Acceptance is crucial—especially when you are a teenager facing all the hurdles of growing up, learning who you are and establishing yourself in society. Add being LGBT, and you begin to see what it is that so many of our youth face today.
“GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Network is a youth leadership organization that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training student leaders and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California and throughout the country,” said Daniel E. Solis, Southern California Program Manager. “GSA Network’s youth advocates have played a key role in changing laws and policies that impact youth at the local and State level.”
GSA’s are student-run organizations that foster understanding and acceptance within school communities of students who are not all the same. These are assisted by GSA Network, whose mission is to create safe environments in which students can support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions.
In a unique hybrid, youth from the GSA Network from around California—leaders in their schools and active in extra-curricular activities—serve on the statewide board along side dedicated adults who bring a wide array of real world experience. By providing such in-depth leadership and activist training for youth, GSA Network is building a generation of leaders for LGBT rights and social justice. As a youth-driven organization, GSA Network brings the voices and perspectives of youth to the forefront of the LGBTQ movement.
“I see the importance of young people making a difference now—gay and straight uniting for something that they know is right. They are our future and they will pave the path for the next generation. It is our duty to encourage and support our youth any way that we can. The GSA Network is a small glimpse of what's to come and I can't wait for it,” said Joe Nevarez, CSW Communications Intern.
Youth are self-identifying as LGBTQ at younger and younger ages, some as early as middle school, and that is why GSA’s are so important. These brave individuals face more than just growing pains; they face harassment and bullying and often without a supportive, knowledgeable or safe school environment.
It is for all that the youth of GSA’s around the State of California do to improve the school environments for themselves, with the help of GSA Network, that Christopher Street West proudly awards them the Outstanding Youth Award for 2011.