Monroe Township High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, as well as the Peace Ambassadors, were honored with the No Place For Hate award on May 21 due to the efforts made by both clubs to make MTHS a more accepting school.
Club advisors and school guidance counselors Ms. Doreen Mullarney and Ms. Cathy Ielpi worked with students of the GSA and PA since early September in order to plan and create fundraisers and activities to spread awareness of LGBT+ struggles and bring overall acceptance and peace to MTHS.
During the 2014-2015 school year, a welcoming committee for new students was put into place so that members of the PA could give tours and offer a helping hand to those who may be lost in such a large and new environment. The PA also had guest speaker, actor, and child physiatrist Mykee Fowlin come to the school to perform an assembly on acceptance for the freshmen class. The GSA participated in Ally Week, as well the New York AIDS walk, and created a general safe space for LGBT+ students of MTHS.
This did not go unnoticed by the Anti-Defamation League, and our school was nominated for the title of No Place For Hate, a banner for the commons, and scholarships for those who participated. After giving the designated amount of speeches to our classes and getting more than the required amount of signatures for the Ally Pledge, MTHS became eligible to attend the award ceremony in New York City.
“The members of the Peace Ambassadors Club have given me further insight on how one student can change another student’s life in the most beautiful way by offering themselves as sources of both positivity and friendship. They collectively helped spread word of the power of human kindness by simply radiating their own auras of kindness in school, such as when they introduce themselves to a student in need of company and comfort or when personally welcoming new students into our family of Falcons,” said senior Jason Aquino.
Ms. Mullarney and Ms. Ielpi selected five to seven representatives from each club to accompany them to the city in order the accept the award. At the ceremony, the ADL honored “MVPs” of No Place For Hate, which included teachers and students who had done exceptionally well, independent activists, and in one case, a celebrity.
Lady Gaga was nominated and won the “Making a Change” award due to her overwhelming support for LGBT+ youth and outspoken activism in both her music and in general. While Gaga was not able to attend the ceremony herself, she left a video message for the participants to let them all know how inspiring their dedication was to her.
“Being at a conference like No Place For Hate, and being one of the Gold star winners, was such an honor. I was surrounded by people my age who thought the same way I did and who wanted to make a change in the world. That whole room just felt so positive and made me think that we could actually make a difference. This was only the New York/New Jersey area. Imagine the difference if entire schools across the nation felt as positive as that room,” said senior Matthew Aquino.
The Gay-Straight Alliance and Peace Ambassadors hope to continue their work to keep MTHS a safe and loving place for all, but we cannot do it alone. If you want to promote peace, identify as either an ally or a part of the LBGT+ community, or just wish to make MTHS a better place, please join us for the 2015-2016 school year! We’d love to have you!
How has the GSA/PA changed your life as a student, if at all? What do you think the title of No Place For Hate will do for our community? Tell us in the comments below!