OK2BU Stories

Youth Story: Giselle

My experience here has taught me that even I, as a high school student, can have a positive impact on the city and the lives of others.

In 2012, I had a really bad year at school.  It was my 9thgrade year and I had just started at a new high school.  I had come out as a lesbian in middle school, and now I had to come out to all new people at my high school.  Also, I have a learning difference and I was worried that I would stand out. Throughout the entire year, people teased and bullied me about being a lesbian and my learning difference.  I had not experienced anything like this before, as my parents are very accepting of my sexual orientation.  I was worried that all four years of high school were going to be difficult.

At the end of my 9thgrade year, one of my teachers told me that there was a summer work program at The Attic specifically for LGBTQ youth like myself.  I was thrilled.  I signed up and began coming to The Attic in July.  For the entire summer, I worked with a group of other high school students, both LGBTQ and allies, on a service learning project to create a toolkit for teachers to use to make their classrooms safer and accepting.  I got to work specifically on the videos and posters that are part of the toolkit.  I had an amazing experience.  Everyone at The Attic was so warm, open, and inviting. They didn’t make fun of me for my differences.  At the end of the summer, I knew that The Attic was a place that I wanted to get involved in beyond the summer.

This past fall, I became even more active in the programs at The Attic.  I go to The Attic’s creative writing group and lesbian group.  Also, I am currently part of The Attic’s first school year internship program, where I am working with The Bryson Institute to train teachers in the Philadelphia School District on how to support LGBTQ youth in school.  Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to the new superintendent!  I shared with him my experience being bullied at school and discussed how we can work together to make classrooms more supportive.

Over the last six months, I have met so many awesome people at The Attic.  But I have learned that many are not as fortunate as me- many do not have parents that accept their sexual orientation.  I have talked to my mom a lot about this.  It makes me so sad that some of my friends can’t be themselves when they are with their families.  My mom agreed to help The Attic start a parent support group, and is currently working with a therapist at The Attic to make this happen.  I really want other parents to know that nothing is wrong with their child if they identify as LGBTQ.

I am so excited that I found The Attic when I did so I can be involved over the upcoming years.  My experience here has taught me that even I, as a high school student, can have a positive impact on the city and the lives of others.  I am inspired now to go to college for social work, so that I can continue to help others in the future.