Park City High School GSA wins top national award

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network today announced that Utah’s Park City High School Gay-Straight Alliance will receive the 2014 GLSEN GSA of the Year award at GLSEN’s Respect Awards – New York on May 19.

The award honors a student club that has demonstrated extraordinary leadership to ensure that all students in their school community feel safe and treated with respect regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

“We are proud to recognize the Park City High Gay-Straight Alliance for its impassioned work to improve the educational experience of LGBT students throughout Utah,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Through their tireless efforts to support, connect with and advocate for LGBT students statewide, Park City GSA students have demonstrated they are more than deserving of this honor.”

The Park City High Gay-Straight Alliance is provides a safe and supportive environment for all students in Utah schools by working to eradicate anti-LGBT laws, hosting community events with prominent LGBT figures, partnering with nearby LGBT organizations, and engaging local newspapers on safe schools issues. The club is highly active on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, using social media to connect with as many LGBT students in Utah as possible.

“It’s not always easy in Utah, but through the community we all have in the GSA, it’s fostered a belief that it doesn’t only ‘get better’ [for LGBT youth], but rather it can get awesome,” said Park City student Cozy Huggins. “We feel as if the change will start in conservative states like Utah, and through stressing acceptance and tolerance in the state, both in rural areas and in the city, we hope to start to turn the tide.”

The news was welcome in the decidedly liberal Park City.

“To put it bluntly, our kids are helping to redeem our state’s reputation, in spite of state legislators who are still trying to roll back to a time when gender bigotry was considered acceptable,” wrote the Park City Record in an editorial titled, “Parkites take pride in Gay Straight Alliance’s national honor.”

The Park City High GSA made headlines when they to to the streets during Sundance to raise money for Restore Our Humanity, the team who successfully got a ruling that Utah’s anti-marriage equality laws are unconstitutional. The GSA presented a $1,000 check to the organization.

The group must pay to get themselves to the ceremony, and had started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the needed money.

GSAs are student-led clubs that help to ensure middle and high schools offer a safe and affirming environment for all students. GLSEN research has found:

  • GSAs have shown tremendous value in providing safe spaces and critical support for LGBT students. Students in schools with GSAs are less likely to hear homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” in school on a daily basis than students without a GSA (57% compared to 75%).
  • LGBT students in schools with GSAs are less likely to miss school because they feel unsafe compared to other students: a quarter (26%) of students in schools with GSAs missed school in the past month because they felt unsafe compared to a third (32%) of students at schools without GSAs.
  • Students in schools with a GSA are more likely to report that school faculty, staff and administrators are supportive of lesbian, gay and bisexual students (52% compared to 32%).

The Respect Awards, held annually in New York and Los Angeles, showcase the work of corporations, individuals, students and educators who have made outstanding contributions as leaders in our safe schools movement, and who serve as exemplary role models to our nation’s youth.

To help the students get to New York for the ceremony, go to http://www.gofundme.com/glsenpcgsafund

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