Inspired by a presentation about the plight many homeless teens in Utah are facing, the Alta High School Gay-Straight Alliance decided to do something to make a difference.
“We just didn’t know about all the problems they face. I think most of us had never even thought about it,” said senior Maylen Ames, the Alta High GSA vice president. “It was such a great presentation; we knew we had to do something to help.”
Ames, along with the other members of the group, started a fundraising drive for the Homeless Youth Resource Center. The teens are collecting backpacks and items such as hats, gloves and hygiene products.
Homelessness hits queer youth even harder than other demographics; approximately 42 percent of homeless teens in Utah identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“We started with just the club raising money and donating items, but then we decided to get the whole school involved if we could,” Ames said.
The GSA expanded the drive to include the entire school by having personal candy-grams delivered during class. Students were allowed to anonymously purchase a candy cane for their friends or those they admire and the GSA members would deliver them. The drive has raised approximately $100 and the students have also collected spare change and other financial contributions.
“The response has been really awesome,” Ames said. “The other kids have really shown their support.”
This is Alta High School’s first year with a GSA, with more than 10 students regularly attending the meetings.
“I’m so proud of the kids for stepping up and setting an example like they are,” said Ginger Phillips, one of the presenters on homeless youth and one of Ames’ mothers. “I am so glad to see that they really took the message of the presentation to heart and did something about it.”
Although the club has just started, there is already widespread support around the school and other Alta students have been supportive since the beginning, Ames said.
“I don’t know of any problems from other students,” she said. “In fact, kids are really showing support for the GSA. We’re very accepted here by the administration and by the other students. I joined the GSA to show support for my two moms and because I am a lesbian myself. It was one of the best things I could have done with high school. I love it.”
The GSA will donate as many stuffed backpacks as possible and are still gathering donations and money.
“I’m not sure what our next project will be. We’re pretty focused right now, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something good,” Ames said.