August 23, 2011
>Hope Rekindled at 2011 Student Ambassador Summit
Eighth grader Carly F. is already back at school in Arizona, attending band practice, catching up with friends about her summer and working with her school’s administration to ensure a safe and inclusive learning environment for her peers. A few weeks back, while preparing for her return to school, Carly wrote this entry about what she took away from the 2011 Safe Schools Media Summit.
It was July 16th, the night before I was scheduled to hop on a plane at a small airport in Tucson, Arizona and fly on my own for the first time to none other than the huge collection of terminals and gates that are the LAX airport in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, like many of the other ambassadors, I could not sleep. I was both excited and anxious to see what the next four days would hold in store for me. I had never been an ambassador; in fact, I’d never really done anything with GLSEN before. I didn’t know what to expect, though I did anticipate that I would have a good time and that I would learn some new things and maybe make a few new friends.
Well it only took me about five minutes waiting at baggage claim, where I met a few of my fellow ambassadors for the first time, to realize that I had been completely wrong. The summit was so much more than what I had thought it would be, as were the other ambassadors. As soon as we started talking I felt an instant connection to them, and more than that, I felt like I could really be myself around them. As I met each of the other ambassadors I grew more and more certain that the 18 of us would become close friends as the summit went on.
The next four days went by way too fast, in a blur of activities and workshops that were both fun and extremely informative. Not only did we learn about the issues of LGBT-bullying, harassment, and discrimination in schools, we also learned how to utilize the media to bring awareness to them. We toured television studios, watched a news broadcast live, talked to experts in the field, and yes, we saw “Harry Potter.”
One thing is for sure, we learned a lot over the course of the summit. But out of all the workshops and activities we did, I think the most valuable experience I had was meeting the other ambassadors and hearing their stories. Each one of them were so special, fun to be around, and completely amazing, and saying goodbye to them at the end of the summit was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Getting to know them throughout the week, as well as hearing their stories, was an honor. As an ally, I’ve never really had to face a lot of bullying or a lack of acceptance. I’ve never gone through the difficulties of coming out. The fact that they were able to do all these things and even go a step further by tirelessly working to make it easier for other young members of the LGBT community blew me away.
Last April, when I attempted to organize a Day of Silence at my school and it was met with school-resistance, I became really discouraged. I had almost given up on trying to make my school a safer and more inclusive place for all LGBT students. But after meeting these 17 people who have made such great accomplishments in their own communities, I have been empowered to continue my own efforts to bring all the things I learned at the summit into my school and town. Because of them, I know it’s possible to have schools where all students, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, are treated with the respect they deserve, and can get a good education without having to constantly worry about being bullied or harassed.
The GLSEN Media Summit was one of the best experiences I have ever had and one I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And although it may not be easy, I hope that over the next year I can use all that I have learned and really make a difference for all the LGBT youth out there who may still be struggling with coming out or struggling with bullying. Though I am sad the summit is over I couldn’t be more excited for the year ahead!