February 14, 2011
>Creating Change 2011 Recap from Katie Zema
>Katie Zema is a Jump-Start Coordinator from GLSEN Southern Maine who attended Creating Change earlier this month in Minneapolis. She presented at this year’s event and was kind enough to give us a recap.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 2011 Creating Change Conference can easily be described as one of the best experiences of my life. I was excited from when I had first been asked to attend the conference with GLSEN to help present a portion of their day long pre-conference institute “Advocating for Youth in K-12 Schools.”
I was traveling from Portland, Maine to Minneapolis with Susanne MacArthur who is also part of GLSEN and helping with the workshop. Susanne and I are both part of GLSEN Southern Maine’s chapter. Susanne serves a co-chair to the board, and the adult coordinator for the local Jump-Start Student Leadership Team and I serve as the lead student coordinator for the local Jump-Start Team. The Jump-Start Student Leadership Team is a program started by GLSEN National to promote youth leadership in safe-schools work.
My first day at Creating Change was for GLSEN’s day long pre-conference institute, and it went really well. I was helping present a workshop on student leadership, but other parts of the institute included knowing our anti-bullying policies across the nation, GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey and a presentation by GLSEN’s most recent Educator of the Year, Ferial Pearson. The audience was well engaged in the workshop with interesting questions and comments about almost every presentation. After the workshop was finished, and with success, I met up with members from the GLSEN Omaha Chapter and two people from a local GSA (One of whom was Alyssa Veil, the winner of the Paul A. Anderson Award for youth Leadership given out by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) to go to dinner. Then I headed to bed early that night pretty tired from the day’s activities.
The following day I was free to take in the conference however I choose. Nervous at first not knowing neatly anyone, I picked out two workshops for morning that sounded appealing. The first workshop was fantastic. It was on anti-bias teaching methods with young children, and working to stop/ prevent bullying and harassment at young ages. The next workshop was on sexuality and gender labels. It talked about how sexual orientation and gender identity are not black and white. I found it very interesting and very educational.
After attending two workshops on my own I met up with Alyssa again, and members from her GSA for lunch and then later Alyssa and I met up with some youth from the GLSEN Omaha chapter, and then later a few more youth from another GSA. The rest of the day from there on out was amazing, because I was able to spend with one of the most incredible and inspiring group of young leaders I’ve ever been with. We attended a few workshops together, heard an incredible state of the movement address given by the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey, and had a delicious and fun dinner. After dinner we all hung around the hotel lobby and talked. Everyone was vibrant and passionate. I loved getting to know what so many people are doing all across the nation to work for equality.
Saturday morning I woke up early to pack my bags to head homeward. I had breakfast with the GLSEN Omaha chapter, and attended only one workshop that morning, because I had an afternoon flight out of Minneapolis.
Saying goodbye was the best and worst part of the conference. It was hard, because I just begun to know all of the wonderful people there, and was having such an incredible time. It was good though, because it really showed me just how strong of an impact the conference had on me. I broke into tears of sadness and joy as I hugged my new friends good bye and walked back to my hotel. The walk back to the hotel was so hard, because with each person I saw walking to the conference center with a pink lanyard around their neck it made me want to just run back to the conference. But after a long and exhausting trip home, I arrived back in Portland.
In the days after the conference I’ve felt a little sad only because I miss the conference, but also really excited. Really excited about the new confidence I’ve gained in myself from Creating Change. For a little over two days I felt I emerged in an environment would I could truly be myself and not be judged for it. I gained so much knowledge on anti-bias and diversity, what sexuality and gender labels mean, and how to inspire and motivate those around you.
Within just a few days of returning home from Minneapolis I attended a dinner with other members of the Southern Maine Jump-Start team where we spoke at dinner for an organization known as the Rainbow Business and Professional Association (RPBA). At that dinner I spoke about my first involvement in LGBT equality movement, volunteering for Maine’s Marriage Equality Campaign, and then my continued work for safety and equality in our nation’s schools. I also talked about Creating Change, and just how incredible it was. How it truly touched my heart and opened up mind to so many things. Every person I met was so incredibly nice, whether I was simply talking to someone to get directions to my next workshop or having an in-depth conversation about LGBT equality everyone was so friendly.
Creating Change was an incredible experience, and as I head into the next crucial years of my life, I know that I will take with me the two days I spent at Creating Change.
Thank you so much GLSEN for the opportunity to attend Creating Change!