The Gay-Straight Alliance at Park City High School has been named the 2013-14 GSA of the Year by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
The Gay-Straight Alliance at Park City High School has been named the 2013-14 GSA of the Year by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Pictured clockwise are GSA members Holly Huggins, Tori Vipond, Jamie Gribbin, Jeremy Billow, Colby Judd, Cozy Huggins and GSA advisor Mary Purzycki. Alexandria Gonzalez/Park Record.
After several weeks of murmurs throughout the school district that the Gay-Straight Alliance at Park City High School had been named GSA of the Year by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the announcement was officially made Tuesday, April 29.

GSA president Cozy Huggins said she was refreshing the GLSEN website as often as possible for the past 48 hours to see if the press release had been published online so she could publicly celebrate with her classmates and community.

"We found out about three weeks ago, because GLSEN called me and Ms. Purzycki," she said. "It was very exciting and so great, because we've worked so hard all year. We don't do it for the award, though, but for the awareness and education we can bring to the school and to Park City."

Huggins secretly nominated her club a couple of months ago after they raised $1,000 during the Sundance Film Festival to donate to Restore Our Humanity, the nonprofit organization that is funding litigation against Utah's Amendment 3 ban on same-sex marriage.

Her fellow GSA members were happy to hear last month that they were finalists for the award. Now that they have won, they will travel to New York to accept the award on May 19.

However, school funding only covers the costs to send Purzycki and Huggins. They want to include GSA officers Jeremy Billow, Colby Judd and Jamie Gribbin as well as the GSA's first advisor, PCHS teacher Jim Fleming.


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Winning the award means a lot to the GSA, not only because it recognizes their hard work to spread the message of acceptance and equality but because it honors the GSA advisors and members in the past that helped make the club what it is today, said Huggins.

According to Purzycki, the GSA was started at Park City High School between 10 and 12 years ago by Fleming and a group of students, including the late Derek Painter.

"[Painter] was one of the first and helped to really establish what the GSA is all about," Huggins said. "Then David Tauber and Freddie Prettner revived the club about three or four years ago, and here we are today. We couldn't have done it without all of those people."

The club had to be "revived" after state legislation was passed to prevent Gay-Straight Alliances in schools by ruling against curricular clubs. Purzycki said the wording of the bill ended up being so restrictive that it prohibited the existence of clubs like Key Club and Interact Club, so legislation was revised.

Now parent permission forms are required to become a member of the GSA, which member Tori Vipond said can still create difficulties for students. "Some students that want to become members aren't 'out' to their parents yet or they are and their parents aren't accepting," she said.

Nevertheless, the GSA exists to educate school and community members of the truths and issues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Vice president of the GSA Jamie Gribbin said that safety is also an issue about which they are trying to bring awareness.

"School is supposed to be a safe place for students to go and learn, and inclusive anti-bullying policy and clubs where everyone is accepted and can be themselves, like GSAs, are important for that to be possible," Gribbin said. "We just want to provide a safe place where you can come to be yourself."

The PCHS GSA is raising money to cover the costs of the trip to New York next month through a fundraising website at www.gofundme.com/glsenpcgsafund. Huggins said she would love for all the GSA officers to go and be motivated to come back to Park City and continue to spread the message of equality.

"Jeremy and Jamie are going to roll their eyes right now, because I quote this guy all the time," Huggins said, laughing. "But Harvey Milk once said, 'Without hope, the us'es will give up.' I'm just proud to be an 'us' and hope we can keep representing that spirit."