Be Yourself Club making a difference

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Be Yourself Club making a difference

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Being who you are can be a very scary feeling, especially in high school. However, a group of students at Alisal found a way to express themselves and identify with who they are. The Be Yourself Club, focuses on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth, and raises awareness of their rights, struggles, and realities.

Natalie Bernasconi, the adviser of the group, feels a great connection with the students because of her own personal experiences. “I know what it’s like to feel different, and the students in this club are all here to support each other,” she said. Bernasconi’s mom “came out the closet” when Bernasconi was 12 years old. “At first I didn’t understand but that’s when I saw her be truly happy because she was able to be herself,” Bernasconi said. Her mother served as an inspiration to her and a reason for her close connection to the Be Yourself Club.  Uriel Fletes, the club president says the club has really changed his high school experience. “I feel safer and more accepted, because I know there’s a group of students who support me.”

Students in the club also feel the club has had a positive effect on their life. Luz Garcia said, “I know exactly what it feels like to feel alone and to feel abandoned because of who I am, but that’s why I feel so dedicated to this club. This club is a way to let people know they’re not alone, and they shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.” Another member, senior Rafael Garcia said, “This club makes you feel at home, and it always has a positive environment. I know I can really be myself and express myself because I’m surrounded by people who don’t judge me.”

The Be Yourself Club hosted a rally early in the school year where they shared stories and raised awareness of LGBT youth. “This rally was to raise awareness on the LGBT community, we want people to know that words do hurt,” said Bernasconi. The club members also took time to recognize teachers who made them feel safe and provided a comfortable environment for them. Senior Rafael Garcia recognized English Teacher Michelle Frankel for having a class that promotes safety and equality. During the rally students were also invited to walk through a door, representing them being able to come out and truly be themselves, instead of changing who they really are. Freshman Jesus Iturbe expressed his thought on the club, “I think it’s really cool the school is making any LGBT member feel safer at school. At the rally I became more aware of the things I say, because I didn’t realize how hurtful they could be.” English teacher Mick Battaglini enjoyed the rally. “It would have been nice to see the rally be as full as the ALS rally but overall it was good to see how far we’ve come as a school,” said Battaglini.

The club has helped contribute to change on campus, and given all students a sense of safety. “Ten years ago students tolerated someone being gay, now students respect each other and accept each other,” said Principal Ernesto Garcia. “Now students are not seen as outsiders for being gay or lesbian; student’s views have changed over time.” Students outside of the club have also noticed the change that the club has brought to campus. “I noticed that more students feel comfortable being themselves; they don’t feel as much pressure to fit in as they used to before,” said senior Giselle Ramirez. “The club hasn’t just helped the LGBT community, it’s helped students all over campus,” she said.

Junior Kevin Nolasco has been extremely impacted by his involvement in the club. “When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t wait to be in high school, but as soon as I began my high school life, I couldn’t wait to leave,” he said. However, being Vice-President forced him to step outside his comfort zone and find a better sense of comfort. His involvement in the club made him enjoy his high school experience more. “Now, I realize that when I do leave, I can’t wait to come back. Thanks to the Be Yourself Club, I am much more connected with my friends, my school, and especially myself,” Nolasco said.

A highlight of the year was when The Be Yourself Club got to participate in the Homecoming Parade which was a very proud moment for the club. “Participating in the Homecoming Parade was a blast! As the trumpets thundered down the streets, others hollered, “Go Big Green,” while our club instead yelled, “Gay Is Okay!”. We knew that this year’s route wasn’t going to attract as many people as the previous routes have before, but nonetheless, we are so proud to have reached out to the many elementary students stuck in periphery,” he said.

The students in the Be Yourself club are passionate students who really feel like they are making a difference in the community by raising awareness of the different aspects of the LGBT community. The club also started a website where visitors can post “Messages of Hope” to any LGBT member struggling with bullying/cyberbullying. (Just google “Be Yourself Club Alisal”.) The members of the Be Yourself Club found a way to express themselves by supporting others and giving other LGBT members a support system. “We wanted to make sure that LGBT+ students at Alisal, or anywhere really- could have a place with available resources like hotline numbers, videos, and websites,” said Nolasco.

The Be Yourself Club meets every Friday from 3-4pm in Ms. Bernasconi’s classroom 708. Students should come in with a positive attitude, and all students are welcome.

 

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