Smithers Secondary School managed to add a splash of colour to the grey, overcast morning of May 25 when they held their second annual Pride Day celebration.
Though a town-wide event celebrating the local LGBTQ community was set to take place the next day, this was a special occasion for high school students.
“It’s important to have a school-based Pride event,” said Perry Rath, the sponsor teacher for the Gay/Straight Alliance at SSS. “I’ve seen lots of kids struggling with whether they’re going to be accepted, or whether they’re comfortable amongst their peers and amongst their family with who they are, or discovering more about who they are.”
There were several displays defining the various facets of the LGBTQ community, as well as explanations of why Pride is celebrated.
“The teen years are obviously a very prime time, when everyone’s trying to really uncover truths about themselves, align themselves with what they believe in,” Rath said. “Having it in the school helps to solidify that to students — that we celebrate diversity here at the high school, and it’s OK to be who you are. You can be out if you want to, if you feel comfortable with that. Or, if you feel more private about yourself, that’s totally fine too.”
The celebration also drew in students from the surrounding area, including a group from Houston Secondary School who had come to join in the festivities.
“Last year [Rolanda Lavallee], who’s a custodian at HSS, brought some HSS students,” said Rath. “She did so this year as well. It’s great to bring in other students from other schools, especially all the way from Houston.”
As the event’s organizer, Rath said the priority is making LGBTQ youth feel safe and welcome in the community, and is happy the school district is taking strides in making that a reality.
“I’ve certainly known lots of students that don’t come out until after they’ve left Smithers,” Rath explained, “and that’s hopefully what we’re trying to change — the atmosphere in town and in the school. That people can come out earlier if they feel comfortable.”
He plans to continue the tradition of having Pride Day every May at SSS.
“Last year was our first year here at the high school with Pride Day, and it went so successfully, and lots of community people came and were here and loved it, and so that energy spilled out into wanting to create one for the town. That’s why tomorrow there’s also a town-based Pride Day,” Rath explained. “It’s good for the students – the youth, the young people – to see that the town is also involved in making sure our community is safe for people not in the heteronormative definitions of who they are. Now that we’ve had two years in a row, obviously that solidifies that we’ll be making this an annual event here at the high school.”
Those in attendance were treated to face-painting, snacks, stickers, and a live performance by local singer-songwriter Molly Moolman. A chalkboard was open for students to share encouraging messages with one another.