September 20, 2012
Back-To-School Voices: Andrew, Portland
In the rural town of Portland, TN, 1,200 teens go to the high school each day. While their parents are driving to work, and younger brothers/sisters learning the alphabet, our school club, Born This Way (BTW) is fighting for their self-image, equality, and a safer school climate. Nearly the entire school feels a need to change. There is a particular need to make Portland High School (PHS) a better school, but some never take the initiative to do so.
Once I felt this need, I jumped at the thought of changing the school and making it a better place. My best friend and I started Born This Way. We wanted to make it a very well-rounded club, therefore we included into our meetings components of individualism, anti-bullying, and equality. Once I heard about GLSEN Middle Tennessee’s Student Action & Empowerment Forum (SAEF 2012) my ears perked up because I knew there would be a vast amount of knowledge for me to gain from this event! Just in the first few hours of being there I learned so much! My knowledge grew about the LGTBQ community, social justice, conflict resolution, and so much more!
When I left this event and returned to my BTW club sponsor, I was overwhelmed with the things to inform her about! Not only did I learn things from the GLSEN chapter leaders, I also learned things from the other exceptional students that attended. We discussed things like Ally Week and the Day Of Silence; since these are GLSEN-sponsored events, we have planned a shared calendar for all GSAs* in Middle Tennessee, so that we all will be focusing on these same events and get support from our GLSEN chapter! This, alone, is priceless to me because now I have a vast amount of people standing behind me to organize around these events!
Taking everything that I have learned at SAEF 2012 and trying to summarize it would be exceptionally hard. The open environment, friendly people, and terrific GLSEN swag made this more than worthwhile to me. It was like a whole new world has been opened up that has been lying hidden for so long. I feel sort of like an adventurer that has just found the long lost treasure! Just two days with these people makes me want to do so much more; the priceless knowledge and some breathtaking new friends also made this a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I cannot wait to commence this work in my school!
I believe PHS is just a few steps from acceptance, and with SAEF 2012 it’s now on the right track!
If you would like to learn more about GLSEN Middle Tennessee and to apply to be a part of their Jump-Start student organizing team, please visit their website here.
Resources to help get you back to school:
Ally Week – Celebrate amazing allies in creating safer schools for all students!
Day of Silence - a day where we recognize the silence many LGBT youth across the country face on a daily basis
Jump-Start Guide - Find out ways in which you can create and support a GSA in your school
GLSEN Chapters – Find a chapter in your area that can provide on-the-ground support to your GSA, or find out how you can start one!