Skies may have been overcast for West Hempstead High School’s homecoming festivities Saturday, but rainbow colors were still proudly in plain sight as members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance sold baked goods to benefit their club and other charities. The festivities also served as an opportunity to reflect on the club’s growth. The GSA formed in 2014 with about 10 members. This year, it has 35.
Tracy Hutt, a physical education teacher and co-adviser of the GSA, said that the club was formed after two students wrote an essay that stated how important it was for students to have a safe place to be themselves.
"We were one of the last school districts in Nassau County to have this kind of club," Hutt said. "I am proud of how much it has grown."
Members of the club have an opportunity to attend weekly meetings where they can express their feelings and support their peers.
"I was a part of the club since its [inception] and now I am a co-president," said senior Ethan Masliansky, 17. "It's a safe place for anyone who is LGBT."
Added Hutt, "At first many were nervous to be a part of it, but we have a very supportive staff and administration," she said. "We also have teachers who are out and they show the students that they are no different than anyone else."
That level of support for LGBT students extends to the student body.
"There are straight students who are a part of the alliance so they can be there for their gay friends, and I think it's wonderful," Hutt said.
Svetlana Lagos, 16, said that members of the club have been a great support system for her.
"It's really nice because you meet people who have similar circumstances," she said. "Everyone has some kind of clue of what I am going through."