LGBTQ student leaders from across the city hope to empower and educate GSAs and area learning centers to build community, share resources and knowledge, and create safer middle and high school environments for LGBTQ youth at the annual Leadership Experience and Development Conference (LEAD).
With a focus on K-12 staff and community partners, LEAD, organized by the Brave School will go to Mastery Thomas charter school May 21.
“LEAD, as with most of our other programs, was created because LGBTQ youth need a place to learn about the things they are extremely passionate about,” said Brave School Coordinator Aidan Williams (pronouns: they/them). They said K-12 institutions should grow and adapt to the needs of a new student constituency, while educating the teachers and administrators who tend to those students.
Williams said, “Schools discuss LGBTQ identity, history and struggles, and LEAD is a place to talk about all those things and genuinely have a good time in community. LEAD is a place for networking, community building and learning.”
While the conference offers a wealth of easy-to-access workshops and breakout sessions, as well as time to relax and commune, Williams believes it crucial that young people feel comfortable using their voices to enact and adopt change.
“The name Brave Schools was created because we want youth who participate in our programs to feel brave and empowered to speak about their needs,” stated Williams. “We do not develop any programming without input from our youth leaders. They are experts in their own experience and they know better than anyone else what their needs may be.”
“Each workshop topic is something [participants] are extremely passionate about,” claimed Williams. “For most, this is their first time facilitating a workshop. In addition to Youth Leadership Board members, we have community members presenting workshops.”
LEAD offers youth and adult track workshops hitting on topics such as Queer Sex education, Marginalized queer identities, Housing/ financial budgeting, Gender Expansion and Queer Resilience. Adult Workshops include Trauma Informed Classrooms and Implicit Bias.
Williams said, “Schools and parents are sometimes uncomfortable having these conversations forcing youth having to take matters into their own hands.”
He added that adult workshops allow teachers to be aware of what might cloud their judgments when dealing with youth and that youth-led workshops allow young people to “present issues that impact their livelihoods daily.”
Students, educators and administrators come from a variety of schools in the area including School District of Philadelphia Schools, suburban-area schools, Philadelphia-based universities, Mastery Charter Schools and cyber schools.
“They all come together to find commonalities and ways to fight against systems together,” noted Williams. “Some schools are more equipped to deal with some injustices and that comes up a lot in conversation as well.”
LEAD serves as a celebration of the Brave Schools Mastery Internship program that includes seven interns at present and a way to garner interest for those who might be looking to be involved.
Hosted by Mazzoni Center, breakfast and lunch will be served and SEPTA key cards will be provided for those who need them.