The alliances will be created during a youth summit Saturday.
Local support organizations are launching a regional gay-straight alliance network for area high schools with a youth leadership summit Saturday. Oklahomans for Equality, Youth Services of Tulsa and the Mental Health Association in Tulsa will present the day of workshops for teenagers, parents, teachers and school administrators at the Youth Services building. The idea for a network of gay-straight alliances came from evaluating a 2005 needs assessment of the Tulsa lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. More than half of the respondents said youth services was a top-five need. Organizers are hoping that about 50 people will attend the summit. Registration is open through Saturday morning. The workshops are intended to help high school students maintain stability and continuity in their gay-straight alliances, said Mana Tahaie, deputy director of Oklahomans for Equality. "It's really, really important to us that young people have a safe place in their schools," she said. The regional network will hold meetings for leaders of gay-straight alliances to share ideas and insights. Smaller alliances can receive advice about keeping their programs active and successful, said Julie Trainum, a coordinator for Youth Services. "Then it's not such a struggle each year to start it over again," she said. The summit will include a keynote speech by state Rep. Al McAffrey, the first openly gay member of the Oklahoma Legislature, and a performance by singer/songwriter Eric Himan. At lunchtime, a drama troupe will present a short play about what it is like to be gay in school. Scripts will be available for students to re- create the production at their own campuses. "It's very powerful and really shows what that experience is," Trainum said. The summit will include different tracks for adults and students, as well as divisions based on the level of resources needed for creating or maintaining an alliance. Tahaie said the adult workshops will be open to any of the attendees, but the others will be for students only. "One of our biggest objectives is to make this really youth-led and youth-driven," she said. At the end of the day, the students will elect an advisory panel of four to 10 student leaders who will oversee the network during the next school year. The panel will assist efforts to maintain alliances in the face of leadership changes each semester, said Nate Black, youth outreach services coordinator for the Mental Health Association. It is important for the alliances to persist because lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students are at a particular risk for isolation and bullying, he said. "These kids internalize it," Black said, "because they don't have identifiable people they can turn to for support."
Shannon Muchmore 581-8378
What: Diversity Youth Leadership Network SummitWhen: 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Youth Services of Tulsa Youth Activity Center, 311 S. Madison Ave.For more: 582-0061 or www.tulsaworld.com/dyln