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Cassie Benton

Health Initiatives for Youth (HIFY) - www.hify.org

Q. What is HIFY and what exactly is the LGBTQ middle school initiative?

Health Initiatives for Youth (HIFY) is a nonprofit organization rooted in Youth Development and Anti- Oppression. We are currently working with Aptos, James Denman, and Presidio middle schools on the LGBTQQ Leadership and Allyship initiative. Every student goes through a series of health workshops that include but are not limited to: LGBTQ terms and definitions, understanding gender expectations, oppression, queerphobia, bullying, allyship, healthy relationships and the difference of assigned sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

Diversity Clubs were also held during lunchtime at those middle schools. The Diversity Club is a place where ALL youth, both LGBTQ and allies, are welcomed to talk openly about their life experiences, meet LGBTQ guest speakers, learn about self-advocacy, communication, and work together as teams on digital media projects.

Q. What are you doing to create a safer school community for LGBTQ students?

HIFY aims to create a school culture that promotes acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and questioning (LGBTQIQ) youth. We reach out to schools to the entire student population to educate about the importance of being allies and understanding oppression. HIFY also supports the adult staff in best approaches for addressing in class homophobia and creating safe spaces.

Q. What are some student/school reactions to the work you’ve done?

“I am an ally because I believe that all humans have to have the same rights no matter what. I don’t think it matters if you are a gay or lesbian or straight or whatever. We are all people, we all have feelings, and we all deserve to be treated the same… I support everyone.” - 7th grade health student

“MANY MANY students knew the acronym perfectly, with several challenging me to further my understanding by saying that the acronym [LGBTQ] was missing an IQ at the end. When I asked where they had learned all this information, they said through their PE class during the HIFY program.” - Presidio School Social Worker

Q. What would you like to do better this year?

We would like to have the Diversity Club students plan school wide events to showcase what they have learned and promote why being an ally is so important.

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