May 31, 2010

>Student Voices: Alvina (Baltimore, MD)

>Hi everyone! My name is Alvina and I just graduated from high school in Baltimore. I have attended several GLSEN conferences in the past, and this year, I decided to do a short internship at GLSEN's national headquarters. On the first day of my 2-week internship at GLSEN, Anthony Ramos, Director of Communications, summoned me to his office. As I nervously pattered down the hallway to his desk, I wondered what we could possibly discuss.

Was I already fired? Did I make a mess in the lunchroom?

After I entered, Anthony informed me that I would be the "Voice of God" during GLSEN's New York Respect Awards! Instantly, I pictured Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty and envisioned myself prancing around a stage in a white suit. Anthony reassured me that "Voice of God"- or, "Voice of Goddess" as he now called it - meant that I would be sitting off stage and announcing the show, no white suit required.

After lunch that Monday, I headed up to Gotham Hall with my outfit nestled in an orange plastic bag. As I pulled open the door of the venue, I was greeted with an expanse of white tablecloths and gleaming silverware. I felt a knot of anxiety forming in my shoulder; I hadn't realized how important this event was going to be!

After reviewing my lines, I understood that this dinner would be a celebration of GLSEN's recent achievements and recognition of all of the amazing and generous advocates who have helped GLSEN throughout the year. While the New York City's Youth Pride Chorus serenaded us with "True Colors," I felt as if the event really captured all of the triumphs and strides that various GLSEN organizers have taken throughout the years. After listening to Sirdeaner Walker retell her experience losing her son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover to bullying, I felt re-energized to keep working towards having safe and inclusive schools for all students.

Not only was it an honor to attend the Respect Awards, but it was also a privilege to be in the company of such stars as Cyndi Lauper and Reichen Lehmkuhl. Also, Will Phillips, the fifth-grader who refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance until the LGBT community has full equality, completely blew my mind. He is among the most brilliant people I have ever encountered. I am amazed by his courage and his ability to critically analyze rituals and policies in place today. Hearing him speak was completely humbling and he will definitely do even greater things in the future.

Overall, one of my best experiences during the Respect Awards would have to be a conversation I had with a man towards the end of the night. At the end of the program, I went up onstage and spoke about LGBT communities of color and about why I organize within communities of color, and especially within my own South Asian community, for LGBT youth. Afterwards, a person of Filipino descent approached me and spoke with me about how he loved listening to what I had to say and about how important he thinks that organizing within these communities is. I was really touched by his candidness and having my work reaffirmed made me feel like what I am doing is necessary.

I am glad to say that the rest of my two-week internship ran smoothly. I wasn’t reprimanded for playing music too loudly, and I didn’t completely trash the lunchroom. Furthermore, my feelings of apprehension before the Respect Awards were replaced with new energy to continue advocacy work throughout, and after, college.

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