- Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth
Media Contact for Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth Holds Virtual 10th Annual GSA Leadership Summit
Corey Prachniak-Rincón, Director
BOSTON, MA — On August 15-17, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth held its 10th Annual Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Leadership Summit. The Summit brought together the Massachusetts GSA Leadership Council, which is comprised of student leaders from high school GSAs across the State, for three days of virtual events and workshops.
The Massachusetts GSA Leadership Council creates and informs policy, promotes inclusive learning environments for all students, supports the development of leadership skills, and fosters statewide collaboration among LGBTQ students and allies. Members of the Council develop and implement projects designed to make change in local schools, districts and regions. The GSA Leadership Council consists of the State council and five region-based councils.
The Commission hosts the Summit every summer at UMass Amherst and this year online, in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students.
“The voices of LGBTQ students and the work of the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students are essential to the Department’s efforts to create safe and supportive schools and promote inclusive learning environments for all students,” said Rachelle Engler Bennett, Associate Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “It was a pleasure to welcome students and staff participating virtually from across Massachusetts to this year’s GSA Leadership Summit.”
Over the course of the three-day summit, participants engaged in community building, racial justice workshops, policy discussion groups, and conducted planning sessions for GSA Leadership Council meetings in the coming school year. The racial justice workshops were conducted in partnership with Boston GLASS and Framingham GLASS, programs of Justice Resource Institute.
“The Summit is an amazing opportunity for LGBTQ students to connect with each other and learn about youth leadership and activism,” said Ivy Stanton, a youth organizer of the Summit and member of the Commission’s Executive Committee. “The sense of community unites and empowers queer youth, especially during this isolating pandemic. LGBTQ youth learn about a variety of issues, including racial justice, homelessness, and healthcare; additionally, Summit provides students with the tools to take action on a local and state level.” LGBTQ youth have reported increased feelings of isolation in the wake of mandatory quarantine orders due to COVID-19. In addition to holding a virtual Summit this year, the Commission has also held weekly virtual GSA meetings to keep LGBTQ youth connected over the past several months.
The COVID-19 crisis has had an outsized impact on LGBTQ youth, particularly with respect to their economic and housing security and access to health care and medication. To help combat this, the Commission awarded $18,000 in emergency funds in March to 20 individual youth across Massachusetts, as well as numerous organizations that serve this population. The Commission also included a special report in its annual policy recommendations on COVID-19 and its impact on LGBTQ youth across Massachusetts, as well as specific policy recommendations to remedy these impacts.
The first GSA Leadership Summit was held in 2011 at UMASS Amherst, and has taken place every year there up until this year. “Of course we missed being together on the UMASS Campus, especially for our Field Day, a Summit highlight conducted by Boston’s FLAG Flag Football League,” said Jeff Perrotti, Founding Director of the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students and a consultant to the Commission, “and although virtual, this Summit was as inspiring as ever.”
The spirit is captured best by Kira Houston, a Commission member and one of the Summit youth leaders: "I was truly astounded by the energy the students brought to our virtual Summit. I had never before had such a positive experience with online meetings, especially not meetings which lasted all day! The students were able to chat, connect, share artwork and memes, and make friendships over the weekend. I'm so happy the Summit went virtual this year."
The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth is an independent state agency that advises others in state government on effective policies, programs, and resources for LGBTQ youth. The Commission is mandated to make annual recommendations about policies and programs supporting LGBTQ youth to the State government and its agencies and will be releasing its recommendations for FY21 on June 18th in a virtual ceremony.