GSA Leadership Summit comes to Long Beach
A trio of organizations hosted the GSA Leadership Summit in Long Beach on Saturday, Jan. 22. The summit was a collaborative effort between The GSA Network, The Center Long Beach and the Long Beach City College Safe Zone and was held at Long Beach City College.
Roughly 70 students and three advisers attended peer-led workshops and discussions on topics ranging from legal rights, running a successful GSA, diversity, gender safety and educational campaigns. Attendees ranged in grade level from middle school to college.
The GSA Network sponsors one-day leadership summits across California, primarily focusing on under-served communities. Past summits have taken place in Bakersfield, South Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.
Daniel Solis, southern California program manager for The GSA Network, was instrumental in organizing the summit and training the peer leaders in charge of presenting the workshops.
"It draws a wide spectrum of students, from established activists to the only gay identified student at their school. It’s really exciting to see them create a community," he said.
Solis has been with GSA Network for three years. He helped to create a GSA in his high school when he was a student there. And Solis said he feels his position at GSA Network has allowed his LGBT activism to come full circle.
Arlene Perez, advisor of David Starr Jordan High School’s GSA, attended the summit with 18 students and intern Delia Astorga. After a nearly five year lapse, Jordan High, which is in north Long Beach, started a GSA in October in response to the well-publicized LGBT teenager suicides across the country.
The summit provided necessary tools for the fledgling club.
"The summit allowed students with GSA sponsors to get to know other students who are interested in helping GLBTQ youth to understand they are an integral part of school campuses," said Perez, who stressed he hopes the experience will inspire all students and work together to eliminate homophobic bullying, name calling and harassment.
Perez says the students who attended have already taken the lessons learned to Jordan’s campus. Coupled with other workshops and programs on the horizon, Jordan High School’s goals of acceptance and anti-violence are within reach.
"Students attending the summit say there has been a definite perception of reduction or improvement in recent years in terms of bullying/name calling," she said. "They are hopeful that with the GSA club’s support by the administration, GSA’s Leadership Summit, their summer GAYLA training in Sacramento and with the availability of programs like the Lifeguard program through The Trevor Project reaching ninth graders in health classes; it will continue to improve."
Log onto www.gsanetwork.org for more information.