By Kristy Labonte, GSA Advisor to Spruce Mountain High School
This year was TOUGH!
Spruce Mountain HS is a small school in a relatively conservative pocket in Western Maine. Just last year, a small group of students stepped up to form a GSA which quickly grew from 5 people to 27 very active members. I watched them form a community of their own where they were totally comfortable being themselves. This enabled them to attend school events that they would typically avoid and feel uncomfortable. Our big goal for the end of the year was to attend Rainbow Ball as a big group. Then, of course, covid.
For much of this year the GSA was only able to meet virtually over Google Meets. We had a consistent membership of between 8 and 20 students. When we were finally able to meet in person, we began having guest speakers from the LGBTQIA+ community, and invited staff allies to join us. The students found support, hope, and direction in these speakers, and the staff who attended became fixtures at any event they were invited to.
In April, the group decided that they wanted to do a public event – Coming Out Night. 3 brave members were scheduled to speak on their coming out stories – some happy, some traumatic. We had over 30 people in attendance including parents, teachers, staff, students from outside of our group, and middle school students. Our 3 scheduled speakers were amazing, and then we opened up the floor. A total of 8 people ended up sharing their stories that evening, and were met with nothing but support and encouragement. Community members connected with students and offered ongoing support, students connected with each other, new members joined our ranks, and it was an amazing night.
In June we finished up our year with a PRIDE celebration. Food, music, an LGBTQIA+ book display, parent, teacher, and student resource table, and the big finale – a drag show with judges from the staff. Watching the students help each other pick out outfits, songs, and routines was so fun, and everyone got in on the action. In a year full of difficulty, isolation, and fear – this night was an end that provided hope, connection, and just plain fun.
We are counting this COVID year as a success for the Spruce Mountain High School GSA.
Photos courtesy of Spruce Mountain GSTA.