CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Getting through high school is hard enough. Having everyone call you the wrong name or “she” instead of “he” doesn’t make it any easier.
“People don’t understand how little interactions throughout the day really change how a kid feels about themselves,” explains Shaker High School sophomore Aryn Bucci-Mooney.
“This is a significant developmental time and these memories stick,” says Shaker High health teacher Nicky Bogert.
Aryn Bucci-Mooney is a trans student at Shaker High School and a youth board member for GLSEN. GLSEN offers student events, trains teachers on sensitivity, and fosters community connections to support LGBTQ+ students in K-12 school systems across the Capital Region.
“It makes such an extraordinary difference to a kid when they aren’t feeling confident in themselves, to have and know that somebody is there looking out for them,” Bucci-Mooney explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
GLSEN has big plans for 2020. The Capital Region chapter recently received two new grants that will help the program reach students in more rural communities.
“They can’t go walk to a nearby drop in space or center where they can meet with other students. We’re hoping to venture further north to really work with those kids who are a little bit more isolated,” says Imran Abbasi, a GLSEN Board member and also the Director of World Language, Social Studies, and English as a New Language at Niskayuna Central School District.
The grants include $10,000 from the Kohl’s Cares program for the 2019-2020 school year, and a five year grant from the Department of Health distributing $24,000 to GLSEN each school year. Abbasi says the DOH grant is in partnership with the Damien Center, a resource foundation for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
“Our entire board is volunteer only, so everything we do is truly a labor of love, but with this money we’re also hoping maybe hire administrative staff to help us get through all the paperwork and things we’re required to do for the grant,” Abbasi explains. “We’re also looking at transportation services so we can bring some of those kids from isolated areas to our events.”
While the DOH grant focuses on furthering the program’s outreach to rural communities, Abbasi says the Kohl’s Cares grant will sponsor GLSEN’s events like GSA Meetups, a Winter Ball in February, and a Breaking the Silence Rally & Dance in April.
GLSEN’s existing school system partners say the program and a strong support system means all the difference to their students.
“We are not an island here and while we feel we do a good job of educating our kids, counseling them, and supporting them, we know that there is great resources that we can tap into it to do an even better job,” explains Shaker High School Principal Richard Murphy.
Shaker High has an existing GLASS — Gay Lesbian and Straight Society — that’s been a part of the school for close to 20 years. Principal Murphy and Bogert, the society’s adviser, say they find the atmosphere of inclusion and support from programs like GLSEN crucial.
“It’s a great opportunity to prepare them for what’s beyond Shaker High, so they know what community resources are available to them outside of the school when they leave,” Bogert explains.
Shaker High also announces an upcoming workshop inviting members of the community to learn from keynote speaker Lyndon Cudlitz. Cudlitz will be presenting on how to support and understand a loved one in the LGBTQ+ community.