Collaboration by gay-straight alliance at Calgary’s Forest Lawn High School has impact
Feeling safe and welcome in school no matter who you are is the key message of a new video conceived by students at Calgary’s Forest Lawn High School.
The campaign, entitled #safeAB: Changing the Way We Treat Each Other, shows people of various ages and walks of life – including teachers, social activists, parents, members of church groups and the students themselves – voicing messages of support for safer schools.
The video was conceived, designed, written and filmed by students who belong to the Forest Lawn gay-straight alliance (GSA) with professional assistance from Antyx Community Arts, a Calgary-based not-for-profit organization.
Antyx, which promotes advocacy and empowerment through the arts, approached the school in the spring of 2014 about doing a GSA-related project because “they had heard we had a pretty active GSA at our school,” said Stephen Becker, Forest Lawn teacher and GSA advisor.
While the students considered many ideas, they decided on a video because they wanted to do a performance-based project.
Last fall, the students worked with Antyx staff member Kevin Jesuino on storyboarding, scripting and casting the video, learning some valuable video production and people skills along the way. Apart from the message the video was intended to deliver, another goal was to teach students “how much work goes into making a professional-quality four-minute video,” Becker said.
A bonus of this experience, Becker added, is that students are now equipped with some of the skills they would need to take on similar projects in the future.
The students also did most of the work organizing the video launch, which was well-received by those in attendance, including staff, students, local media, a school board trustee and MLA Kent Hehr. A ripple effect of the video has been increased interest in forming new GSAs on the part of teachers at other schools.
“I’ve had a number of teachers I know or teachers who have heard about this project contacting me asking for information about starting up a GSA or what the important qualities of a GSA are,” Becker said.
There has also been interest from the Calgary Board of Education in creating safer washrooms and change rooms for transgendered students in schools, he said.
Antyx is planning two more projects with two other schools in Calgary, one of them a theatre production with Western Canada High School. These projects will also be promoting the same #safeAB theme, capitalizing on the ground broken by this video.
How to get involved
The video can be viewed at www.antyx.org/safeab/. It’s also supported by a Twitter hashtag campaign (#safeAB) to encourage Albertans to share thoughts and ideas on how to create safe, supportive schools and communities for students and for people of every orientation, background, creed and colour.
As well, anyone who wants to create and post their own “I support” video for the online social media campaign can go to the Antyx website and follow the instructions posted there.