GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT:
Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives – Educators Advocating for LGBTQ Youth
Compiled by Marcia Estarija Silva
“These educators become an army of change agents that go back to their schools and use these resources and research to make kids feel safer.” – Vincent Pompei, Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives Conference Chair
What is Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives?
Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives, a division of the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), provides training, consultation and support for educators seeking knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth. It hosts the only national annual conference focused on working with LGBTQ youth, for counselors, teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, administrators, students and families. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama showed his support for the conference and thanked Supporting Lives ~ Saving Lives/CESCal for their work. Last year’s conference sold out, with 500 educators from 29 states and 3 countries and the next one will be held in February 2013 in San Diego.
What inspires CESCAL to do this work?
“It’s not the priority of universities or school districts to provide formalized training on working with LGBT students. The disturbing data associated with this group of youth is being ignored by a far majority of districts,” said Vincent Pompei, Conference Chair.
The Human Rights Campaign recently surveyed more than 10,000 LGBT-identified youth ages 13-17 and their groundbreaking research found that 92% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT, with top sources being school, the Internet, and their peers. LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. Nearly half of LGBT youth said they do not “fit in” in their community.
“There’s huge fear among educators to be visible allies of the LGBTQ youth. They’re scared that they’ll be fired, harassed, or evaluated negatively because of their personal beliefs. Having a visible ally in the school system that students can see is vital to their feelings of safety,” said Vincent.
How can GIGSTERS get involved and help Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives?
– Help spread the word and encourage the people you know that work with youth to attend the conference to better understand LGBTQ youth issues and how to bridge the gap.
– Sponsor an educator to attend the conference for $249, whether it’s someone you know or if you’d like the conference organizers to connect your donation to an educator in need. Last year, over 150 people applied for financial assistance, but the organization was only able to provide 67 scholarships.
– If you work at a company that supports this kind of work, suggest that they become a conference sponsor. Corporate sponsorships range from $1,000-$35,000. Click here for more information on how to become a corporate sponsor and to see last year’s sponsors.
– Keep in touch and get the latest news from Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives by liking the CESCal page on Facebook.
CESCaL It Gets Better Video