May 14, 2012
SOCO Phoenix: Arriving Depleted, Leaving Supported
As we prepared to leave SOCO we were asked to give two words. One word explaining how we felt when we arrived and another explaining how we felt as we were leaving. My first word was depleted and my second word was supported.
SOCO came at a very busy time of my life; on top of being a GLSEN chapter chair, I teach 9th grade English and am finishing my master’s degree at UCLA. SOCO was scheduled the weekend of my sister’s wedding and the week before my master’s thesis was due. Coming to SOCO meant taking time out of my busy schedule and buying my sister an expensive wedding present. Nonetheless, I committed myself to the weekend summit because I knew it was important – and I am glad I did!
As a participant in the chapter ally track I learned SO much. One of my favorite workshops was titled, Conditions Facing LGBT Youth of Color: the School to Prison Pipeline. As an educator I am familiar with the school to prison pipeline, but it was not until this workshop that I began to realize how a student’s sexual orientation and gender identity might push them into this system. It made me reflect on my own practices and school policies. There was even a workshop on self-care and dealing with stress. When I arrived at the conference on Friday to say I was stressed would be an understatement. This workshop gave me practical tips for identifying stress and dealing with it in positive ways. All of the workshops and speakers were amazing, but for me the best part of SOCO were the participants.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to network with other GLSEN chapters and chapter allies. The ability to talk about common projects and share resources was tremendously helpful, but youth participants and their bravery were the most inspiring part of the weekend. Throughout the weekend I was able to hear many of their stories and it made me thankful for GLSEN and the work they do to create places like SOCO. Every afternoon all of the youth would cram together to eat lunch at one table. I remember noticing how happy everyone was and it gave me a new sense of dedication to GLSEN’s mission.
I came to SOCO exhausted, but I left with 40 new friends and ready to continue the work of GLSEN by sharing what I learned at SOCO with others in Los Angeles.