“I didn’t know there were that many high school students into human rights!” exclaimed Sarah, a freshman at North Mason High School. Sarah is a member of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), the only GSA in Mason County. Sarah and other GSA members shared their experiences of the 19th Annual Kitsap Youth Rally for Human Rights, held last month with 450 students in attendance.

This event, sponsored by Pride Foundation, is completely youth organized and led from high school students in Bainbridge, Bremerton, Quilcene, Mason as well as South, Central and North Kitsap schools. After a welcoming ceremony, each student group hosts a “Breakout Session” with various topics. Some of the session titles: “Identity Crisis: Finding Comfort in Your Own Skin”, “The Four Foundations: Hip Hop Culture and Skills”, “Body Image: Thin, Rich, Pretty”, and “Simple Signing: Learn the Beauty of Sign Language.”

The students from North Mason High School GSA put together “Gaypardy: Interactive Game About LGBT Heros and Heroines” which included all kinds of activists, artists, scientists, actors and leaders who are LGBT from history and current times. “People were surprised to find out who was LGBT and the contributions LGBT people had on society. It was a lot of fun!” said Robert, a GSA club member.

Valerie, another GSA club member explained what she gained from the Rally: “It’s about showing unity, problem solving, working together. Everyone was there for the same cause, to get to a common goal of human rights. Human rights are for everyone.

Being the only GSA in Mason County, this student club won an award last year for their commitment and openness, particularly in a community that doesn’t leave a lot of room for this. Debra Bidwell, the school’s counselor and GSA advisor said “I’m always amazed at how the kids step up—their courage inspires me.”

The afternoon that Gunner Scott and I met these students, they were preparing for Day of Silence by making buttons and flyers to hand out at their high school later that week. As we were all chatting, Gunner and I learned all about shipping—my mind was blown, because it turns out “shipping” is not just the process of transporting goods via truck, boat or plane, but something much more vital in the hierarchy of high school.

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