Club Spotlight: the GSA brings students together

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Townsend Harris may be home to a dizzying array of clubs, sports teams, and extracurricular activities, but the THHS Gay-Straight Alliance is unique in its message, drive, and purpose.

While many clubs in the school appeal to students with similar hobbies, passions, or religious values, the GSA (also known as SAGES) serves to create an open, friendly, and safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students as well as their allies throughout the building.

Facilitated by Franco Scardino, Social Studies teacher, the GSA has sponsored a number of outreach initiatives, such as selling “THHS GSA ~ BE THE CHANGE” awareness bracelets in order to bring greater attention to the mission of the organization.

Mr. Scardino said, “The club is a safe and welcoming space for students who are explorinng their identity and for those students who advocate for respect for all.  I think the club is a necessary component of our school’s mission and what we stand for.”

During the 2011-2012 school year, the club hosted three documentary viewings in the auditorium, showing three movies that portrayed the controversial relationships between religious LGBT men and women with various members of their devout communities.

The close-knit atmosphere of the weekly meetings draw students of all orientations to room 411 after school, where members and guests alike discuss different activist opportunities, news stories,  LGBT-related legislature, and personal opinions regarding the influence of government and religion on the minority community. While it is a place designed for organizing educational outreach events and fundraisers, the club is also a safe haven for students to vent their feelings without judgment or uncomfortable questions.

Despite the common misconception that only LGBT students participate in this club’s weekly meetings, the GSA gets steady attendance from both LGBT and ally students.

“I think THHS does indeed benefit from having a GSA because I feel that it enables students to be more open with each other,” claims junior Amanda Ruggieri, a member since the beginning of this year’s fall semester. “[The GSA] also helps people feel more comfortable with themselves.”

Sophomore and new member Jeanne Jin agrees, stressing the helpfulness of the club’s presence in THHS. “I definitely think the school benefits because in high school, a lot of changes in social identity come, and I think GSA helps students to not feel alone.”