I began my senior year of high school at Miami Lakes Educational Center wondering what accomplishments I would achieve. I never thought that I would be sitting on a plane destined for the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.
When deciding whether or not I should apply to the GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) advocacy summit, many thoughts ran through my head. What if I get chosen? What are my chances of making it?
Upon receiving an e-mail notifying me that I had been accepted into the 2010 Safe Schools Advocacy Summit (SASS) program, I was overwhelmed with joy and couldn’t wait to let everyone know that I was on my way to Washington to represent Florida. SSAS brings together high school students and adults for an action-packed four days of learning and advocacy.
Arriving in Washington March 20,. I was very anxious to begin working and networking with other participants. The journey had begun and I was ecstatic knowing I would be able to speak up for myself and other students across the nation who do not have the opportunity to have their voices heard.
The trainings were long and filled with an extreme amount of information. Our main goal as students and adults was to get more senators to co-sponsor our two bills: Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non- Discrimination Act. Both bills would not only ensure safety for the LGBT community but for all students so they would feel secure in their schools and community.
Through a series of workshops and discussions, we developed an understanding of the legislative process, the ways to influence it, and how to acquire tools and skills for effective school and community based organizing. On the final day, all of us put our training to work, meeting with our state legislators and talking about the SSIA and the SNDA policies that will help protect all students from bullying and harassment.
I believe the most important lesson learned from this experience was that no matter where you come from nor how different you are, we can always come together, share the same goal, and make a difference.
As I get closer to graduating from high school, I consider myself being very fortunate in having this opportunity granted to me. SASS 2010 was definitely a moment of a lifetime that I will cherish dearly.
I can now look back and see all the wonderful achievements I have accomplished and how I am slowly making my dream come true to make my mother, Teresa Arce, proud of me. “We Don’t Sweat, We GLSEN”
Alexander Arce can be reached by email at < firstname.lastname@example.org >.