made sure I brought with me the courage to raise my hand in class even though I would have gazing eyes look at me, the strength to walk down the hall and hope that no one would choose me to pick on that particular day, and perhaps most importantly, the mask that I would wear to “never let them see me sweat.” Now, years later, I work at GLSEN, where I can make a difference for the youth of this generation. Though I’m sure students all over the country still pack these invisible school supplies, I know my work on a daily basis helps to create safer classrooms, safer locker rooms and safer hallways for them. In the spirit of sharing stories and making it better, we in the national office have launched GLSEN’s Back to School Voices campaign. We are looking for students and adults from across this great country to share stories of how they have made their school safer for LGBT students. Perhaps you are a student and used GLSEN’s Jump-Start guide to create your school’s first GSA. Maybe you are a school staff member and used GLSEN’s Model District Policy for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming youth are provided the environment to learn, just like everyone else. We want to hear from you! Please click here to learn more about our campaign and submit your own story of how you made Back to School a positive experience for all students. Check back often, we'll be posting Back to School Voices stories here and on our Tumblr.
As 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!
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
Students from across the country and the world will be joining forces on April 20, 2012 for the 26th annual Day of Silence. What started as an activity by a few dedicated college students in 1996, this day has become the largest student-led day of action in the nation! Here at the GLSEN national office we are constantly encouraged by the dialogue of countless students on Facebook and Twitter. We know though, each year it’s not enough to simply tweet the silence. We need to show our solidarity in person, in our communities, with other student organizers on the Day of Silence. Together as one, we can make change happen & create safe schools for all students. Therefore, if you haven’t done so already, please take 2 minutes right now to register on our Day of Silence site!
The Day of Silence is almost here! Let’s make this one the biggest one yet!
The Day of Silence (DOS) is the largest student lead day of action in the nation; it’s so large that its reach has also gone international to countries such as Russia and Singapore. Because of such attention and traffic during this important day we have worked hard and are proud to announce the launch of our freshly updated Day of Silence website! Now DOS participants should find our user-friendly site more accessible. Through feedback from the community, we’ve heard that many organizers may not have a lot of time to read something as they are out there and creating change. We’ve heard your feedback and have created one-pagers for an at-a-glance look at ways to plan and execute your own Day of Silence & Breaking the Silence events. Of course, we also still have the entire organizing manual and resources too!
Take some time now and check it out. Happy Organizing!