Chapter and Charter Safe Schools and Communities | City of Ideas

Posted 01/05/2013 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
People from dark-skinned cultural/ethnic backgrounds face many challenges in their attempt to reconcile strongly-held cultural taboos and religious beliefs associated with homosexuality and gender identity. As a result, LGBTQ persons from African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian Pacific, and Native American communities have higher rates of attempted suicide, homelessness, HIV, violence, substance abuse and other risk behaviors than their Caucasian peers.  According to research by Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s Family Acceptance Project “being valued by parents and family helps LGBTQ children learn to value and care about themselves. But hearing that they are bad or sinful sends a deep message that they are not a good person and this increases risky behaviors. It also affects their ability to plan for the future and LGBTQ youth who are rejected do poorly in school.”  Family acceptance and school climate are the driving forces that lead to higher suicide rates and all forms of unhealthy behaviors. Youth, parents and caregivers need opportunities to talk about their LGBTQ family members in a safe, supportive environment. They need to learn how to be helpful, even before they know they have an LGBTQ family member, and how to address the high rate of anti-gay name-calling and bullying.

Project Proposed:
Greater Boston PFLAG (GBPFLAG) and four collaborators will encourage, educate and inspire youth of color (especially LGBTQ-identified youth) and their families to improve schools and communities, specifically addressing rejection and/or ambivalent family relationships. GBPFLAG, along with speakers from Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC), and workshops by Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT), will implement dynamic anti-bullying programming at Academy of the Pacific Rim (APR), and City on a Hill (CoaH) to help meet the state-mandate for safe schools and communities.  All collaborators serve black/brown-skinned boys/young men, ages 9-15, living in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and surrounding areas. This collaborative effort includes:

**Training for students to discuss identity, orientation, and address anti-LGBTQ name-calling and bullying, such as panel discussions with LGBTQ people of color from HBGC, and follow-up opportunities for matching LGBTQ youth of color with mentors from HBGC.

**Creative learning opportunities such as workshops, leadership summits, forums and special projects addressing school climate for LGBTQ students and allies.

**Evening programs and events for parents, siblings, caregivers, relatives and friends serving as engagement vehicles.  Specifically, special programming by the BCT to further break down cultural barriers and create dialog between youth and their families through improvisation, small plays, and role playing.

Role of Collaboration:
Greater Boston PFLAG (GBPFLAG) will lead the collaboration between students and staff at APR, CoaH, HBGC and BCT.  In addition, GBPFLAG will provide staff, training and resources to all collaborators.  GBPFLAG has been an invaluable partner with student communities and GSAs in Boston, Greater Boston and Metro-West areas.  Annually, GBPFLAG provides guest speakers and faculty training for anti-bullying programming.  This funding opportunity will provide more than just annual single presentations to students - it will provide more proactive work with inner-city youth and their communities, including workshops for faculty, parents/families, and GSA youth, and connect students with community resources.

Academy of the Pacific Rim (APR) established a gay-straight alliance (GSA) in the 2006-2007 school year at the request of a student who was the first to “come out” at the school. The GSA’s mission is:  1) to educate ourselves about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) issues in order to develop/ensure a safe school community for all at APR; 2) to educate peers and faculty about LGBTQ issues in order to develop/ensure a safe school community for all at APR; and 3) to provide a “safe space” for students who want to discuss LGBTQ issues.

City on a Hill (CoaH): Last year CoaH worked with GBPFLAG to provide a safe experience for students to explore LGBTQ issues and address concerns about bullying in our community. GBPFLAG provides students with opportunity to understand the challenges LBGTQ-youth face. Follow up meetings support CoaH students in sharing their personal stories with student body, helping create a more open and accepting community. This year, we plan to expand this program engaging the GSA, as well as the broader school community of parents and guardians, to broaden our scope of understanding and tolerance into the wider community.

Boston Children's Theatre (BCT):  facilitate workshops and performances to serve as an engagement vehicle and a framework for discussions by GBPFLAG and other partners. Last year its production Reflections of a Rock Lobster made BCT the first national children’s theatre to present a pro-GLBTQ play in its season. Coupled with its history of working with youth from across traditional boundaries (in its Create-A-Play program, plays and classes), BCT brings the expertise needed to address sensitive issues through theatre. Through performances or workshop demonstrations, BCT will provide an opportunity for youth, partners, school leaders, parents and community to come together.

Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC):  HBGC is one of few non-profit organizations in Boston dedicated to the unique and complex needs of the Black, Hispanic and Latin@ LGBTQ community. Founded in 2009, we work to inspire and empower Latino, Hispanic and Black LGBTQ-identified individuals to improve their livelihood through activism, education, community outreach, and counseling. We have worked with Greater Boston PFLAG on past projects including our LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Conference as well as school programs.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that describes the process of improving community through small, incremental changes. The work of PFLAG on campus helps build an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance among students in precisely this way--not sweeping, dramatic cultural changes (if such a thing is possible), but creating opportunities for open dialogue and tolerance.  Because of our collaborative work, students struggling with issues of sexuality know they have a safe place to turn, and many have sought support from Greater Boston PFLAG, school counselors and GSA’s.

LGBTQ students across the U.S. face misunderstanding, isolation, and discrimination, yet students at these inner-city schools experience perhaps even more so, given families with less exposure and mixed messages from home/family, sometimes very traditional immigrant cultures, faith communities, and neighborhoods. Not only can this create serious difficulties for students themselves who happen to be LGBTQ, it is also an attitude that gets carried into school and can become hurtful to others. Collaborating with other organizations to design innovative programming addressing family acceptance and school climate, caregivers, teachers and students will have awareness, empathy and understanding that will lead to actions to improve both environments and reduce the risk-taking behaviors of LGBTQ youth.

Other information:
Greater Boston PFLAG provides training, speakers, and printed resources to faculty,  GSAs, individual students and their families.   Trainings and discussions are offered in class, at forums, in support groups and assemblies.  Some program examples of topic-based discussions and trainings include:

    National Day of Remembrance, acknowledges people who have been bullied, or who have lost their lives due to LGBTQ hate crimes, or taken their own lives due to isolation and depression;
    National Day of Silence, to raise awareness about the isolation many LGBTQ people (especially youth) feel in their schools, families, and places of worship;
    Day of Dialogue, with workshops led by faculty and outside presenters from GBPFLAG, HBGC, and BCT, to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in order to ensure a safe community for all;
    Community-based organizations, outreach and support for organizations such as Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, BAGLY, GLSEN and area GSA’s);

Education in Middle Schools, helping principals and teachers design and lead discussions with middle school students, and using theatre to reach a deeper level of discussion.  For example, using the BCT’s production of Reflections of a Rock Lobster (March 2013) as a vehicle for dialog and discussion.

Primary Contact:
Lelia Elliston, Director of Development and Special Events
Greater Boston PFLAG

Education: Mass Bay Community College, A.S.; University of Massachusetts, B.S., Ph.D
Lelia brings with her a diverse set of skills and an extensive philanthropic network to help grow Greater Boston PFLAG's outreach, programs and advancement.  Lelia received a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts/Boston in Biology. In addition to her world-wide scientific work, her institutional advancement work includes Massachusetts Audubon; Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (an inner-city social and environmental organization); and Executive Director of Land’s Sake, a non-profit dedicated to cultivating community and environmental awareness through farming, forestry, and education. Lelia is a board member of numerous non-profits that work toward both social and environmental benefit.

Greater Boston PFLAG works to create environments of understanding so that all people can live with dignity and respect through 1) Support: to cope with an adverse society; 2) Education: to enlighten the public; 3) Advocacy: to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.  Greater Boston PFLAG provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

Partner 1:
Pam Garramone, Executive Director
Greater Boston PFLAG

Education: Oswego State University, B.A., Elementary; University of New Hampshire, M.Ed.
Pam has taught elementary school and designed and presented personal development workshops. As Greater Boston PFLAG’s executive director, she conducts educational programs annually in middle and high schools statewide, and in community, corporate, and religious organizations. Each year, Greater Boston PFLAG delivers over 200 anti-gay name-calling and bullying programs in Massachusetts middle and high schools for teachers and students and conducts diversity training in corporate, community and religious organizations. In her work with Greater Boston PFLAG, she has been awarded the Gay Officers Action League's Community Service Award, the Greater Boston Business Council's Individual Award for Excellence, The Grace Sterling Stowell Award for Excellence in Advocacy and Service to GLBT Youth and was featured in Boston Spirit Magazine's cover story, "Gay and Lesbian People Who are Making a Difference."

Partner 2:
Diane Scott, School Counselor
Academy of the Pacific Rim
Diane has been an educator for 20 years.  She holds a B.A. with Honors in Psychology from Stanford University and an Ed.M. with concentration in alternative urban education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.  In addition to her primary work in college counseling, Diane has been a Safe Schools trainer (delivering workshops on GLBTQ issues to faculty/staff and students in schools statewide) with GLSEN and a member of their Board of Directors.  This is her eleventh year at APR, and her seventh advising the GSA.

Partner 3:
Hara Klein, School Counselor
City on a Hill Charter Public School
Hara graduated from Lesley College in 1991 and has practiced psychotherapy in a number of settings with individuals, adolescents and families. Her training in Family Systems and Systemic Theory enables her to work with families facing complex issues. For the past 12 years, she has been the School Counselor at City on a Hill Charter Public School serving an urban multicultural population in grades 9-12.  In addition to her role as school counselor, she has served as the advisor to the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance and had developed several programs that enable students to address various social/emotional concerns facing their daily lives.

Partner 4:
Partner 4:
Toby Schine, Executive Director
Boston Children’s Theatre
Toby Schine is the Executive Director at the award-winning Boston Children’s Theatre.  Since joining BCT in 2008, Toby has produced over 30 musicals and plays, including World Premieres of the critically acclaimed new work Reflections of a Rock Lobster and the musical Calvin’s Monster  Directing credits at BCT include Spring Awakening, RENT, Legally Blonde and Sweeney Todd.  Having established BCT’s college preparatory program, Toby has coached scores of students who have gone on to gain acceptance to the world’s top training programs, including the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, New York University, Carnegie Mellon University, The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and the University of Michigan.  Toby also manages BCT’s extensive training programs for children ages 4 – 19 and oversees BCT’s Summer Studios and pre-professional acting seminars.  Prior to joining BCT, Toby was Assistant Director of Education at North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) in Beverly, MA.  At NSMT, Toby was responsible for managing the theatre’s diverse programming for children, including the multi-generational Horizons Program for children and senior citizens, and the collaborative Creating-A-Musical program with urban schools.  Toby’s directing credits at NSMT included the premiere of Seussical, Jr. and A Christmas Carol, which he assistant directed with NSMT Artistic Director Jon Kimbell.  With over 10 years experience in Arts Administration, Toby built the UNBOUND Program in Morrisville, VT.   He has also worked extensively with the VT Rural Partnership, the VT and MA Young Playwrights Festivals, and the 21st Century Program to develop arts programming and opportunities for youth in Central VT.  A graduate of Reed College, Toby also studied at the British American Dramatic Academy.

Partner 5:
Corey Yarborough, Executive Director
Hispanic Black Gay Coalition
A native of Norfolk, VA, Corey graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Justice Studies and a concentration in Global Justice and Policy. As his capstone project, he analyzed the relationship between the LGB and Black community in a report entitled: "The Missing Link: Incorporating Black LesBiGays into the Movement for Racial Equality."
After graduating, Corey completed the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship with the Congressional Hunger Center. Under the program, he worked with Pittsburgh communities to develop effective responses to the barriers food stamp eligible households face in applying and receiving food stamps. Afterwards, he worked closely with the National Coalition for the Homeless to expand the organization’s civil rights agenda. In doing so, he sparked national attention to violence against individuals experiencing homelessness and launched a national campaign to register homeless and low-income individuals to vote.
Upon moving to Massachusetts, Corey worked as a community organizer with Stand for Children and Program Manager for Let’s Get Ready.  In 2011, he served on the Executive Board for the Massachusetts Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and currently sits on the Leadership Advisory Council for the National Black Justice Coalition.

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  • # Bedriye's gravatar Bedriye said:
    6/16/2017 4:16 PM

    Is that really true, thguoh? Is it true that every story about a young queer person solely has parents on those extremes? Not in my experience. And not even in books that came out decades ago (which makes me wonder how many of them Ms. Coon has really read.)The suggestion that more YA stories should focus on complex parents is kind of silly, IMHO. And were it not for Ms. Coon's young age, I'd assume that such an opinion came from a parent who wanted more representation in her child's books, because she herself can't accept the idea that her child is growing up and away from her. Again, family drama is the key component of a teen's life, whether they're queer or not. A story that waters down that drama by focusing too much on a complex parent character isn't something a teen reader is going to be interested in. No, parent characters shouldn't be cliche or caricatures, but the kinds of stories Ms. Coon suggests tread way too much into turning the parents into POV characters, which isn't going to attract teen readers.

  • # Lukas's gravatar Lukas said:
    6/16/2017 4:16 PM

    Well, yes, of course it's extigeraagon; I would have to have read every single published book in order to determine it! I freely admit that I am going off my own personal experience, and I would be genuinely interested to hear about some LGBTQ books where parents aren't pantomime villains to be Proven Wrong or flat characters.I think the issue is probably this paragraph: Parents are rarely the focus of YA books, and only infrequently are they allowed to be fully realized characters with emotional depth. They can lend such dimension to books, though, that it’s a shame they don’t get more development. I don't think, despite the use of the word focus, that the post is arguing where are the parents that are main characters in YA? for the simple reason that a YA book about parents is not actually YA. I think it's more arguing that it would be nice to see parents in YA who actually act like real people, and not like plot contrivances. You don't have to make a parent the focus of a story in order to make them interesting, any more than you have to make all your secondary characters less interesting so that everyone cares about your MC by comparison.