Centennial’s Gay Straight Alliance sponsored by Stacey Gross, and Ondine Gross celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Through the past ten years Centennial’s GSA has faced controversy, and endured success in their search for safety for all LGBTQ students.
When GSA started in 2004 they faced adversity from students, and parents alike. Initially the daily bulletins included a disclaimer, “This club is not supported or endorsed by Unit 4 schools.” before all GSA announcements. As the nation and state have progressed, Illinois allowing same-sex marriage since June 1, 2014, so has the attitude towards Centennial’s LGBTQ community. The club gave teachers, and administrators the option to design “Ally” signs to display their support for the LGBTQ community. Educational materials have become more LGBTQ friendly, using non-gender specific names, or allowing for more diverse topics. The club has expressed the rights affirmed to all students in a case of negative action. The club has also changed school rules, by advocating for a change in the language guidelines in the student handbook.
Stacey Gross tells us that there has been an “ebb and flow in student participation in the past 10 years.” She noted that initially students were heavily invested to make a positive change in the school. As progress was made and students felt safer the activism aspect went down, and students became less involved. However now a sudden resurgence is being felt as the club offers a “social and emotional safe haven for students to interact with each other,” says Stacey Gross.
To celebrate their historic success Centennial’s GSA plans to spread celebrations throughout the year. They’ve put profiles detailing the lives of historic members of the LGBTQ community up around the school, as well as posters expressing delight in their success. They’ve also decorated the display case with their annual club t-shirts. They also plan on hosting an area wide pizza party for surrounding high school GSA clubs.