When a global pandemic requires us to distance from each other, it’s critical to do our best to stay connected. Especially with those who are young and in need of community support.
That’s why Out In Schools, an award-winning education program, hasn’t let the pandemic stop the important work they do and the vital group discussions they host in schools across the province to engage students on issues of homophobia, transphobia and bullying. We talked with Program Manager Gavin Somers to learn more about the work they do and how they’ve shifted gears to make sure they stay connected with youth even when schools are closed as a result of COVID-19.
What is Out In Schools?
Out In Schools is one of two programs delivered by Out On Screen, a non-profit based in Vancouver B.C. They are an education-focused program that uses film and video with facilitated group discussion to engage students on issues of homophobia, transphobia and bullying. The team works closely with governments, school districts, professionals, associations and corporations to ensure that everyone has access to their dynamic presentations.
What began as a small local initiative to engage young folks in queer film grew to reach some of the most remote rural areas of this province to deliver programming that continues to uplift LGBT2Q+ communities. In its 16 years, Out in Schools has proudly presented to over 100,000 youth so far.
“In the five years of doing this work, I’ve had countless numbers of young queer, trans and questioning young people come up after a presentation with tears in their eyes, just so incredibly grateful to have access the kinds of stories that Out In Schools facilitators share through film, and their own lived experiences,” said Gavin.
Adapting to these new circumstances
Right now Out In Schools should be busy touring communities across the province. However, due to COVID-19, they’ve had to adjust how they deliver presentations and have opened the digital doors to students and educators.
“Like all organizations, we couldn’t predict the impact of COVID-19 on our programs but started planning for multiple scenarios to ensure we could still deliver Out In Schools to youth and educators,” said Gavin.
And so, Out In Schools expanded their program offerings for educators to include:
- Online educator and youth webinars
- Pre and post-presentation activities, lesson plans, and our online video library for educators
- Programming specific to youth in GSA/SOGI clubs.
And although shifting to an online model means reaching fewer students at a time, to honour the capacity it takes to create a safer space for students to engage thoughtfully and critically, their new offerings have opened digital doors, making it possible for them to now reach beyond B.C., supporting even more teachers and students than before.
When it is safe to do so, they look forward to giving in-person presentations as well as keeping their expanded online offerings.
As a result of COVID-19, this year’s Vancouver’s Pride celebrations will look a little different. Out In Schools is working with their friends and collaborators at the Pride Society in new and interesting ways. They’re also supporting their sister program, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, which happens every August after Pride. This year VQFF will be hosting a fully digital festival from August 13 to 23. Check out queerfilmfestival.com for more information.
Help keep Out in Schools in schools
The majority of Out in Schools’ funding comes from individual donors, foundations, corporate supporters like Coast Capital, and the government. If you’d like to support Out In Schools by donating, please visit outonscreen.com/donate.