Jonathan Peters, Class of 2017, came to my office in September 2015 to discuss his vision for a Cape Cod LGBTQ Youth OUTreach project. He had recently returned from a summer Leadership Summit at George Washington University where he conceived the idea and created a plan for the project. When school started, Jonathan approached Eric Hieser, Sturgis Executive Director, and Paul Marble, Sturgis Associate Director, to see if they would support the project and allow him to apply for grant funding. They decided his proposal had merit and suggested he contact Christopher Churchill, Faculty Adviser of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Sturgis East and me for support.
Although I have been writing grants for Sturgis since 2011, I had never written a grant for a student led initiative. Jonathan hoped the event could be funded and scheduled in the next few months but learned that grant writing and planning for a Cape-wide event take time. His proposal evolved over the following months and many people and organizations came on board to help support the event. Jonathan’s steadfast efforts to raise enough money to bring Cyd Zeigler from LA and Braeden Lange from PA to tell their stories to Cape youth was ambitious. To raise enough money to make the event free to most participants was remarkable. Being part of the team with Chris Churchill, Paul Marble and Will Mathews who helped Jonathan’s vision become reality was truly rewarding. Marion Weeks, Community Outreach Coordinator
On October 6th, 160 student athletes, teachers and coaches from regional high schools attended a workshop entitled “Identifying the Intersection of Athletics, LGBTQ Diversity and Anti-Bullying Rhetoric” at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center. The 2-hour event (11 am – 1 pm, including lunch) was geared towards creating an accepting environment in high school athletics for diversity, especially as it relates to marginalized groups and anti-bullying rhetoric.
Featured speakers included Braeden Lange and Cyd Ziegler. Braeden is a 13-year-old lacrosse player from Pennsylvania who was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter,“The Courage Game” in 2015. When bullied after coming out, he found solace in an ESPN feature produced over 10 years ago about another lacrosse player.
Cyd Ziegler is Co-Founder of OUTsports.com based in LA, and a graduate of Harwich High School and Stanford University. As a track & field athlete, he led Harwich High’s track team in scoring for 3 consecutive years. Cyd has appeared on ESPN, Fox Sports, CNN and MSNBC & contributes to Sports Illustrated, Logo, and the New York Times.
The workshop was a student-led initiative developed by Sturgis East senior Jonathan Peters while attending a Leadership Summit at George Washington University in 2015. His enormous efforts to bring co-sponsors on board for an event during October (National Bullying Prevention Month) seemed especially timely after reading the following message in a Cape Cod Times editorial published August 30, 2016: “Parents, teachers, administrators, and students must work in concert with one another and with public health officials to create an open and affirming environment where intolerance and violence is recognized, exposed, and addressed immediately, and where all students, regardless of their sexual identity, feel safe. To do anything less is to perpetuate an environment that is failing far too many of our young people.” “Back to School: Outreach Needed for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Students.”
The event was co-sponsored by nine organizations: Camp Lightbulb, Cape Cod Five Foundation, Gender, Sexuality Alliance (GSA), Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), PFLAG, Safe Schools, Sturgis Charter Public School, Thrive and Youth OUTreach Program (founded by Jonathan Peters, Sturgis East Class of 2017). Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, the first 150 people who registered had the $10.00 fee waived and were will be able to attend the event free of charge.
The goal of the event was to provide an opportunity for local coaches, athletes and other attendees to hear the stories of two gay athletes (one from Harwich, MA) who are leaders in helping educate people about LGBTQ diversity in sports. The openness of Braeden Lange and Cyd Ziegler in telling their stories and sharing early personal struggles that resulted from bullying rhetoric from classmates to a crowd of 160 people was powerful and captivating. As one attendee described it, “The speakers were incredibly effective…really powerful and well-delivered messages. Made me think about this issue(s) in ways I never really considered before. Powerful stuff.”
For additional comments by participants, see Survey Monkey Questionnaire: Comments about the Workshop at the end of the article.
Another goal of the event was to provide a resource for attendees, regional schools and organizations to help spread the word about this important topic with coaches, students and administrators. We hope this article will serve as a resource for attendees and for others who are interested in learning more about LGBTQ rights and issues. Included below are videos of presentations, photos and links to articles.
Videos screened during lunch:
NFL Interview with Wade Davis … first 3 minutes
“You Can Play” (Boston College High School)
Survey Monkey Questionnaire: Comments about the Workshop
“The ESPN film was excellent. I feel that it should be shown to every student in Middle and High school, with coaches and teachers. Braeden was great, and Cyd inspiring. The Q & A was good, involving the students.”
“The speakers were incredibly effective…really powerful and well-delivered messages. Made me think about this issue(s) in ways I never really considered before. Powerful stuff.”
“I wish to commend Jonathan Peters and Sturgis Charter Public School for planning this event and for all the outreach involved to bring in the two amazing speakers as well as the generous support of your sponsors. Although I attended as a member of our Town’s Park and Recreation Program, it was great to see the students in attendance as well ensuring outreach to the students and coaches alike. Braeden Lange is an amazingly poised and mature person for his age, and I am glad to see that his courage in coming out at such a young age to his friends, has developed into a more positive experience thanks to his family and the kindness of strangers who have walked in his shoes. It was great to have Cyd Zeigler return to Cape Cod, and to share his work and insights with us. He was an entertaining and thoughtful speaker who was able to share his work and remarks with us in a thought provoking and informative manner. I wish that Jonathan Peters could have gotten a little more microphone time, as he deserves kudos for his work with founding the Youth OUTreach Program, as well as suggesting and working to make this event happen, and for bringing students together for this forum.”
“The organization of everything was amazing! How the event flowed was so impressive.”
“I thought everything went well. I thought the conference was informative, educational, and fun. I really enjoyed the speakers who came. They all shared really interesting stories and I thought they were all very brave for discussing their personal experiences with being a member of the LGBTQ community and being so in an environment that sometimes isn’t as accepting as many people would like.”
“We loved the keynote speakers! They all were very inspirational and informative.”
“The speakers were engaging, informative, and inspiring.”
“The speakers were unbelievable and I felt relevant to the students who attended. Thought the #Unity was a great interactive piece.”
“The speakers were both excellent–engaging and informative. So impressed by a 13 year old who is able to speak in front of a large audience with so much poise. It’s so important that it was a free event. Thank you for making that happen.”
“The speakers were amazing, and leading off with the young man was perfect. We cannot thank you enough for hosting and planning such a great event.”
Background of the Cape Cod LGBTQ Youth Outreach Program
Jonathan Peters, a senior at Sturgis East, developed the idea for a Cape Cod LGBTQ Youth Outreach Program while attending a Leadership Summit at George Washington University during the summer of 2015. He approached Eric Hieser, Sturgis Executive Director, and Paul Marble, Sturgis Associate Director, to see if they would support his project and allow him to apply for grant funding. They decided his proposal had merit and suggested he contact Christopher Churchill, Faculty Adviser of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Sturgis East and Marion Weeks, Sturgis Community Outreach Coordinator, for support. The following text is from Jonathan’s original proposal.
Explain the community need that exists and why this project is important to your constituents and/or the community. *
According to the Brown Daily Herald, based out of Brown University, approximately 12% of the United States population identifies as either bisexual or homosexual. The differences noted between the number of members in a high school Gay-Straight Alliance (or other similar LGBT club) and a College Club for LGBT strongly suggest that high school teenagers are not comfortable embracing their identity at that point. For more information, see: “About 12 Percent of Students Identify as Gay or Bisexual” The Brown Daily Herald 12 November 2010: (http://www.browndailyherald.com/2010/11/12/about-12-percent-of-students-identify-as-gay-or-bisexual/)
Many closeted LGBTQ teenagers experience the emotional turmoil of “living a lie” during high school which can result in reduced levels of self-esteem, low confidence, depression and poor decision making. Some LGBTQ teenagers resort to drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with their internal conflict. Cape Cod is currently experiencing a crisis of drug and alcohol addiction problems. We hope this program will help address and diminish those problems for LGBTQ youth on Cape Cod.
The Cape Cod LGBTQ Youth Outreach Program will serve Cape Cod high school students and their families, Cape Cod GSA Clubs, CIGSYA, PFLAG and Cape athletic directors. The main focus of the program is to benefit high school teenagers but we feel it will also benefit their relatives, teachers and friends of all ages. Ultimately, Cape Cod LGBTQ Youth Outreach Program seeks to increase the number of students who feel comfortable being themselves and not hiding ‘in a closet’ for fear of losing friends, rejection or other self-loathing reasons. We also seek to create a level of comfort in the LGBTQ/ heterosexual interactions.
Describe what you plan to accomplish and how you will measure your progress. *
We hope to enlighten the community about LGBTQ issues and diminish drug, alcohol and depression problems. We believe outreach is an extremely important component of this project. The grant will facilitate outreach to Cape Cod High School Gender, Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Clubs, Athletic Directors, Principals, Cape and Islands Gay-Straight Youth Alliance (CIGSYA) and Parents, Families, Friends and Allies united with LGBTQ people to move equality forward (PFLAG). By working together and collaborating with these local groups, we will increase opportunities for students across Cape Cod to discuss these important issues. Although there is a world-wide movement to support LGBTQ rights, there is still work to be done to help educate Cape Cod teenagers about these issues.