By Stephanie Liu, Staff Writer
// In a world that can be cruel to LGBT youth, Acalanes strives to make its queer students feel safe and represented. Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), Peer Ed, CARE Workshops, and the Human and Social Development (HSD) course regularly educate the student body about LGBT individuals and the hardships they face.
However, beyond representing the community in classes and diversity programs, Acalanes is attempting to provide support to the kids themselves.
The Acalanes Wellness Center and Rainbow Community Center are teaming up to bolster the mental health of queer students through Q Scouts, a weekly LGBT support group, beginning in early November. The group will meet every Friday during Academy in the Wellness Center.
Rainbow Community Center is an organization based in Concord that provides a variety of services to the LGBTQ+ community, including HIV testing and therapy.
Although the center in Concord is the main hub for Rainbow, the organization extends its involvement to schools throughout Contra Costa County in programs such as Q Scouts.
According to Rainbow Representative and Acalanes Wellness Counselor David Dalencellotti, Q Scouts involves a mix of support groups and education.
“It’s really to educate queer youth about their own history,” Dalencellotti said. “It’s also about self-care, how to learn about yourself and others…It’s really about building a strong sense of self as an
Outside of these basic goals, Q Scouts is flexible in terms of its planned activities.
“It will be a bit of both having sort of an agenda, as well as some flexibility open for the members to get everything that they need,” Wellness Counselor Allen Choi said.
The format of each meeting also varies, according to Dalencellotti.
“Sometimes we will do things as casual as watching videos or watching a movie that’s related to queer history or just anything in queer or gay culture basically,” Dalencellotti said.
Most meetings will be discussion-based standard support groups.
Above all, Q Scouts aims to create a safe space for queer students to explore themselves.
“I think that being a queer individual can be pretty isolating at times… It’s important to have a space where you can feel safe and where you can learn about yourself and your community,” Dalencellotti said.
QSA President Helen Kleinsmith further stresses the importance of having a positive environment for a young queer person’s development.
“If you have the idea that there is a place on campus where you can be safe and you can be yourself and you can express yourself, then it can really change your perspective…I think that’s really important for someone’s identity, especially if they’re struggling with it,” Kleinsmith said.
Choi also highlights the merits of a support group as opposed to a different arrangement.
“[Group support is] really powerful because those are the people that have the most common experiences to you. So to empower everyone, to help each other, when they all have their own unique experiences–that’s really much more powerful in a lot of ways,” Choi said. “It’s different talking to a super friendly adult than talking to your peers and being able to bounce off ideas of how the real world will respond to it.”
Due to the communal nature of support groups, the students who attend the meetings will be central to the tone of the meetings. However, Kleinsmith notes that some voices may not be present at the meetings due to the meeting times.
“Since the meetings take place during Academy, students may not be able to attend,” Kleinsmith said. “If you have some sort of obligation of peer tutoring, if you need to study, if you need to get some work done–I think affecting the study hall time isn’t a good idea.”
Regardless, Q Scouts seeks to include as many voices as possible. Due to its anonymity, students who aren’t out at school or who fear stigmatization from association with an LGBTQ+ organization can be comfortable attending the group.
“It would be awesome to have a diverse group. So I’d encourage anyone who’s curious about it to come,” Dalencellotti said.
Most of all, the counselors emphasize that the group’s focus is on the students and their growth.
“I think those are my hopes and goals for this, just to create a space for students on campus… where we can process our experiences,” Dalencellotti said.