Leighann Wichman, the executive director at the Youth Project, spoke with Down East about the event.
What will happen there?
The conference is an opportunity for students and staff who are in GSAs or want to start GSAs to get together, learn and share. There will be opportunities for skill building and networking. Many rural schools have few chances to connect with other schools. Our keynote speaker is Canadian storyteller Ivan Coyote. In the afternoon we have a series of workshops; some for students and some for advisors, which include the role of the teacher’s union, starting a GSA, GSAs in rural communities, making your GSA more trans friendly, and many more. Ivan Coyote will be offering a writing workshop and there will also be a filmmaking workshop.
What will the youth involved learn and experience? Hopefully, the students will learn more about making their GSAs stronger through leadership, inclusion and some new and exciting project and event ideas. It is also hoped that students will feel connected to a much larger movement in Nova Scotia that includes all GSAs. We want to create a stronger voice for GSAs and provide opportunities for youth to use that voice.
How did Ivan Coyote get involved? Our GSA conference planning committee spent a lot of time discussing who they wanted as a keynote speaker. Ivan had been at the Youth Project in the past so was already a popular choice. We learned that Ivan was going to be in Nova Scotia around the time of the conference, so it seemed a perfect fit. It is also exciting to represent gender identity so strongly, as it often isn’t so prominent a topic.
What do you want the youth to get out of the weekend?
We want you to feel part of something bigger. We want them to have the opportunity to share and learn from their peers around the province and be able to connect with them after the conference. We want them to have the confidence, skills and knowledge to be strong leaders in their schools and communities and be prominent in the act of making schools safer, healthier and happier for all students, especially LGBTQ students and their allies.
For more information, check out Making Waves' website.