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Corner Brook High to host first provincial Gay/Straight Alliance conference for youth

Mick Jeffries is a Grade 10 student at Corner Brook Regional High who will be attending the gay straight alliance conference this weekend.

By Rudey Downey

Special To The Star

Mick Jeffries knows how important it is to raise awareness about the issues surrounding sexual orientation.

The Grade 10 Corner Brook Regional High student has been involved with the school’s gay/straight alliance since starting school back in September.

“(The alliance) is a good way to bring students together,” said Jeffries. “It also makes students feel like they have someone to talk to and that there is somebody there for them.”

The city school is now set to bring even more students together as it hosts the first ever high school gay/straight alliance provincial conference today and Saturday.

 Jeffries says the education aspects of the conference such as mental health is something students should find very useful.

“People used to be bullied because of their sexual orientation,” said Jeffries.

“These workshops have helped students develop skills and tasks when dealing with things like that.”

Guidance counsellor Gerard Lowe still thinks that there are issues surrounding sexual orientation in high schools across Newfoundland and Labrador, but said he’s seen improvements in recent few years.

Lowe is one of the organizers partnering with students to host the conference this weekend.

“I have friends in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer) community and I believe in human rights,” said Lowe. “We’ve had kids at school who have struggled with their sexuality, so it really makes the transitions that these kids are going through much easier.”

There are 170 people from across  the province scheduled to attend the conference.

Events include a suicide prevention and gender identity workshop, as well as a motivational speaker who will talk to students about issues surrounding sexual orientation.

“Over the last three years, since we’ve had the Gay/Straight Alliance at our school, I’ve seen a dramatic decrease when it comes to homophobia and other stigmas against the LGBTQ community,” said Lowe, who added the student population still has a long way to go.

“I see improvements, even in the way that teachers are teaching classes now.

“I’m even seeing English teachers who are using gay characters in their lessons.”

Organizations: Gay/Straight Alliance, The Star

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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