Building a Community of Leaders at GSA Conference

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The High School hosted the first Suffolk County Gender-Sexuality Alliance Leadership Conference recently and welcomed more than 100 students and more than 40 educators and administrators from neighboring school districts as well as members from the LGBT Network of Long Island. The day brought GSA clubs together to help build a community of leaders and create safe spaces to meet students’ social-emotional needs.

The day included icebreaker activities for the students to get to know one another followed by a welcome from Principal Mr. Frank Pugliese and Superintendent Mr. Gerard Poole who commended everyone in attendance for taking steps to make all students feel safe at school and promoting messages of equality. Students then moved through a number of discussion tables centered around topics that were identified by them as being important and current in the LGBT+ community.

Keynote speaker Mr. Jeremy Thode shared his personal story about his transgender son, Noah, and emphasized the need for students to find allies in their school who could serve as a support network. Noah then addressed the audience about how important allies were throughout this coming-out journey.

“In my six years of teaching, I have never experienced a more powerful day seeing so many adults stand hand-in-hand to show support of the next generation of LGBT+ youth,” GSA co-adviser Mr. Ed Storck said. “I am so excited that a number of districts are interested in hosting follow-up events because it means that even more students will get to see how much love there is for them from their peers, educators, counselors and administrators.”

“The conference was designed to educate and empower students, educators and administrators about the needs of LGBT+ youth throughout their lifespan in both school and the community,” added GSA co-adviser Ms. Brittany Davis, who noted that administrators in attendance stood in solidarity for the entire community who came to a place where they could celebrate exactly who they are and feel comfortable in sharing their energy, originality and dreams for change and equity for all.

“The conference was an amazing opportunity to hear the experiences of others and discuss many important topics within the LGBT+ community,” senior Ray Colon said. “It was very meaningful to many people at the conference, as it was an outlet for them to feel safe and part of something that they might not always feel at home or at school. Not only does the conference bring GSA clubs together, it brings people together and creates a larger community for students to feel safe and supported.”