My name is Zac Johnstone, and I am a grade 12 student at Colonel By High School, in Ottawa, ON. I am also the leader of my schools SAFE club (Students Advocating For Equality) and a volunteer with Jer’s Vision.
As one of the few openly gay students at my school, I have experienced bullying and homophobia. As such, I volunteer to help all students to feel safer at school.
It is important for us to feel safe at school. I was once terrified to even come to school. When I decided to come out of the closet, it took me half a year to come up with the courage to tell my friends because I was afraid of how they would take it. They used slurs like ‘faggot’ and ‘you’re so gay’ every day, which made me afraid of how they would take my coming out. I recall opening up my Facebook page one day and seeing a picture of myself defaced with homophobic slurs like ‘fag’ and ‘homo’. I did not feel safe in my own school, a place where I am supposed to be able to be myself and learn who I am. When I came out, I was lucky that they were supportive, but I know not everyone is as fortunate as me.
School should be a place where we all feel welcomed and accepted; a place where no one should have to go through bullying of any kind. It hurt me and it hurts everyone. This is why we need Jer’s Vision. This organization promotes respect, diversity, and a positive space for everyone. They work towards the ultimate goal of true equality in our communities. Jer’s Vision helps clubs like SAFE by giving us support, mentorship, and information that helps us make our schools a better place to be.
With the help of Jer’s Vision, my SAFE club has worked over the years to make our school better for everyone. Last year, we had a record of eight students at my school come out of the closet safely and this could not have happened without the assistance of Jer’s Vision.
Right now, I am helping Jer’s Vision to organize the upcoming bilingual Dare to Stand Out Conference in Ottawa on October 19th. This conference will give youth like me the tools to make their school a bully-free place, ideas to raise awareness about equality, and help foster a culture of respect in schools.
Thank you for reading my story and helping create a safer space in schools and communities for youth like me,
PS- Did you know Jer’s Vision just did workshops for hundreds of youth in rural Ontario and rural New Brunswick? They also did a t raining conference for over 200 students in the uOttawa Faculty of Education! Their Director was also chosen to participate in the Rainbow Health Ontario Public Policy Institute. Stay on top of Jer’s Vision by checking out the blog,Facebook & Twitter! They update daily to let you know what they are doing, where your donation is going, and how you can get involved!