Parkites have one more reason to be proud of their local students. Park City High School's Gay-Straight Alliance was just named the top club of its type in the country. The National Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network cited the students' outreach efforts and resilience, particularly in a state that has previously tried to outlaw such clubs from school campuses.
The honor is especially refreshing in contrast to the state's efforts to quash same-sex marriage rights. To put it bluntly, our kids are helping to redeem our state's reputation, in spite of state legislators who are still trying to roll back to a time when gender bigotry was considered acceptable.
The club's young director, Cozy Huggins, rightfully, deferred some of the credit for the annual award to her predecessors, in particular one of the club's founders, Derek Painter, who died last month. Before graduating from PCHS in 2006, Painter helped to establish the school's (and one of the state's first) GSA Club, which welcomes all students regardless of sexual orientation and with a goal of fostering tolerance, support and understanding.
Painter was ahead of his time and way ahead of the Legislature, which embarrassed itself trying to prohibit such clubs from high schools. To accomplish their misguided goals while avoiding the appearance of discrimination, lawmakers had to ban all high school clubs. The move, of course, backfired. The law was subsequently overturned and the legislature has been trying to recover its credibility on the issue of sexual orientation ever since.
In the meantime, Park City students revived their GSA and they have gone on to help other schools form their own, too. Similar clubs around the country have been credited with stemming bullying and helping prevent students with diverse gender identities from being marginalized.
The Park City GSA Club is part of a larger culture at our high school, one that encourages human rights, respect and mutual support. That's a far cry from the stereotypical high school antics of yesteryear known for being rife with sexism, hazing, social ostracism, etc. And that is why we are just as proud of this extraordinary award as we are of the school's impressive academic and sporting awards.