NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A safe harbor for Albert Leonard Middle School LGBT students now exists, thanks to a new club led by teacher Marion Costa.
The school's Opening Doors Club, officially the most visible component of the middle school's newly established Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), was created this past school year. Costa feels it's already a positive impact for students looking for a place they can go to be who they are.
"I want this club to be a safe place for students who feel they don't have a safe place 'outside,'" said Costa, an ELA eighth-grade teacher and eighth-grade class advisor. "They just want a place with people like them, where it's not a big deal. That's what's most important for them right now."
The club's genesis began when eighth-grader Roan Etkin spoke to Principal John Barnes and spearheaded the idea about a club. ALMS brought together a committee to plan its creation. Separately, Costa asked Barnes about the opportunity to be its advisor after learning about the recent Understanding Gender program at the high school. She was invited to be a part of the committee.
"I've been dealing with gay issues since I was in grammar school," she said. "I was always sticking up for my friend Roger, who was gay. In high school, I was always sticking up for my friend Anthony, who was gay. My own son came out to me a few years ago. The only thing I was concerned with was, 'Are you happy? Are you healthy?'"
The club has met five times this fall with a consistent attendance of 15 to 20 students. The reaction has been extremely positive.
"This is a brand-new group," said Costa. "We're talking about what they feel comfortable with, as far as going out into their own school community. Not all of them are 'out.' Having a safe harbor is what's most important to them right now."
Costa's hope is that all ALMS LGBT students know the club is a place for discussion and support.
"We want them to feel good about who they are," said Costa. "We believe this club gives them an important outlet for acceptance as they continue with their academic careers."