GSA members to attend MN outfront youth summit

Alexis Yi, staff writer

On March 21, the EHS Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) plans to send members to the MN Outfront Youth Summit in St. Paul. The summit is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ students and their allies to develop leadership skills, create outreach networks, and meet members of other schools’ GSA’s. Summit participants also get to meet with state legislators about topics important to them, including LGBTQ+ rights. Sophomore Ellen Whalen, who plans to attend the summit, said, “I hope to learn about how our school does in comparison to other schools because I only really know about [the EHS GSA].”

Attending the summit is meant to be a casual venture, and members of the GSA are not obligated to attend. The registration deadline has already passed, so, unfortunately, anyone who is not yet registered will not be able to attend.

Steven Cullison, a social studies teacher, has been the club’s advisor for five years. Prior to EHS, he was an advisor for similar clubs at different schools. “I expect that EHS was not a very comfortable place to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community in the ’90s, and believe that it must be better now, and GSA is part of that,” Cullison said. The GSA is largely a student-led club, but Cullison provides a link between the students and the administration.

At EHS GSA meetings, students get together once a week to discuss important issues and socialize. Meetings start off with student-made presentations, which cover news about the LGBTQ+ community at the state, national or international level, and there is plenty of time for hanging out after.

For many students, the GSA provides an important community based on acceptance. “I think for everybody it’s just really nice to have a space where we can all feel comfortable talking about our lives and not having to censor certain parts of it, you know,” Whalen said. “Everybody there pretty much is chill with whatever anybody else says, which is really nice.”

People of all different genders and sexual orientations are welcome to join the GSA. As of right now, the GSA doesn’t do organized outreach, and advocacy for the club is mostly done on an individual basis. “The low profile might help students feel more comfortable,” Cullison said. “I worry that students who would get a lot out of being a part of the group might not know about it and miss out, however.”

Students in the club do have hopes for more organized outreach in the future. In recent years, student advocacy has lead to the installment of more single-use bathrooms, which are open to all genders. They have hopes that more can be done. “I feel like we could do better at reaching out, because, right now, the only real outreach we have is us going and talking to people on our own,” Whalen said.

At the youth summit, attendees will be able to learn strategies for effective outreach, which will allow them to branch out at EHS. In the meanwhile, however, the club is happy with what it’s able to provide for its members. “Edina’s GSA provides a safe space for some students to relax and be themselves,” Cullison said.