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Grant supports leadership training for LGBTQ students

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Members of OutSupport and the MHS Gay-Straight Alliance march in Medina’s Independence Day parade.

School can be a tough place for kids who are different.

That's why, in 2016, the Medina County Women's Endowment Fund awarded a $750 grant to OutSupport, an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community and their families in Medina County and beyond. With the funding from MCWEF, OutSupport held a leadership training event in November to empower teens, parents and educators to create or support LGBTQA+ organizations in their schools.

The event was free to attendees and took place at the beautiful Lodge at Allardale Park in Medina County on Sunday, Nov. 6. Teens and adults in attendance spent the afternoon listening to guest speakers, including Kevin Karas from the University of Akron, who led the group in exercises that release negative feelings through the joy of movement, and Jeff Bixby from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network of Northeast Ohio, who spoke about the history, outcomes and benefits of having a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club in schools.

Then Jen Oehler, who has been the faculty advisor for the Medina High School GSA for six years, talked about how her group started, how it has grown, and the activities they have sponsored.

The Gay-Straight Alliance creates a safe environment for all students at Medina High School.

Participants from three local high schools attended with their parents. Guests enjoyed snacks and pizza as they socialized, and they left feeling prepared, inspired and empowered to go back to their home schools to start a support organization for LBGTQA+  students, or to take an active leadership role in their existing organizations. 

The remaining portion of the grant funds supported a bowling party on April 20 for members of all the GSA clubs in Medina County schools, as well as teens who attend OutSupport’s monthly support group meetings. It was an opportunity for these teens to share their experiences, get peer-to-peer support, and promote diversity, inclusivity, and a more welcoming atmosphere for all students.

The overall mission of OutSupport is to "promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ persons and their family and friends through support, education, and advocacy." The group was created to "enlighten the public, to end discrimination, and to secure equal rights."

To learn more about OutSupport and the important work they are doing for young adults in our community, visit www.outsupport.org.  

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