Such an inspiring bunch of people who are on an amazing journey!

It’s always a privilege volunteering for ELSA and working alongside Jane but the opportunity to work with a small group of LGBTQ+ students really jumped out at me and ended up being one of the most rewarding sessions with young people I’ve experienced.

The Priory School, Hitchin, currently host a safe space for a group of rather inspiring LGBTQ+ youth and we were tasked with running a session designed around an empowerment kit. The group is made up of around 15 students who identify with one of the identities including transgender students and allies, or those that want to turn up and support their peers, which is just as inspiring.

Right out of the gate it was obvious that terminology and understanding the students was an important part of the day, but everyone engaged with the support staff and seemed genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity of discussing what life was like for them, what their hopes for the group were and also how to engage with both teachers and peers.

We were lucky enough to work with the students on their own, without their teachers, which gave everyone the opportunity for getting involved with an interesting discussion. The students were more than happy to identify themselves and talk about their reality, situation and beliefs – each student came across as incredibly brave, eloquent and passionate about making change, for themselves and the good of the school, teaching staff and future year groups. The role of the volunteers was really to guide the conversation and keep them on track.

Whilst we started out with the aim of creating an empowerment kit we soon moved on to working on a method of ‘teaching the teachers’ with the students each having a thought on how this should be presented, what the outcomes should be and how to get their stories across. From talking to the students, it was obvious that one of the biggest struggles was getting the balance right for how the teachers dealt with situations, an example being that a racist comment may be dealt with differently to a homophobic comment and how does someone react if they have used the wrong gender pronouns? The students had such a diverse background and it was important to create something for everyone, even at this stage in their lives, some of the students identify as being pansexual and are quite confident in explaining what this means to them. Some were keen to be involved and ‘present’ whereas others wanted to ensure we gave adequate time to each of the areas.

The session is a work in progress, with the students all keen on seeing this through to completion. I could wax lyrical about how amazing the school is for being so committed to the students and I could write paragraphs on how inspiriting and brave the students are but I’ll finish off with re-iterating my opening sentence – this was most definitely one of the most rewarding sessions I’ve experienced.

TS