The Newtown High School Gay Straight Alliance’s new website was created by NHS senior and club member Bethany Dubois as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
“I’ve been loosely involved with GSA since I was a freshman, and this year this is part of my Girl Scout Gold Award project,” she said.
Girls working toward their Girl Scout Gold Award project, Bethany said, have to choose an issue that is important to them and create a project based on that.
“So I wanted to work with our GSA to make a safe space online, because this club is really great and there is a lot of really cool people here. But there’s a lot of people that are unable to come to a club like this.”
Many people, Bethany said, do not have the same access to the kinds of resources the students attending GSA meetings do.
“So I started this website,” Bethany said, pointing to a screen showing the homepage for www.unitethefight.net.
A number of student correspondents, Bethany explained, write on the website. Bethany posts the articles by her fellow students.
“The whole point of this website is to be a resource where people can go for help [or information] whenever they need it,” Bethany said.
The website can also be accessed anonymously, Bethany said, so people who submit questions or requests for information do not have to share their name. Writers on the website are also not referred to by their full names. Some of the posts on the website already share news items, while other posts respond to submitted questions, like “Why is gay pride such a big deal?” Other questions on the website ask for advice with dealing with unwanted prejudices or how to act around family members at the holidays.
Bethany said the website’s page called “Rough Day?” has different links to other websites that have more information about issues that people may be facing.
The website also has a dictionary page that defines terms that people who are not connected with the LGBT community may not be familiar with.
Bethany said she started working on the website at the start of the school year, but the idea came over the summer.
“We’re going to start promoting this at the middle school soon,” Bethany said. “I really want to encourage anyone and everyone who is interested in the LGBT community to log on and learn a lot.”
The website, Bethany said, is helpful for people in the LGBT community and people who are not. It offers information, she said, to help further understanding.
“I want to encourage people to log on,” said Bethany, adding that people can also submit poems and artwork to the website to be posted.
One big reason Bethany said she wanted to create the website, “Was because when I was in middle school I was able to experience how alone I felt. I felt how you feel very disconnected from other people. Sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who has these kinds of problems, but by the time I got to the high school and joined this community I’ve seen that there is so many other people that I have so much in common with... I want to show that to kids at a younger age to prevent them from having similar hardships that I did.”
NHS teachers Jim Rovello and Kristin English are the club’s advisors. Mr Rovello said the club is inclusive, but not all students comfortable attending the club, which is why the club supported Bethany’s idea for the website.
“Having a site like this available and having that kind of opportunity for students to see and be aware of it allows us to reach out and Bethany to reach out that would not be possible even with us having a GSA club,” said Mr Rovello. “We thought it was a fantastic idea from the beginning.”
Dennis Timmons, a GSA club member and a writer for the website, said the website was “just a really good idea.”
“I like how I can find a story and write my two cents on it and submit it to Bethany, then see it up on the web,” Dennis said.
The website, Ms English said, “Is a safe space.”
For students interested in joining GSA, Ms English said the club meets every Wednesday. She also said the club has grown over the years since it was first offered. At the beginning, Ms English said roughly five people were regular attenders. Now, nine years later, Bethany stood in front of a nearly full classroom to discuss www.unitethefight.net during the club’s Wednesday, January 8, meeting.