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. 

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