My Day at the GSA Youth Summit!

By Jessy

Running on two cups of coffee and five hours of sleep, I stepped into Agnes Scott College for the 2013 Georgia youth GSA summit. The moment I stepped in, I was energized. The energy radiated off of everyone and there were over 350 people in attendance. Volunteers in blue shirts ran around setting up and checking people in. I immediately spotted people I had been working with for the past two years on LGBTQQIA issues. My group and I moved through the check-in line and towards the seating area. I had on a purple button up and a rainbow bowtie. I knew I could wear whatever I wanted today without fear of judgment. The only judgment I received was positive, “I LOVE YOUR BOWTIE!”

After getting my free breakfast, I found a table of youth from last year’s summit. It was wonderful to reconnect with them over our bagels and coffee. As the summit began, we were challenged to meet new people. I met a group of students who were working on making their GSA known, my first new connection of the day. The sessions had not even started, and we had already exchanged contact information and experiences. The friendly and open environment made it easy to talk to others in the room. Even if I were a shy person, it would have been hard to not make friends. The safe zone that encompassed the whole session made being myself easy. As someone who constantly has to hide who I am in my area, it was refreshing to be able to be me, all of me, every part of me, not just the parts that were socially accepted.

My first session was Aspiring Allies. The group was small and personal, allowing free-flowing conversation to be one of the main learning tools. After some introductions by the speakers, the class was challenged to think of ways in which they were or could be an ally. The session challenged everyone in the room to keep “Aspiring to be an ally,” because you are never REALLY done. My other sessions of the day were wide ranged in topic. It was honestly hard to choose which ones to go to because there were SO MANY. Luckily, I was able to go to some informational sessions. My goal for the day was to find ways that I could get more involved and be a better ally, that goal was well achieved.

During lunch, there were stands set up downstairs with information for different organizations and schools. Before lunch was over, my bag was filled with pamphlets and candy; it was almost like LGBTQQIA trick or treating.

At the end of the day, we had a speaker who I expected to be boring at first. After they began, though, I could not stop listening. The organizers of the Summit never failed to keep everyone entertained. At no point during the day did I ever feel like I had to hide myself. After the speaker, my group went out to dinner on our own.

After dinner, a large portion of the summit attendees came back to Agnes Scott for a talent show. During the talent show, people who signed up upon registration were able to perform. Some sang, some did stand-up comedy, some played instruments. No matter what they did, their performance was cheered on by the friendly crowd that filled the room.

Saying goodbye to my friends was the hardest part of the day (besides getting out of my oh so comfy bed). I refused to leave without a phone number, facebook name, or tumblr url. My favorite part of each summit is the connections I am able to make, that was no different this year. Last year’s 2012 summit got me hooked on the comfort and opportunities that are present at the GSA youth summit. I plan to feed my addiction every year possible.

The GSA Youth Summit is an annual event for middle school, high school, and college-aged young people hosted by the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition. The Summit offers a truly unique experience for queer youth and their allies living in the south, a full day of learning, networking, socializing, and advocating. The Summit provides leadership training skills, exciting youth-driven workshops, and support for students leading or trying to start a GSA. If you want to help support this event in the future please donate or email

3 Responses to “My Day at the GSA Youth Summit!”

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  2. S.Jenkins says:

    Jessy – thank you for sharing your experience in such a thoughtful and personal way. Honestly, it moved me to tears, in a good way. Being afforded the rare opportunity to openly express our whole self is a wonderful gift. It sounds like you are actively intent on increasing opportunities to experience this openness not only for yourself, but for others in your community who are starving for similar safety.
    Sometimes we forget the incredible amount of extra energy that is required for the LGBTQQI student to present, how did you put it? “..[only] the parts that were socially accepted.” That’s a powerful statement! Hmmm, could be a great workshop topic too.
    My prayer for you is that you continue and succeed in active collaboration with leaders and students alike, to create school environments across the state of Georgia that allow each and every student to express their entire essence: creatively, collaboratively, and completely.
    Blessings to you Jessy, and to those around you!

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