Walpole GSA Leads Successful Ally Workshop to Generate Conversation about LGBTQ Culture within WHS

Photos/ Renee Abbott

Photos/ Renee Abbott

Renee Abbott, News Editor

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October is national LGBTQ history month, where each day, a new queer icon is celebrated, from Parkland activist Emma González to American journalist Ronan Farrow. LGBTQ history month has been celebrated since 1994, and since then it has helped to create a community of LGBTQ people across the country, as well as provide role models and representation for LGBTQ people. 

On Oct. 9, the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) welcomed students and faculty to join the Ally Workshop where they discussed action steps to end stigmas surrounding LGBTQ people, as well as improve the inclusivity of the WHS community. Music teacher Ashley Prickel Kane led the third official workshop, sponsored by the will committee grant. 

“It was really cool to get faculty here, [and] it was great to get new people here,” junior GSA president Amanda Maheux said. “I am honestly super excited about a lot of the ideas we talked about, and I am very much hoping that they will happen in the near future.”

Walpole’s GSA relied on the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a program that works to better the school community for LGBTQ students, for topics to guide the discussions at the Ally Workshop. Founded in 1990, GLSEN has 43 chapters across 30 states and works with students to empower them to lead LGBTQ movements within their community, while educating faculty members on how to foster a more inclusive environment. Massachusetts also has a Safe Schools initiative founded in 1993, which protects LGBTQ students and upholds anti-bullying policies. 

“I think the main thing to being an ally isn’t that you have to be in GSA or even let your name be associated with it, but those small acts of ending oppression. When an LGBTQ student, a student of color, or a student with special needs is being targeted, by saying ‘that’s so gay,’ students need to stop that oppression and take ownership of how innapropraiate that language is,” Prickel Kane said. 

Prickel Kane presents poster describing Allyship.

The Ally Workshop generated ideas on projects that the GSA can lead to better their school environment, from a color run to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues, to a GSA branch in the middle schools. 

“It was a great start. There is not one deed, action or meeting that can really create sustainable change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to start to have those conversations,” Prickel Kane said. “I think [the meeting] brought different people together to try to unite them.”

Victoria Ruggerio, a physical education and health teacher who attended the Ally Workshop, is also working towards creating a more inclusive culture within WHS and works toward creating a nonbinary locker room and bathrooms for students who identify as nonbinary. 

“[The Ally Workshop] started to spark different things we can change, and the fact that it opened up the floor to different staff members and welcomed people into the club to see what it is about was cool. The activities we did individuality allowed me to hear what LGBTQ students have experienced within the community and learn about WHS,” Ruggerio said.

The GSA is currently hosting a popcorn sale fundraiser to help build up the program and allow them to conduct more community outreach. Prickel Kane founded the GSA in Walpole in 2014 when she first jo

ined Walpole’s faculty and has conducted the program as a safe space for LGBTQ students to discuss issues and be in an accepting environment. One of the GSA’s goals this year is to be more visible within the school, which is why they are seeking a budget to provide LGBTQ posters, and other supplies to generate awareness of the club itself. The Ally Workshop helped in starting an important conversation, but the movement for equality and representation is a fight that never ends. 

 

Pride Flags were displayed at Ally Workshop.