On Wednesday, more than 200 energetic students and staff from the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) gathered at Bingeman’s for the 7th annual Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) conference, in partnership with KW Counselling‘s OK2BME program.

Students from 23 WRDSB schools participated in this one-day conference. Joined by community support groups, the conference provided a space where people could feel safe and accepted, talk about their hopes and fears, and feel a part of a larger family in a world that sometimes can feel so small.

“I am so glad we live [in Canada] and we are so accepting,” said one student during the open mic session. Another student, who expressed fear of being themselves outside of their GSA club, said, “I feel safe that I can say who I love and be who I am. I want to thank my GSA family because they are always there for me no matter what.”

Peter Rubenschuh, WRDSB superintendent of student achievement and well-being, opened the event with a message of hope, success and continued acceptance to our rainbow community on behalf of the director of education and senior team.

“As a society, we need to continue working towards treating others with respect, care and love because each person’s story is different – it’s what makes our board unique and special,” said Rubenschuh. “Each and every student and staff member brings a certain spark to our system and there shouldn’t be discrimination of any kind towards that, it should be celebrated. The WRDSB encourages everyone to be themselves and this annual conference is a step in the right direction.”

Attendees participated in various workshops, listened to keynote speakers, and had the opportunity to gather information from a number of the community booths that were set up.

“I would like to thank the Waterloo Regional Police Services, KW Counselling, and other community partners for lending their time and being a part of this significant event,” said John Bryant, WRDSB director of education. “This event shows that our students have established a safe space for LGBTQ students, staff, and their allies to support each other and work against heterosexism.”

The WRDSB has 31 GSA clubs operating in our elementary and all secondary schools. If your school doesn’t have a GSA club, visit the OK2BME website and start one today.