COLORS present at Governor’s Conference

Iowa Safe Schools Governor's Conference was on April 25, 2016, attracting a wide range of viewers.

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The 11th annual Iowa Safe Schools Governor’s Conference was held on April 25, 2016 at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines.The conference provides students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to learn about issues facing LGBT youth in the school and beyond. This year, the West High COLORS club presented a workshop which provided tips for starting and revitalizing Gay-Straight Alliance’s (GSA) in schools.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 9.23.59 AMFounded in 2005, the Conference’s main goal is to provide a safe space for LGBT youth and Allies to discuss issues impacting them in everyday life. Activities consist of an opening and closing keynote speaker, vendors representing many LGBT and other human rights organizations and 45 minute workshop sessions which inform attendees about different topics in the community.  Although the conference provides helpful information, it has come under fire by conservative lawmakers and special interest groups who question the conference’s intent.

This year’s opening keynote speaker was actor, musician and comedian Lea Delaria. Delaria was the first openly gay comic on American television and has also received widespread acclaim as Big Boo on the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black. Other speakers included Omar Sharif Jr. and Candis Cayne. Workshops were lead by Dr. Andy Maguire (Chair of Iowa Democratic Party), State Legislators, State Senator Matt McCoy and State Rep Liz Bennett, as well as many others.

The West High COLORS Club was founded fifteen years ago and has attended ten out of the eleven conferences. The club’s longevity caught the attention of conference organizers, and the group was asked to create a presentation for this year’s event. The session, titled “Make
Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 9.23.15 AMYour GSA Great Again,” provided useful information on how to help your GSA rise up from intolerance. Additional topics included suggestions for activity planning, advertising your club and how to deal with bullying.

The West High students presented their workshop to a standing-room-only crowd. The audience sparked much discussion and the West Students led the conversation with an energetic, yet easy to talk to approach. As the discussion continued, it became clear that students from other parts of the state face many challenges when starting a GSA.

Although it was almost shut down this year, the conference proved to be one of the most well attended. It had record breaking attendance and attracted many people from rural areas who were not even aware of its existence until now.