Statewide Connection: The Outright GSA Conference


Planning the BFA GSA did for their bulletin board during the event. Photo credit: Ashlie Olio

Rachel Ledoux, Writer

According to V Pearson, the Director of Youth Organizing at Outright Vermont, on Nov. 17, over 600 students from across Vermont gathered together virtually to celebrate themselves and their communities at Outright Vermont’s annual Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Conference. Pearson, one of the facilitators for this event, said around 45 GSA groups from Vermont elementary, middle and high schools participated in this gathering. Among them was the Bellows Free Academy GSA.

Seven of BFA’s GSA members, along with advisors Ashlie Olio and Elijah Church, attended this conference. Students were excused from class at the end of Enrichment and spent the rest of the day attending the event in the guidance conference room. Throughout the day, they partook in a mixture of in-person activities and Zoom discussions with the other GSAs. 

According to BFA GSA student members, this was one of the first real undertakings of their GSA club so far this year. Since the school year began, the club has had only a few meetings and has yet to begin many activities within the school.  This conference spurred them to begin planning some work at BFA.

“We came up with a lot of really cool ideas for things we want to do in the future, like diversity training for teachers and pride month events,” Moth Palmer (‘24) said. 

During allotted planning time in the conference, the GSA worked together to brainstorm ideas for work at BFA. These ideas include outlines for their future bulletin board, which the club started last year but never finished. The club also began planning possible diversity training for students and staff regarding LGBTQ+ topics, possibly in conjunction with the BFA Social Justice Club.

“There are some awesome ideas floating around to make our presence known here at BFA, and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to support students in making necessary changes happen and creating awareness and support in the larger community,” Olio said.

The BFA GSA also got the chance to meet other queer students across the state. Schools like Otter Valley, South Burlington High School and even other schools within the Maple Run Unified School District, like St. Albans City School, were all in attendance. 

“It was amazing and uplifting to see so many students from across the state . . . It is too easy for people to feel alone and to feel like who they are isn’t acceptable in our society, [so] the conference was heartwarming and necessary,” Church said. 

Outright leaders held regional break-out rooms on the Zoom, as well, where schools got to answer questions about their schools, such as naming the GSA member with the best style, drawing school mascot(s) and saying the cafeteria food item that was most popular. 

“It was super fun to get to know other GSAs. One group even had a furby as their mascot, and it was just hilarious,” KC Gaudette (‘24) said.

Students also noted their enjoyment of their lunch period. Outright Vermont supplied Domino’s pizza to all participating GSAs, and Olio provided snacks and drinks for students. The club was given 45 minutes for lunch, and the time was spent singing showtunes, drawing and having a lot of fun.

“We basically just fooled around for 45 minutes,” Gaudette said. “It was awesome.”

The conference ended around 2:40 pm, when all GSAs were released with well wishes and a list of Outright resources they could take advantage of. Gender affirming resources, self-care guides, etc. were given to students to access if they wished. 

“There were a lot of resources and clubs and stuff that they showed us. Definitely things I’d want to take advantage of in the future,” Palmer said.

All in all, the club viewed the day as a success. Students described learning a lot about LGBTQ+ resources that were available to them, and their advisors were happy to have the opportunity to attend.

“We did important work identifying both the needs of our members and resources we have available in the community.  Perhaps, more importantly, we had fun and people had a chance to relax and be themselves for the entire day.  All of that is invaluable,” Church said.