by Kelsey Themens,
British Columbia, Canada
High school is rough, it’s a well-known fact. For a lot of people, one of the biggest struggles they face is bullying, usually from fellow students. For me, the primary antagonists of my high school experience happened to be a handful of teachers who roamed the halls. I wasn’t the only one disappointed with the blatant homophobia displayed in speciﬁc classrooms; there were quite a few of us, all ﬁghting for equality on our school grounds.
The spark that really set off the explosion occurred on a Wednesday. On Thursday, two or three dozen outraged students were gathered in a classroom, speaking to the administration about the horrendously offensive video that had been mandated to be shown in all classes. The conclusion: they messed up, and with a lackluster apology, it was swept under the rug. We didn’t stop there, though.
While we all fought for some kind of victory against the injustices that many students faced on a daily basis, the most prominent was a fearless, well-spoken, and most importantly, outspoken, group of students in grade 12. It would not have been possible for us to get as far as we did without their grit and genuine passion for the fight. They had the necessary connections with a handful of decent teachers, as well as younger students, and were able to rally everyone together to make the school a more accepting place.
While we were never given a more comprehensive apology and the school fought against our steps forward, after six months of submitting outlines, we were ﬁnally given permission to start an inclusivity club at our school. We weren’t allowed to make announcements, and it was fairly undercover, but it was still ﬁlled with students. While such groups go by many names, the message is the same: it is a safe space for anyone and everyone to be themselves in an otherwise potentially critical environment.
To this day, our school isn’t necessarily the most supportive place on the planet, but I know that after school on Fridays in room 407 there are people—students and teachers alike—working to change that. Not only did that grade 12 group make our place of education feel like that much more of a community, but they served as role models for myself and countless others.
They were people who stood up for what they believed in and didn’t let fear of judgement or others prejudices get in the way. They’ve given me something to aspire to: in a few years—or maybe even right now—to be that upperclassman who inspires another young student.