Tuesday, May 29, 2012

blake high's allies 4 equality named "GSA of the year" (updated)

UPDATE: See Allies 4 Equality's acceptance speech below.
Check out this video from GLSEN about Allies 4 Equality, Blake High School's GSA.

Twelve years ago, a student at Blake High School approached teacher Mary Wagner about starting a gay-straight alliance. Today, Allies 4 Equality isn't just a school club - it's sending a message of tolerance and love around the world. And last Monday, the group received the the first-ever "Gay-Straight Alliance of the Year" award by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, at their yearly Respect Awards in New York.

I'm a big fan of A4E, which as described by Wagner, ranges "between being a support group and being an activist group, depending on what the students need.”

One lunch period each week, Wagner and co-sponsor Deena Barlev open their classrooms to kids looking to talk in a safe space. An open, respectful dialogue is encouraged, but no one's required to disclose their sexuality. My only disappointment with A4E is that I never went when I attended Blake ten years ago, though I've since come back to speak a few times.

A4E's latest accomplishment is Allie the Ally, a paper doll modeled on Flat Stanley and created by juniors Heidi Peterson and Jenna Beers. People are encouraged to print Allie out, take a picture with her, and send a message in support of LGBTQ rights and awareness. When I first heard about Allie a few months ago, I was intrigued.

But I was really impressed by her adventures: she's been everywhere from Hollywood to Australia and has been written up in publications from the Post to Wired magazine. Meanwhile, Ally's friends post pictures and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Allies 4 Equality isn't just a model for other gay-straight alliances. It's an example of how a group of young people with a good idea and just enough support from caring adults can do great things. Congratulations to everyone at A4E for your efforts! I've never been prouder to be a graduate of Blake High School. And check out their acceptance speech at the GLSEN Respect Awards last month:

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