About 150 middle and high school youth leaders and gay-straight alliance ( GSA ) faculty advisors gathered for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's ( The Alliance's ) Education in Action GSA Youth Summit at Roosevelt University Nov. 22.
In years past, the summit was geared towards youth leaders, however, this year's summit was the first to involved both youth leaders and adult allies. The summit, which was co-sponsored by both The Alliance and the Trans Oral History Project, featured a variety of workshops as well as professional development workshops for GSA faculty advisors.
Lawrence Carter, The Alliance's LGBTQ youth engagement manager and Andre Perez, Trans Oral History Project co-founder, provided words of welcome while summit volunteer Katya Mazon shared the Brave Space Agreements that every summit attendee should follow during the day-long event. Those agreements included: don't yuck my yum, respect pronouns, lessons not stories, literacy moment, be a croissant not a doughnut, "I" statements, one diva one mic, oops/ouch and assume best intentions.
The summit featured youth and adult-led interactive workshops that addressed youth development, education justice, creative arts and trans* equality.
Alliance Youth Justice Coordinator Jordee Yanez and Alliance Youth Committee members Annabelle Daily and Zach Sowle led the Education Justice workshop, which focused on student's knowing their LGBTQ rights at school and how to make schools better for LGBTQ students.
Workshop participants ( ranging in age from middle to high school ) were tasked with deciding what school's ( faculty and staff ) should start doing, stop doing and continue doing. They decided that teachers and staff should start calling out negative LGBTQ language, use LGBTQ specific terminology when discussing bullying during staff and faculty training days, educating parents/staff on LGBTQ issues and using peer juries to settle disputes between students. As for what schools should stop doing, they said faculty and staff need to refrain from speaking out against LGBTQ students and issues, stop forcing gender roles onto students and end zero-tolerance violence policies. The one thing they said should continue are parent/guardian meetings so everyone is on the same page.
Bonsai Bermudez, executive director of the Youth Empowerment Performance Project ( YEPP ) and Lola Monroe, YEPP ensemble member led a workshop where youth participants were asked to share how they saw themselves and the most challenging experience they've ever had at school. YEPP Artistic Assistant Ian Schroeder provided assistance during the workshop.
The Trans Oral History Project's workshops focused on creating acceptance and media literacy with a train the trainer workshop from "I Live for Trans Education," a grassroots multimedia toolkit.
Victor Salvo, executive director and founder of The Legacy Project, led both youth and adult focused workshops about Chicago's Legacy Walk outdoor LGBT history museum. Salvo's workshops included a discussion of key contributions that LGBT people have made to world history and culture and the benefits of GSA's participating through field trips to the Legacy Walk.
Northwestern University's IMPACT: The LGBT Health and Development Program workshop focused on using research methods and results to enact positive change within the LGBTQ community.
Crispin Glover, Lambda Legal's community educator for the Midwest regional office, led a GSA faculty advisor and student leaders focused workshop: Trans* 101. The workshop focused on trans* terminology, federal and state protections and school and school district policy issues as well as ways staff and faculty can be supportive of trans* students including using gender-neutral terminology and having a safe space sticker displayed in classrooms and offices so students will know which adults are LGBTQ-friendly.
Chicago Public Library's YOUMedia teen learning space held a workshop focused on how to become a YouTube star while the Young Invincibles workshop featured information on what public policy means in the context of LGBTQ youth and GSA's, a 101 on the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ) and the significance of the ACA for the LGBTQ community.
The Alliance also hosted workshops for both student and adult participants on the ins and outs of GSA's including how to start a GSA and tips for GSA advisors as well as a workshop about becoming a member of The Alliance's youth committee.
A social hour featuring a youth dance and advisor mixer closed out the day's events.
See www.illinoissafeschools.org and www.transoralhistory.com for more information .