The GSA club: fighting for equality


The GSA club at Maine leadership academy aims to create a safe place for LGBTQIA+ students as well as straight allies who believe in equality for all. In this club, Ms. Nieves wishes to make students feel seen and open at school and to then in that way, encourage other students to be their most authentic selves and also be who they are. In a conversation with Ms.Nieves, we were able to get information on the GSA club.

These kids really wanna focus on our building and the culture of our building.”

— Ms. Nieves

MLA News: What is the GSA club?

Ms. Nieves: The GSA club (Gay straight alliance.) is a club made to make students feel safe in school and make them feel more comfortable being who they are. It stands for the gay-straight alliance club.

MLA News: Who else is involved in leading this club?

Ms. Nieves: Ms. Ricker, this year is handling the high school GSA club during the 5th period because this year we don’t have advisory. I used to do both high school and middle school at the same time during those times. Unfortunately, they won’t let me do that this year.

MLA News: Are there many kids who are involved?

Ms. Nieves: We’re starting again. We just started a few weeks back and we are back to getting back out there. Last year we had a whole bunch of students (middle school and high school) and we ended off the year with a pride month celebration with about 125 students who came and participated, it was awesome.

MLA News: What goes on in the club meetings? What activities do you guys do, what do you guys talk about, etc.?

Ms. Nieves:  The main focus of the club has been to work on changing the climate of our school to promote more inclusiveness and not excluding students and this has been sort of the focus. It is more of a social group. Right now for the holidays, the GSA will be putting together during the next community day, instead of stockings, we bought a hundred drawstring bags like the ones you use for pt and we are gonna be making homeless bags for the homeless. We are gonna gift wrap them, we got the socks, hats, and gloves, and then we’ll put candy and candy canes and decorate them. Then we’re gonna find an organization that helps with the homeless and we are gonna hand those out. That and then the next event we have been purchasing stuff for have been for the end-of-the-year dance, and the pride month celebration as well.

MLA News: When do your meetings take place?

Ms. Nieves: Ideally we like to meet every other Tuesday but because of schedule changes and meetings, sometimes we get a snag in that. During that time, we are gonna be making pins on Tuesdays, during 4th period or 5th period for high school. 

MLA News: Is there a reason your club takes place during the school day instead of after school?

Ms. Nieves: Yep. Because during afterschool you have to have permission from their parents. Again you don’t have to be gay to be a part of the GSA club, there are a lot of GSA clubs that are supportive of the LGBT community. The problem is that in order to have it after school kids need permission and some kids aren’t out with their families, some kids will also feel their parents will take it the wrong way even if they are not gay. They just will misconstrue and not be supportive of them being in the club. So, during the day we don’t need permission from parents. I’ve struggled with administration, unfortunately. Even though they are supportive, it’s been like pulling teeth trying to get them to let me have it during the day so I have it during my lunch period. That’s the reality unfortunately still. 

MLA News: What does the GSA club mean to you as a mentor?

Ms. Nieves: It means a lot cause I’m a lesbian, I’m married so I have a wife for over 20 years, and I have a son who I gave birth to and did artificial insemination. I used to have a non-profit organization where I used to do a lot of fundraising for homeless LGBTQ+ students. So I’ve been involved in the community for many years. I was on the Illinois committee to bring same-sex marriage to Illinois, I was in that initial committee. So I’ve been really active in the community, you know for myself and the community and sports and I’ve been working with youth my whole life, I’ve been teaching for almost 30 years. I just think it’s important for kids to have a safe space, it doesn’t have to be gay-oriented it has to be all-inclusive, it should not matter. That’s the atmosphere we want to impose here at this school. 

I just think it’s important for kids to have a safe space, it doesn’t have to be gay-oriented, it has to be all-inclusive, it should not matter.”

— Ms. Nieves

MLA News: What are your goals for the GSA club?

Ms. Nieves: My goal this year again is really to work on the whole anti-bullying, if we’re more visible, this is my theory, if we’re more visible and we do more activities then kids start to be less making fun of others kids, or their gender, or their identities, they’re differences it shouldn’t matter. That’s the theme we want, the social, emotional theme. They (the club) chose to do that. Some GSA’s are politically involved and so they go to rallies and stuff like that, these kids really wanna focus on our building and the culture of our building.

MLA News: Any last comments you would like to say to the audience reading the article?

Ms. Nieves: I just think it’s important forall staff members to be supportive, whether it’s a GSA, whether it’s just any students, and showing that in their classrooms. I mean I certainly put things in my classroom. Things like “hate have no home here”, I have the flag on the door outside, I’m very open and I think the staff needs to be able to be open about understanding that everyone has to have a place they feel safe at. Classrooms, teachers, whatever it is, they just have to feel like this is our home, this is our space, and that’s important. 


If you or anyone you know would like to be a member of the GSA club please feel free to email Ms. Nieves or Ms. Ricker for more information.    

Middle school GSA: [email protected]

High School GSA: [email protected]