Regional Forums: GSA Forums in Central and Western Newfoundland

At the end of May, the CCGSD spent a fabulous few days in Newfoundland working with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) to bring 2SLGBTQ+ programming to schools in Central and Western Newfoundland.

Working with the school district and a number of community partners, two youth forums took place in Grand Falls-Windsor and Springdale on May 30th & May 31st, 2019. Students and teachers passionate about 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion travelled from the Central and Western regions of the school district to Exploits Valley High and Indian River High respectively. Some students drove as much as 3 hours in order to take part in these events. 

The programming for each event started out with Joanne Harris who is the Comprehensive Community Plan Coordinator from the Qalipu First Nation. Joanne provided a land acknowledgment and spoke about two-spirit communities. Joanne was followed by two phenomenal keynote speakers who travelled to both locations with the CCGSD to inspire students. 

We were thrilled to have Jessie Lawrence join us from Camp Ohana. Jessie is a truly exceptional youth who along with some other friends saw a need to create camp for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in Western Newfoundland. They went on to raise over $10,000 and are in their second summer of operation. The camp focuses on education, self-acceptance as well as mental and sexual health. Jessie told youth that if they saw a need for a resource in their community they should feel empowered to create it. 

Our second speaker was Jordan Stringer, a teacher from the school district who spoke about his life growing up gay in rural Newfoundland. He shared his story with students including his struggle to come out, mental health, and his journey to accept himself. He left students with the message that it takes great courage to grow up and be who you really are. Jordan took a photo of the students to include in his powerpoint as he is going to be a keynote at a leadership conference in Newfoundland and wanted the 2SLGBTQ+ youth and allies who attended these events to be a part of his story going forward. Jordan thanked his employer for allowing him to be his authentic self. 

Following the opening keynotes, students attended 3 separate workshop sessions where they chose topics surrounding GSA Leadership, 2SLGBT+ inclusion, and well-being. There were workshops presented by The CCGSD, The School Health Liaison Committee, Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre, Qalipu First Nation and a panel on trans inclusion where participants heard from local advocates on transgender issues. Simultaneously, teachers attended professional development sessions to continue ensuring their schools and classrooms are inclusive for 2SLGBTQ+ students. These professional development workshops included 2SLGBT 101, GSA Advisor Training and a session on Policy Guidelines and Action Planning presented by Safe and Inclusive School itinerants from the NLESD.

We at the CCGSD were blown away by the support given by the community for these events. Many businesses, non-profits, government agencies, community members and the school district provided donations and dedicated both time energy to ensuring the success of these events. 

The CCGSD is thrilled to continue bringing these programs to communities across Canada. We are excited to return to Newfoundland next school year to see what students and educators took away from the event in order to create safer spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ students.