The Gay-Straight Alliance at Shoreham-Wading River High School has won a $500 grant to expand its mission.
The grant, from the Long Island Language Arts Council, will be used to purchase books promoting awareness of people who are different. Although specific titles have yet to be selected, the books will address gay and transgender youth issues in the educational system.
The club was started during the 2014-15 school year with a goal of creating a safe space for students in the LGBT community during a time when it is crucial for young people to begin understanding their own identities.
“It is a wonderful program designed to inspire students to accept and appreciate the diversity of all of the people in our community and lives,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “The club supports many outcomes of a well-rounded education that prepares students for the world around them, such as tolerance, perspective, advocacy and collaboration. It is also an opportunity for students to connect socially in a positive way.”
Club co-advisers Alana Philcox and Edward Storck decided to apply for the grant “to cultivate empathy and address the need for social harmony in a culturally diverse world.”
Their application said that “by integrating bibliotherapeutic strategies into instruction and selecting texts with authentic depictions, we can expose our members to diverse experiences to bridge the empathy gap and foster acceptance and understanding for diverse individuals.”
The books that are purchased will also be used for group discussions and a large project during Positivity Week in April, which was created last year to help bring students together and educate them on elements of spreading happiness and respect. Each day during the week has its own theme, such as “Positive Relationships” or “Finding Your Zen.”
“This grant, like any grant, provides our educators with the opportunity to expand beyond what our approved budget can provide,” principal Frank Pugliese said. “As a district, we must always measure fiscal responsibility with providing our students with the best educational experience possible.”
Student member Rose Honold said she hopes use the books within the alliance and then potentially begin using them in English classes at the school.
“We decided to use the LILAC grant money to buy books about LGBT-positive protagonists because we thought it might be a great way to extend the GSA’s reach into the classrooms of our high school,” she said.
“I hope it promotes peace in their lives and in our schools and communities,” Mr. Poole said. “The more experiences our students have in understanding one another and appreciating the diversity in our communities, the brighter the future will become for all of us.”
Photo caption: From left, Shoreham-Wading River Central School District Board of Education President Robert Rose, SWR High School English teachers Alana Philcox and Edward Storck and Superintendent of Schools Gerard Poole. (Courtesy photo)