At a Glance
The Chester County Technical College High School, Pennock’s Bridge Campus has a thriving and active Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA).
Recognizing the importance of embracing diversity at the Chester Country Technical College High School (TCHS), the school counselors arranged a field trip for interested students to the Rainbow Connect Conference sponsored by West Chester University in 2021. The conference was designed to foster a safe social forum for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth and to cultivate a generation of LGBTQ youth leaders. The conference provided connections, leadership skills and opportunities with the goal of inspiring youth leaders to advance social justice and equity in terms of sexuality, race, and gender in school communities.
Academic Remediation Specialist, Jenny Sassaman, shared that on the return from the field trip, a staff member noticed a student seated far away from all the very excited and happy TCHS students waiting to board the bus back to school. The student shared that he had had hurtful experiences during his school career due to his sexuality. The staff member was moved by the student’s quick, but intense confession and shared the story with other members of the TCHS team. Those conversations led to the TCHS staff to consider ways to support LGBTQ students and their straight allies. They discovered Genders and Sexualities Alliances (GSAs), which are student-run organizations that unite LGBTQ and allied youth to build relationships and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities.
GSAs have evolved beyond their traditional role, which was to serve as safe spaces for LGBT youth in middle schools and high schools. During an interview to learn more about this best practice, Jenny Sassaman and Learning Support Teacher Jori Hake shared that the establishment of the GSA has “moved the dial” for not only students but instructors regarding creating a safe, equitable learning environment. The TCHS GSA meets every other Friday as a club group, and it is student-led. Leaders are elected and expected to propose topics with the two co-advisors. Topics have included transgender bathroom solutions, explanation of pronouns and their usage, and the difference between biological sex and gender expression. Club activities have included creating and printing banners to accompany LGBTQ flags on a school bulletin board, designing pronoun pins to encourage affirmative pronoun usage, writing letters to local leaders, and many, many parties. In addition to the field trip to Rainbow Connect Conference at West Chester University that inspired the creation of the group at TCHS, the club has had many guest speakers via Zoom throughout the year.
The main event for TCHS GSA is a conference hosted at the Pennock’s Bridge Campus. All three TCHS campuses and Pennock’s Bridge’s six sending schools are invited. There are small and large group activities, presenters, and best of all, lunch made by the TCHS culinary program.
Many alumni have returned to campus to attend GSA meetings and/or the TCHS GSA Conference and have shared feedback ranging from TCHS GSA was “the best part of my week” to “it saved my life”. Dr. Brian Hughes, the assistant principal at TCHS, has played a key role in supporting the GSA by attending meetings and listening to and learning from the GSA students. His message of “supporting our LGBTQ community as they navigate our hallways and your programs” has been genuinely embraced by the TCHS school community.
TCHS (Technical College High School) Pennock’s Bridge Campus
Ron Wilson, Principal
Jenny Sassaman, Academic Remediation Specialist
Jori Hake, Learning Support Teacher