Park City High Gay-Straight Alliance raises money for homeless youth
Club is hopeful their message will prove more valuable than the money
April 4, 2017
Students in the Park City High School Gay-Straight Alliance say they feel fortunate to live in a community that, by and large, welcomes teenagers who identify as LGBT.
Now, they're trying to help gay or transgender teenagers who aren't so fortunate.
During the Sundance Film Festival, they raised $3,200 for the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City and were scheduled to give the money to the organization this week. They said they chose to support the Homeless Youth Resource Center because many homeless teens identify as LGBT end up living on the streets when their families reject them.
"A large proportion of the homeless youth everywhere, but especially in Utah, is LGBT, so we thought it would be a good thing that would contribute to our cause (as a club) but also help other communities," said Jayda Robinson, a student in the PCHS Gay-Straight Alliance. "Park City is pretty accepting, but in Salt Lake it's worse than here. So we wanted to give back to those people."
The club raised the money by holding a bake sale during Sundance as part of an annual fundraising project. The students were impressed by the support they received, with filmgoers eager to pitch in when they saw the club's rainbow flag and learned about where the money was headed. They said they capitalized on the spirit of the Women's March on Main and the kind of activism that has spiked since the election of President Trump, whose administration has rolled back Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools.
"We got multiple people who were like, 'Hey, because of the recent things with politics, here's $20,'" said Alicia Whitty, another member of the club. "It made me really happy. Like, I was talking to my friends and it was like, 'People are doing this. For us.' I hadn't really had an experience with raising money for anything else, and I didn't realize what it would be like. I volunteered an excessive amount of times, almost seven times, even though we were only required to do two because it made me really happy."
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One of the most inspiring parts of the donation drive was hearing the stories of people moved by the club's efforts, the students said. Some told the students of their own experiences of coming out as LGBT, and others described their personal journeys of growing up with negative views of LGBT people, then eventually becoming supportive of gay and transgender rights.
The story of one man, in particular, was memorable to GSA member Alex Renola. He told the students how, after being raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which preaches that acting on homosexuality is a sin, his views changed over time because of the efforts of people like the GSA members fighting for LGBT issues.
"He came over and was like, 'I really appreciate what you guys do. I want you to know that it does make a difference, especially with someone like me,'" Renola said. "He said, 'It's because people like you that people are swayed. You do make a difference in the world.' It was interesting to hear that story."
Renola added that changing people's perceptions to foster acceptance of LGBT people is the ultimate goal of the Gay-Straight Alliance. While places like Park City have become increasingly welcoming of gay and transgender people, there is a lot of progress to be made in many other areas in Utah and the rest of the country.
"It's great to raise the money and give it to the people who need it, but money only goes so far," she said. "What really needs to go around is the idea. And when people come up to you and say that it's working, that gratification is indescribable."
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