GLSEN's Chapter Network experienced unprecedented growth this year, with the addition of seven new Chapters. Our Network now contains thirty-four Chapters around the country, mobilizing hundreds of dedicated volunteers in the mission to make schools safe for everyone everywhere. It is because of Chapters' dedicated programming and community engagement that GLSEN is able to carry out our work on a local level and provide direct-service organizing.
We asked our new Chapters - Houston, New Hampshire, Southeast Michigan, Southern Nevada, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Orlando - to introduce themselves to the Chapter Network. Here's what five had to say:
When we decided to take the leap and form a Houston Chapter of GLSEN, we had no conceptual framework for how to proceed, what would happen next, or how the idea would be received in the community. In 2010, the GLSEN Houston board (which now has five members) met to discuss strategies for building a base of volunteers and began brainstorming a list of main goals for GLSEN Houston. At that point, we agreed our two main emphases would be providing LGBT-inclusive and anti-bullying training to educators and extending support to current and forming GSA student groups.
This past year, we have delivered professional development workshops to elementary and high school teachers, as well as Communities in Schools staff members who work with at risk youth in K-12 settings. Our policy advocacy in the Houston area includes working with community groups to promote sexual orientation and gender identity protection from discrimination for school employees and students.
In addition, our Chapter has had a presence in local media through newspaper and magazine interviews. Our co-chair also appeared on the TV show "Great Day Houston" to discuss anti-LGBT bullying and what can be done to prevent it. Much of our energy also focuses on building connections with LGBT-affirmative organizations, non-profit groups, and businesses in the area (PFLAG Houston, HATCH Youth, HRC). These connections often lead to co-sponsored events. For example, Montrose Counseling Center invited us to co-sponsor the film viewing and community action planning session centered around the new documentary Bullied by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Our next major goal is to host a Houston Training of Trainers in March 2011 for our local volunteers. After this three-day training, we will have more than twenty nationally trained workshop facilitators who can deliver professional development to K-12 educators in the Houston-Galveston area. Many thanks to national and to all of the other Chapters that so generously share ideas with us and advise us when we are not sure where to go next!
Our Chapter is focused on providing safe schools education to school personnel and to the community. We gave a presentation to the Sex Education Supervisors at Oakland County Intermediate School District in October and presented at our local PFLAG Detroit Chapter in November. We did an anti-LGBT bias training with Macomb Community College teachers, students and community members in January. We provided a community panel at the local Barnes & Noble during No Name-Calling Week.
We are serving as a community partner for Out and Up Front, a youth empowerment and civic engagement initiative in collaboration with the Ruth Ellis Center. We will be actively involved in the anti-LGBT bias training in Detroit Public Schools. We also are working along with other local LGBT groups with Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb in the development of training for principals to work toward the goal of safe schools for LGBT students and staff.
We have assisted the local GSAs in forming the GSA Alliance of Southeast Michigan. We are proud of our dynamic youth. Twenty-five to fifty youth meet every month. Subgroups are planning two youth-led events: a six hour summit on March 26, 2011 and a Breaking the Silence event on April 15, 2011.
GLSEN Southern Nevada was formed in October 2010 and it is mandated with serving one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States. The previous GLSEN Chapter in the region had not been active since 2005, and a later attempt to revitalize the organization ultimately failed in 2008.
In the spring of 2010 when one of the current co-chairs was working as a student activist at his university, he gathered as many supporters of safe schools work that he could find and invited them to be part of the GLSEN Resurfacing Initiative. Some truly dedicated and hardworking individuals from this original group now serve as the board of the Chapter. After having met with our Community Liaison, Kiwi Grady, for the first time in years, GLSEN Southern Nevada is under new leadership. We are taking on the task of forming a network of GSAs from across our 300,000-plus student school district, and lobbying/advocating in support of the two safe schools legislation that will be introduced in the current state legislative session. We look forward to sharing our success and challenges with the entire GLSEN Chapter Network.
GLSEN Middle Tennessee was officially approved as a Chapter in February 2011, after beginning to organize in early 2010 with a small Steering Committee of dedicated educators, students, parents and community activists. Our Chapter began developing our presence early on by establishing a Facebook page and Twitter account to reach people in our state. Support for our Chapter has been tremendous across the state and we have already solidified contacts, supporters and resources through the Tennessee Department of Education, the State Board of Education and numerous local non-profits.
As a new Chapter, the coming months will be a whirlwind of organizing, planning and outreach to the community. Our first order of business will be to confirm our board and frame our strategic plan for the membership. From there, initial plans are to obtain safe schools training for our board members, strategically communicate with local and state educational leaders, outreach to students who want to establish GSAs and locate and apply to potential funding sources for grants.
In fall 2011, GLSEN Middle Tennessee plans to be involved with Ally Week, and in the meantime, communicate to the membership about LGBTQ-related events, news and points of interest as we plan for the future. The GLSEN Middle Tennessee Chapter is excited to be one of the two first Chapters in Tennessee and hopes to open the door for safe and more-inclusive school environments for our students.
GLSEN Orlando is composed of board members from diverse backgrounds and several local LGBT youth programs. Some of our work consists of developing GSA leadership programs with high school outreach groups. We strive to cultivate and strengthen GSA chapter leaders and train them in skills necessary to lead their organization. We have also worked with local educators to raise awareness for the Safe Space Campaign. We have informed educators with brief presentations on K-12 LGBT-related statistics and provided them with take home Safe Space materials to raise awareness and display support for students.
GLSEN Orlando is currently involved in facilitating the delivery of Safe Space Kits to schools as part of a local HIV prevention program. Finally, our board supports Zebra House%97a local LGBT youth program which temporarily houses homeless LGBT youth. Our intention is to support existing program with GLSEN resources and to also create new leadership programs aimed at strengthening the work of GSAs.