FEATURE STORY

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Wheelock College Graduate Students Working Towards Justice

The social justice issues of bullying and discrimination continue to impact our schools and communities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) students are disproportionately affected by this, and school staff struggle to address these issues with confidence. It is a human rights issue!

Through a Participatory Action Project (PAR), a group of Graduate Social Work students from Wheelock College in Boston, MA have been working with many teachers, support staff, and City Year representatives  in 3 Boston Public Schools.  The staff  identified the desire  to address bullying and discrimination of LGBTQ students, but did not feel ready to do so for various reasons.  The goal of the project was to identify these reasons and give the staff the support and resources that they need.  The students partnered with Kim Westheimer of Welcoming Schools and Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Pam Garramone of Greater Boston Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays(GBPFLAG), and Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to create interactive workshops and resource binders in an attempt to meet their identified needs. The project is still in progress and the results will be presented at a conference in early May at Wheelock College.

Group member’s reflections:

Laurel Bancroft

  • “I have been supportive of the LGBTQ community for many years, but found myself being an ally in more subtle ways.  I participated in an LGBTQ supportive  course through Wheelock, which inspired me to be more active and advocate for equality and human rights. This  PAR project stemmed from that experience and has been extremely rewarding and empowering . Connecting with others who wish to be allies and being able to give them community supports and tangible resources to aide their efforts has further strengthened my commitment and given me even more hope for the  possibility of change in the future. While the scope of the project was to empower educational staff, I feel that my role in this project has personally impacted me by strengthening my conviction and boosting my confidence moving forward.”

Mimi Belot- (reflecting on her experience participating in a Speakers Training for PFLAG)

  • “Being that it was my first time at a PFLAG event, I was amazed to see so many faces attend this educational outreach project.  While there, I heard parents tell stories about their sons and daughters coming out and how they learned to embrace their circumstances. Most importantly, I watched members of the LGBTQ community use personal stories and poems as a platform to empower others to become allies for LGBTQ equality. Interacting with individuals from the transgender and gay community helped me to have a deeper understanding of the importance of fairness, acceptance and mutual respect for those in this community.  It was an honor to have been a part of this movement and I look forward to fulfilling my duties as an ally”.

Danielle Cobbs

  • “Through out this experience I have learned the importance of spreading awareness about Human Rights. Not all Human Rights are as obvious as one might think and it is vital that everyone be made aware of them. Bullying in any form is  a Human Rights violation and it is important that teachers be given the tools to properly combat bullying especially in regards to the LGBTQ community.  I have been truly moved by the teachers and educational staff in the schools that have decided to take a role in battling bullying”.

Melissa Middleton

  • “Through my active participation in the concentration year Master’s of Social Work program PAR project, I learned an abundant amount of information regarding our topic, LGBTQ Bullying in Schools as well as myself as an effective and ethical social worker.  Prior to engaging in our topic I had very limited knowledge about the bullying that occurred in schools, especially to those who identify as LGBTQ.  Through my group’s involvement with agencies such as Welcoming Schools, PFLAG and GLSEN, I was able to broaden my knowledge and speak more confidently regarding this topic.  I now feel comfortable advocating for and working with clients who identify as LGBTQ ,due to our extensive research through surveys, workshops and interaction with this population and their families”.
Catlin O’Brien
  • “This project drew me in because I took a class that Wheelock offered over the summer, “Welcoming LGBTQ Families into Education and Human Services.” I have taken classes before pertaining to LGBTQ individuals and families through a psychology perspective but this class stuck with me as it ended. I was challenged in that class to want to do more bring awareness to people who wanted to listen. I like this project because as it continues I continue to learn more about things I didn’t know. I also have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people through Welcoming Schools and PFLAG and  have the ability to continue to share knowledge and resources with my friends and family”.