Iowa Pride Network held its 8th Annual Leadership Summit at Grinnell College on Saturday with 80 students and advisors from Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) across the state. Iowa Pride Network, a program of One Iowa, is an organization that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. In spring of this year, Iowa Pride Network merged its student organizing and GSA efforts with One Iowa Education Fund. GSAs are student-led groups and clubs that focus on educating classmates to combat homophobia, transphobia and bullying. Students and faculty from middle school, high school and colleges throughout Iowa were invited to attend.
The Leadership Summit included workshops that helped students and faculty get “back to the basics” of managing a successful GSA. Iowa Pride Network’s “GSA Boot Camp,” the theme for this year’s summit, featured sessions facilitated by leaders in the LGBT community, giving students and faculty advisors an opportunity to ask questions and interact with peers.
Presenters included Senator Matt McCoy, Iowa’s first openly gay senator, who spoke about standing up for oneself in non-confrontational ways when confronted with bullying and harassment, and how to support the person or persons being bullied in the process. Dr. Joseph Freund of Franklin Family Practice in Des Moines discussed transgender and LGBT health issues with the students. Other presentations included representation from Drake University’s Law School on law and policy in the state; Iowa’s Gay Wedding Planner on successful and affordable event planning; and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on health education.
“This year’s summit was a huge success,” said Becky Smith, Iowa Pride Network Coordinator. “After joining efforts with One Iowa Education Fund, our hope is that Iowa Pride Network’s student organizing and GSA efforts will continue to grow and expand to every corner of the state. We were pleased to see so many schools from all over Iowa represented at our annual Leadership Summit, providing these students and their faculty advisors with some of the tools and skills they will need to continue the important work of educating peers at school and combating homophobia, transphobia and bullying.”
“This is about the revolution toward full equality for everyone,” said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director for One Iowa. “Full equality from ‘cradle to grave’ includes our youth, our elders and everyone in between. We need to ensure that our communities are safe for LGBT youth to be who they are, wherever they are. Events like the Leadership Summit help the next generation of LGBT and allied leaders to step up, step forward and speak out. By going back to the basics, we’re allowing students to get involved in the conversation around equality and what that means for them and for their schools. We are helping to empower our youth to take part in the future of the equality movement. It’s been remarkable to watch these students get involved, creating change at school and in their local communities.”
This article was brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian.