Vancouver’s Out in Schools program has been named one of Canada’s top 10 organizations that inspire people to take action, to think in new ways and to make the world a better place.
The designation comes from Tides Canada, a philanthropic organization that helps match donors with “some of the most innovative charitable initiatives in Canada and on the planet.”
Out in Schools brings queer films to high schools to facilitate discussions with youth on bullying, homophobia and stereotypes, and to give youth a safe space to explore those issues.
Tides calls Out in Schools a unique outreach initiative.
“They use creativity and the powerful medium of film and video to engage youth and educators on issues related to homophobia and violence, promoting safer and diverse learning environments,” the Tides website says.
Tides Canada describes itself as providing “philanthropic, financial, and project management services for changemakers — philanthropists, foundations, activists, and civil organizations.” It works on issues such as water and oceans, environmental conservation, climate and energy solutions, food, the arctic, social inclusion and civic engagement.
“For 2011, our Tides Top 10 features a diverse range of initiatives from coast to coast to coast across Canada. Each is working on specific challenges, yet they are all building innovative solutions to complex social and environmental issues facing Canadians today,” the Tides website says.
Out in Schools director of education Ross Johnstone accepted the award in Toronto.
“We were recognized for our innovation and for our approach in our issue and our goals,” he says.
Tides Canada vice-president Sarah Goodman tells Xtra that Out in Schools was recognized for “tackling a very important issue” and “taking an innovative approach and bringing students and educators together.”
“Out in Schools is taking action and thinking in new ways to make the world a better place,” Goodman says.
Johnstone hopes the recognition will inspire more youth to participate in Out in Schools’ annual anti-homophobia video competition, now open nationwide.
“Our goal is to have as many youth as we can participating from coast to coast in different languages,” he says. “It’s been super effective in engaging youth.”
The winning videos are shown at Vancouver’s annual Queer Film Festival in August, produced by Out in Schools’ parent organization, Out on Screen.
Out in Schools was recently the subject of a complaint to the Vancouver Police Department. Police investigated the complaint and found no evidence of any illegal or inappropriate activities. The investigation was “concluded quite quickly,” says spokesperson Lindsey Houghton.