Creating an atmosphere where students can feel comfortable to celebrate diversity – that’s the goal of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at George Washington Community High School. Students and staff members say they both benefit from this unique group where they socialize, find ways to make a positive difference and learn more about the LGBT community.

“It’s important to have a safe space where the kids feel like they can be themselves,” said GSA sponsor Kelly Hannon. Hannon was approached several years ago by a group of students interested in starting a GSA at George Washington. After doing some research, it was determined a GSA would be a valuable addition to George Washington’s after-school offerings.

The George Washington GSA has taken part in a variety of activities to support the community. They’ve participated in the annual AIDS walk, organized an anti-bullying flashmob in the cafeteria and offered an outlet for students to socialize in ways they might not always feel comfortable in other groups.

“I like GSA because we can express our opinions without being judged,” said member Kaitlyn, “not just about sexuality, but about everything that’s important to us.”

The members of the GSA – some who identify as LGBT, others who are there in support of their friends – say they get a variety of benefits from participating in this diverse group. Sometimes the GSA plans opportunities for social activism, philanthropy or other social supports at school. Other discussions include bullying and conflict resolution. Older members of the group lend support to their younger peers, encouraging them to make smart decisions and to avoid fights when facing challenging social situations. Laken, a founding member of the GSA, says he’s noticed a significant decrease in bullying since the group formed at George Washington.

The group also hosts guest speakers from the LGBT community for open discussions about successes and challenges they face in their personal and professional lives. Students learn that tolerance is vital not only in high school, but as they transition into their futures as young adults. We’re proud of these scholars who celebrate diversity, and look forward to their continued positive impact on the community!