In early March, the upper school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club hosted a week of fun activities in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (as well as queer and questioning) communities.
The week kicked off with a GSA video presentation, shown at the upper school’s regular Monday school meeting. The video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLkc9Eho0Vk) showcased an interview with four of the upper school’s gay and lesbian teachers: Donna Gilbert, history and social science department chair; Karl Kuehn, dance director; Jeffrey Draper, performing arts teacher; and Abel Olivas, Spanish teacher and modern and classical languages department chair.
The next day, the GSA held a fundraiser during extra help periods and after school, selling rainbow bracelets and Hobee’s famous blueberry coffee cake, donated by the gay owner of the popular local restaurant chain. Proceeds were directed toward a local youth support group called “Outlet.” Founded in 1997, Outlet (http://www.acs-teens.org/what-we-do/outlet/) empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, and builds safe and accepting communities through support, education and advocacy.
“The community was generous and supportive, and because of that, we’ll be able to make a nice donation to Outlet to support the great work they do,” said Olivas, who serves as an advisor to the GSA, one of more than 30 clubs started by Harker’s upper school students.
On Wednesday, GSA members asked the Harker community to pick up a free rainbow sticker in front of Manzanita Hall during the long lunch and to wear it for the remainder of the day to show their support for the cause, and particularly for Harker’s own LGBT students and faculty. At noon on the same day, GSA sponsored a salsa lesson in the dance room, inviting participants to bring a dance partner of either gender.
All of the events were consistent with the GSA’s mission to raise awareness about the LGBT community and promote acceptance of a group that adds to the rich diversity of both Harker and the larger society, Olivas explained.
Kuehn, who also advises the GSA, said he was very pleased with GSA week. “I’ve received numerous compliments regarding the video shown at the school meeting, and had a great time selling baked goods and bracelets after school. It has been an honor to work with students so committed to giving back to the community. When I was in high school, we did not have a GSA club, so getting involved and interacting with students, while promoting awareness and education, has been very rewarding,” he said.
Harker student Jenny Bourke, grade 11, is one the group’s eight members. “I feel that the success with which we sold our cake and bracelets was the highlight of the week. We raised $450!” she enthused.
“I am very grateful to work in an environment that celebrates diversity and honors the full interests and education of our students,” added Kuehn.