Finding Pride in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Jayda is a thoughtful, well-spoken, funny teenager. She is an educator, an activist, and an advocate. She is a poster-hanging, meeting-organizing, button-making champion of the LGBTQ community and she is the student co-founder of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at the Prairie South school system in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She’s also quick to deflect praise to the bigger group, and “her people,” as she calls them.
Jayda has found pride. Quite literally.
“School wasn’t always the safest place for me,” shared Jayda, now in grade twelve at Central Collegiate High School. “Grade nine was particularly tough—you have so much going on with yourself and with all the changes that are happening. So then to add in the pressure of trying to conform to what society deems as okay, it was difficult.”
This work is so important for our schools to take on, because we can’t assume everyone feels a sense of safety or acceptance.
Bullied and vulnerable, Jayda struggled with depression and anxiety, but found comfort when she attended her first PRIDE event. “I just felt safe and supported. I found PRIDE to be my comfortable place—I felt a sense of home and I wanted others like me to have that same feeling, because not everyone gets to experience PRIDE week.”
Supported and encouraged by Prairie South teachers and administrators, Jayda and others from the LGBTQ community organized and founded the GSA. “I am so proud of these students—it takes courage to step up and create a safe space for others when you yourself are vulnerable,” said Lori Meyer, Superintendent of Prairie South school district and champion of the GSA. “This work is so important for our schools to take on, because we can’t assume everyone feels a sense of safety or acceptance.”
Now, three years into the program, approximately 30 – 40 GSA members openly attend the regular meetings and help bring awareness and inclusivity. “We welcome everyone in, whether they’re an ally or not. We’ve come so far,” says Jayda. “My classmates have been overwhelmingly positive about what we’re doing and there has been a lot of support. Some people are uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Our role is to share information.”
And share information they do. From school announcements highlighting and explaining LGBTQ terms to Sidewalk Days, flag raising ceremonies, school dances and the yearly GSA Summit in Saskatoon, Education and Awareness is an important mandate for the group.
It was because of this inclusive leadership and their commitment to awareness and education that Prairieaction Foundation was proud to present the Prairie South GSA with an inaugural Youth Leadership Award in 2017.
When asked how important support from organizations like Prairieaction Foundation is to the GSA, Jayda responded, “Incredibly important. It’s like a sign of acceptance. It reaffirms what we’re doing and pushes us to further our group. We have a long way to go, but we’re moving forward.”
Spoken with pride, like a true leader.