FC Tech hosts gender and sexuality conference

  • Students from the Franklin County Technical School in the Gender and Sexuality Alliances created action plans for ways to host inclusive events at their school in the western Massachusetts high school Gender and Sexuality Alliances Conference.  Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau—

  • Educational exclusion was a topic discussed at Gender and Sexuality Alliances Conference at Franklin County Tech School, Wednesday. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2019 10:52:36 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Franklin County Technical School hosted a conference for all western Massachusetts high school Gender and Sexuality Alliances to help LGBTQ students become leaders in their schools and create a more inclusive environment.

Not only did the group of 30 students discuss problems related to gender and sexuality within their schools, but they also posed solutions and created actions plans throughout the conference.

The topic of the conference, held for the first time at the Tech School, was student leadership as it relates to creating welcoming and inclusive school environments for all students.

The Tech School hosted Minnechaug Regional High School, Southwick Regional School, Easthampton High School, Hampshire Regional High School, Edward Bellamy Middle School and Westfield High School.

Senior Program Consultant for the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, Jason Wheeler, said some of the topics students discussed were about ways LGBTQ students are pushed out.

“We talked about some of the issues LGBTQ students face like dropping out, homelessness and others,” Wheeler said. “We also had students discuss the cultures inside of their schools and ways to create LGBTQ-inclusive events can improve that climate.”

Students also expressed their gratitude to be able to have an inclusive working environment to generate ideas in.

Tech School student Autumn King said he is more confident and outgoing because of his ability to participate in the conference.

“It’s important to have spaces where there are supportive people,” King said. “Sometimes we lack those areas and when I come here, I don’t have to explain myself. I can be myself without any worry.”

Westfield student Grayson Anderson said they got to help others who may be questioning about their own identities.

“These meetings are important because we have the ability both learn and educate each on LGBTQ issues and identities,” Anderson said. “This is a safe place for people to discover who they are without judgment and give them the tools to educate their community.”

Madison Rinker, from Easthampton High School, said she likes activities brainstormed at the conference.

“I play a leadership role in my school’s GSA, and I like to take what I learn here and maybe do one activity,” Rinker said. “They make our school better.”

Some of the proposed events included the Transgender Day of Visibility in March and the Day of Silence in April.

While students were at the conference, their advisors were having one as well. The Tech School SAGA, Sexuality and Gender Association, advisers are Randall Furash-Stewart and Jeremy Mailloux.

Furash-Steward said the conference is an important piece to him as an adviser because it serves as professional development.

“I gain the skills to support my students in the GSA here,” Furash-Stewart said. “It’s really inspiring to see them take on leadership roles and empower their peers.”


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