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Jonathon Kosila: A quiet but powerful voice

By |2018-01-16T15:39:48-05:00June 2nd, 2005|Uncategorized|

When Jonathon Kosila walks across the stage in his cap and gown this month, the smart high school senior can look back at his Cesar Chavez Academy career with pride. He served as editor of the school’s newspaper, the Eagle’s Talon, was vice president of the student government and, just this last semester, he helped form the first Gay Straight Alliance in the city of Detroit.
“The need was there,” said Kosila, 17, of the effort. “In the halls and in the classrooms I was hearing remarks from other students and I just knew that it would be really helpful.”
What Kosila heard in the halls of Cesar Chavez Academy is commonplace at most high schools. Kids who are gay and lesbian – and even those who are only perceived to be – are called things like “faggot” and “homo.” Kosila paid attention to not only who was saying it, but who was hearing it, too.
“I realized that a lot of teachers kind of have negative attitudes, too, and they tend to disregard those remarks coming from students,” he said. “But if it was something else, they would stop it.”
Kosila, who has already been accepted to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he will study business management, knew there might be resistance to the group. But in the end, there wasn’t as much as he expected.
“We didn’t have that much trouble forming it,” he said. “We’re lucky we didn’t have a lot of problems like people trying to stop us. There were a few parents but not as much as I thought there would be.”
Still, at times the process lagged and Kosila had to be persistent, fearing that if he didn’t get the group started before graduation, the idea would languish in his absence.
“I wanted to get it started before I left the school,” he said.
Now several months old, the group, which meets once a week and attracts about a dozen students regularly, has drafted a mission statement and created a list of goals. Not all of the school’s students are happy about the group, but they’ve gotten used to it by now.
“At first they didn’t know what it was about,” said Kosila of his schoolmates. “Then they asked what the purpose was and who was involved, and we just told them. Some of them showed up at the first meeting to see what it was about for themselves. There were a few kids that were against it but they didn’t know what it was really about. I think if they knew what it was about they wouldn’t have been that much against it.”
It didn’t take long for the group to pick up steam, and just weeks after it started, the GSA managed to garner the support of nearly 130 staff and students who took place in April’s National Day of Silence.
“Even though it’s still new it’s become really active and forceful,” Kosila said.
Next year, the group will continue under the direction of facilitator Sonia Ponce de Leon, the school’s social worker, and Kosila says he’ll continue to stay involved.
“We want to get some kind of training for all staff and students, teaching tolerance,” he said. “We want to have a safer environment. We discussed educating our peers for healthy relationships. They teach a lot of that stuff for straight couples for not for same-sex couples. So we want to talk about healthy relationships and domestic violence, because both of those things need to be addressed.”
When asked to address his own sexual orientation, the soft spoken Kosila is simultaneously vague and direct.
“I don’t agree with any labels,” he said. “I am what I am. I’m a person and I love people.”
Kosila also loves playing hockey – he is a goalie – and enjoys cooking. He currently works in a local pizzeria and he eventually hopes to own his own chain of restaurants. Then, of course, there’s also writing.
“I write a lot, poetry and stuff,” he said. “Writing is my voice. I don’t talk much.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.