We estimate that there have been approximately 160 individual participants in our School’s Out Programme in 2011/2012. However this does not include class visits or assembly talks which could exceed 500.
In addition to the two part-time paid staff (working 15 hours a week each) there are nine facilitator volunteers who help manager School’s Out.
The employment of two part time staff has improved the consistency and responsiveness of the program, while keeping the positive elements of the team decision-making structure of volunteers. We have been able to do a lot more to promote, expand and improve the service thanks to the employment of Kassie and George.
We’ve had regular meetings during school terms in Wellington Central and Kapiti for the entire year, and weekly meetings in the Hutt Valley since April 2012. We have seen groups at central meetings of between 7 and 20 young people. In addition, we’ve seen a regular meeting of 8-12 people at the Hutt meetings, and a smaller group every week in Kapiti of between 3 and 7 people.
A lot of the achievements we’ve made aren’t about numbers though, they’re about making a noticeable difference to people’s lives. We’ve supported many young people on an individual level, whether through providing them with advice or someone to talk to, creating forums for discussion for queer and trans issues in their lives, and advocating for them where appropriate.
Regular discussions on topics reflect the diversity and positivity of the group. They include coming out, family, safe sex, drugs and alcohol, drag workshop, depression, self harm and suicude, gender identity, sexuality spectrum, consent and boundaries, religion, relationships.
School’s Out did a lot to promote the group including a mail out to school principals and counsellors in April and printing posters to distribute in schools.
We networked with other queer youth services across the country to share issues and give feedback and work together on common tasks and issues. In particular we were involved in the Cross Country videolink conversations that were held nationally, and participated in discussions about QSA Network Aotearoa, and we are working with Rainbow Youth to further the education programme.
In October 2011 School’s Out started an 18-25yo social group going which met fortnightly and held events in the school holidays such as a Central Park picnic and DVD days, games days, and in the Christmas/New Year period School’s Out took 16 people to Vinegar Hill to camp in the Manawatu.
Here is some direct feedback from the youth:
“Thanks for camp! It was great fun (even with the rain)”;
“It was just awesome to hangout and bond with everyone from School’s Out- I feel like we are a family now.”
We had a presence at Out in the Square early in 2012 with youth putting out flyers. Some of our youth got interviewed by One News and appeared on a segment of the news about Out in the Square.
School’s Out was invited by the Governor General, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae, to a Waitangi Day reception at Government house.
In summary, WGWG fulfilled its intention to employ staff to take on leadership roles for School’s Out and this has greatly increased the consistency and furtherance of the program.
We have increased the quality of our training for community and school leaders and staff support as well as continuing to offer education programmes for students.
We have clearer strategies to counter homophobic bullying in the region and how to best work with schools to further this goal.
We continue to value and engage with our volunteers, managing their involvement, and staff have worked with volunteers to offer training and support that has increased the quality of the groups and the investment from individuals.
We have networked not only with queer youth organisations but have developed strong working partnerships with youth health services in the Wellington region and are engaging a wide sector of the community services network in the region.
We are particularly grateful to our financial sponsors who have made employment of our staff possible – especially the Winton & Margaret Bear Charitable Trust, the Wellington City Council, Gayline Wellington Trust, and the Lotteries Commission.
In the coming year we plan to introduce more education programs in schools, continue to build our youth groups, strengthen our presence in the regions, get more facilitators involved, re-launch our Kapiti group, link into national campaigns such as Pink Shirt Day, maintain links to youth agencies and queer networks regionally and nationally, plan a regional hui for queer youth, and generally have a lot of fun.