Not many high school students even get to talk to teachers about queer activism, so I felt incredibly lucky earlier this month to lead two trainings at the third annual Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL) conference in San Diego. This national educator conference on LGBTQI youth has become one of the safe schools events of the year, drawing 500 educators, students, parents, government representatives, and top people from national organizations.
My fellow GSA Network board member/youth trainer Keanan Gottlieb and I joined up with youth from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) jump start team for a panel aimed at GSA advisors and adults. It was wonderful to see new faces and build even stronger coalitions within the San Diego community. Collaborating with youth from GLSEN was an amazing experience, and one I hope GSA Network gets to repeat! The most inspiring moment, though, came from the audience, when Keanan’s parents interjected after someone asked about parents’ reactions to the panelists’ activist work. The room exploded with applause for Keanan’s parents, and the experience made me hope youth have a similar feeling of love and acceptance when I become a parent myself. The panel was a success and many of the adults approached the GSA Network table not only to thank, but also to congratulate us for all of our work.
Our second training on days of action and campaigns was also a success and personally rewarding, since members from my GSA came and cheered me on. We even got to meet Daniel Joseph Baker from America’s Got Talent, who shared his own experiences with bullying and sang a rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.”
I have attended the CESCaL conference every year since it first started three years ago and this year was, by far, the most empowering of all years. I highly recommend the CESCaL conference to any and all San Diego (or national!) safe schools activists, and hope to see lots of GSA youth there next year!
For more about this year's CESCaL conference, check out the great conference wrap-up from the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.