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Summit planned to strengthen bonds between GSA leaders across the state

By |2018-01-16T15:09:10-05:00October 27th, 2011|News|

BEVERLY HILLS- The GSA Alliance of Southeastern Michigan and GLSEN of Southeastern Michigan are jointly presenting an LGBT Summit on Saturday, Oct. 29, aimed at uniting student leaders across the state and helping them strengthen their local gay straight alliances. The summit is the second such gathering this year.
“Two years ago we did a pilot conference that was very short, and we then abandoned that model,” said Chase Stein, GSA-SM’s youth coordinator. “This spring we did the first LGBT Summit as it’s presented today.”
The all-day event features two icebreakers and three workshops, and closes with a poetry slam/talent show. Attendees can choose workshops from one of three tracks being offered. Track titles are Taking Charge, This Is My Story and We’ve Got Issues. Specific topics include conflict resolution, knowing your legal rights, handling the media and public relationships, gaining membership and sustainability, transgender issues and others.
“With the spring summit, we tried a bunch of ideas at once,” Stein said. “We wanted to see what worked, what people liked and what they didn’t. We took the most successful workshops from our spring summit and created some new ones as well. We wanted to have something for every interest.”
Presenters will include representatives from GLSEN-National, the ACLU of Michigan and Equality Michigan, as well as advisors and members of GSAs from across the state. There is also a fourth track for parents, advisors and other adults.
“Some workshops are closed to them and we have some workshops specifically for them,” said Stein. “The summit is aimed at youth but we welcome anyone who wants to come.”
Jane Kelly, co-chair of GLSEN-SM, said she really stood back and let the youth design the summit they wanted.
“The workshops were completely student driven,” she said. “The idea is really to connect gay straight alliances across the state. We give them tools for strengthening their leadership development.”
Kelly said she does not know how many GSAs there are currently in schools across the state, but she’s hoping to have that information soon.
“GLSEN, within the last month, has been conducting a GSA census. So that’s one of the initiatives that we’ve been working on.”
For the most part, Kelly said it’s easier than in years past for students to form a GSA in their schools.
“There are still pockets where students face a lot of resistance,” she said. “But there’s good knowledge of what the laws are.”
The impact of these groups, she said, cannot be disputed.
“The students feel like they belong to something, and to have that support is really important to them. And if you look at GLSEN National’s research, it shows that schools with GSAs face less discrimination and less name calling and less bullying than the schools without them. So there’s actually some concrete data for that. But, anecdotally, I see it with the students.”

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.