DENVER — The move to “make it better,” just got better.
One Colorado, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, has launched a new program to facilitate the creation of gay-straight alliances in Colorado schools and secure safe school environments for all students.
A comprehensive website with resources for students, parents, teachers and school administrators — Colorado GSA Network — is a focal point for the Colorado Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
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“More than any other group, LGBT students are the repeated targets of bullying, harassment and even violence in our schools,” said Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado. “The Colorado GSA Network will combat bullying and harassment against LGBT young people by bringing students together, providing them with tools, and empowering them to start and grow Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools.”
For Daniel Ramos, program manager for the GSA network, the purpose of this program is to help students organize.
“We hear all the time that students feel they are the only ones doing this work,” he said. “We want to develop a new generation of young leaders who will share skills with each other. It’s a student-driven program.”
The GSA Network not only focuses on developing gay-straight alliances in their schools, but also trains youth to advocate for safe school policies.
Resources available on the website include a guide detailing how to combat bullying, a handbook explaining how to start a GSA, and a guide to initiating programming to build an effective organization through activities such as team building. Links to Colorado and national resources are provided, some of which are directed to students, while others are aimed at educators and administrators.
The website also includes a comprehensive list of every GSA in Colorado by school.
Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock, along with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and other community leaders, are shown in a video for the “Make it better” campaign.
“Research shows that gay-straight alliances make schools safer for LGBT young people by providing a safe space for students to be themselves and alleviating the isolation that LGBT youth often experience,” said Ramos.
“It is critical that we address the pervasive problem of bullying against Colorado’s most vulnerable young people,” he said.
The program launched a few months ago in schools in Grand Junction, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs and other spots with interest from local school officials. “We’ve seen a positive reception from teachers, administrators and parents who are committed to seeing LGBT students, and those perceived to be LGBT, safe in their schools,” Ramos said.
Not all the activity will be online. Student Lobby Day, which will send students to the state Capitol to lobby legislators while they are in session, is set for Feb. 27, 2012. A statewide leadership summit is also in the works, as is a student leadership council to voice student concerns.
Applications for the leadership council are available on the website.
One Colorado’s GSA Network is similar to another online LGBT youth resource, Matthew’s Place, a website run by the Matthew Shepard Foundation. While the GSA Network focuses on organizing students within Colorado to combat bullying, Matthew’s Place is more broadly based geographically and offers support on a variety of LGBT issues.