On December 13th, 2019, the Park Ridge Gender & Sexuality Alliance held its second coffeehouse at the First Congregational Church here in town. Through this event, students were able to express themselves musically and be surrounded by other students who have the same passion for the club. The goal of the coffeehouse was to be able to spread awareness of the club as well as create a comfortable, expressive dynamic for the student members. Through supporting and accepting clubs, such as Park Ridge GSA, young students are able to express themselves in a safe environment, allowing for the validation of their emotions.
An open and supportive environment of the GSA draws students and faculty of all kind to the club and allows each of them to have their own goals for the club. To get a better understanding of how members are affected by the club and to find out what they hope to achieve through the club, we asked several members to express their feelings toward the club. Jenny Ciccaclione, junior and member of GSA, was asked what she hopes to get out of GSA. “I hope that in Park Ridge we create an environment of friendliness and open mindedness and general acceptance towards people.”
Allowing not only high schoolers in the club, but middle schoolers as well retains a diverse age group and informs younger students of the goals of the club. One seventh-grader and club member was asked about why she joined the club and what she hopes to achieve through it. “I really support the community…and I love the town and helping people, so I thought…this would be fun.” These members, however, would be lost without the guidance of the club’s advisors – staff members who demonstrate passion and care about each individual member and the meaning of the club. Ms. Saxton was able to comfortably assume this position as a club advisor and bring passion and musicality to the club, creating a space that is safe for all. We asked Ms. Saxton what she hoped the club would achieve in the Park Ridge community. “I want PRHS to be a place where people are comfortable being themselves and people are accepting of others…where the school should be a place where people are free to be who they are and love who they want to love and not be ashamed of that.” Alongside Ms. Saxton is Mr. Yeager, Student Assistance Coordinator, who provides guidance for each student member and uses his knowledge to further the club. Mr. Yeager was asked about what he hopes the club will accomplish this year, “I guess the answer is three-fold. first I hope that the group provides a safe place for people to come…to demonstrate that we are accepting…second is that we do make the world a little better place…to do some outreach and public awareness…the third goal is we show that Park Ridge is a welcoming and accepting place for anyone beyond sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and that whoever you are, you are ok.” Through this club and according to several members, it is evident that the main goal is acceptance and support through a safe space for all- the hope for creating a more understanding and welcoming place for anyone who needs it.