Rainbow Formal WV
A Peacemaking Project by Megan Y.
What is the injustice we are solving?
In southern West Virginia, there is a prominent population of LGBTQ+ youth that are growing up without community. According to the Human Rights Campaign, forty-two percent of queer youth live in areas that aren’t accepting of them because of their gender or sexuality. These teens are two times more likely to be physically assaulted than others their age. As many as 92% of LGBTQ+ teens hear negative messages about their identities in their daily lives. These problems cannot be swept under the rug any longer, and the teenage activists of Rainbow Formal WV believe they can help fix them. To address these concerns, a group of high school students have united to organize a Rainbow Formal for LGBTQ+ teenagers. We feel that by giving kids who may not feel they have a place to be themselves an opportunity to live without fear and socialize with others like them, they will in turn foster that community of acceptance within their own high schools.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of discrimination and bullying of LGBTQ+ students
we will address the systemic way in which LGBTQ+ youth are ostracized from normal high school activities like prom
by planning a formal dance in which LGBTQ+ high school students can come together and foster a community of acceptance without the influence of bullies
Our Project Plan:
- Have a successful Rainbow Formal WV with at least 200 students in attendance
- Leave at least $1,000 for Rainbow Formal WV 2019 by August 2018
We will increase my / our compassion by...
making this dance accessible to as many LGBTQ+ students as possible and opening the doors to allies of the community. This will allow for many people to attend even if they aren't open about their gender or sexuality with their families.
How will you show courage?
We will show courage by advertising this event on our social media accounts where others can see. We will also sell tickets in our schools and make ourselves known for being proudly LGBTQ+ in a region where it is not accepted.
How will you collaborate with others?
We will collaborate with others by making social media accounts to get the word out about Rainbow Formal WV. We will also have a group chat for members of the planning committee as well as a shared Google Drive folder for all important documents and meeting notes. Finally, we will have weekly meetings discussing the ins and outs of the Formal and our progress.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
We will know we are moving in the right direction by setting goals with deadlines. If these goals are reached ahead of schedule, like raising $1,000 in two weeks instead of one month, then we will know we are moving in the right direction. However, if the opposite is true and we don't raise $1,000 in one month, then we will know to reevaluate our goals.
- Raise funds
- Recruit chaperones
- Book a venue
- Hire a DJ
- Hire a caterer
- Buy decorations
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
The planning committee for Rainbow Formal WV is made up of students from eight high schools across West Virginia, so when we asked each student to advertise in his/her area, we knew the responses would be varied. In some schools, it is an offense to say something unkind about the event, but in others, it is the norm. That perception of the LGBTQ+ community is reflective of the atmosphere across the nation: loved by some, but not by all. However, the support from the community that we had represented in chaperones and information tables showed that there is a group fighting back against the injustice that we have faced, and we know that the good will prevail.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
In southern West Virginia, the atmosphere has never been very accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, but over the past few months of advertising the event, we have seen change taking place before our eyes. The rhetoric in the hallways at school shifted from weary to warm. The faces of students as they sign up for tickets showed that the effort we made was worth it. As so many adult chaperones came together to experience the welcoming event that we created, we saw what it meant to them. Many were also members of the LGBTQ+ community and had never been able to be open in their youth. By seeing the happiness and vigor of a new generation, we believe we have inspired them and given them hope for a future where kids don't need to come out.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
We had roughly 100 student attendees, 30 adult chaperones, and 15 people at our information tables; these people, we impacted directly. However, by advertising the event and showing LGBTQ+ teens that they aren't some type of abomination, we impacted countless more.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
The team itself is made up of people who are directly affected by the injustice of homophobia. However, to learn more about it, we discussed different situations of bullying at a round-table meeting early on in our planning process.
What did your team learn?
My team learned how to plan a large-scale event in a short period of time. Over the past six months, we became top-tier party planners. We developed great interpersonal skills and began to understand outreach on a new level. We also learned that when faced with positivity, love, and kindness homophobia flounders.
What challenges did your team overcome?
The team was faced with many challenges when planning the event. The most difficult one was with the venue. We booked a room at a local university, but after the initial booking, all communication with the individuals in charge ceased. No matter how often we called, emailed, and left messages, we didn't receive a response. Then, once we finally worked everything out, the venue itself was still unsatisfactory. One of the bathrooms did not have any toilet paper and there were no maintenance staff available to help us. However, our wonderful chaperones took care of the malfunctions, and we had a successful event in the end.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
The planning committee itself is made up of 8 seniors in high school and 4 juniors. As we continue to have meetings over the summer, we hope to continue recruiting younger members into the group to keep the event going. We also involved adult chaperones in the project by asking them to help in keeping the event safe and efficient.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
To anyone starting a peacemaking project, my advice is to reach out to those who are already in positions of power and see if they will support your efforts going forward. Having the support of organizations whose values align with yours is crucial to the success and longevity of a project like Rainbow Formal WV.