Updated: May 17
by Kathryn Odgers
Students often forget snacks or don’t have the money to buy outfits for our ‘Professional Dress Mondays' which can be both financial and schedule struggles for many students on campus. The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA Club) has taken the initiative to make our school community better by creating the first ever Pride Pantry, a community service effort to help students on a day to day basis.
Club advisor and teacher Karen Urrutia Polnitz has been in charge of the club for the past several years, last year taking the GLSEN movement where students write positive things about themselves and hung it up on her classroom door and interior walls. Her recent return back to Minarets has set the club back into motion and with increasing interest, such as student president and junior Jaxx Gorans, who intends to improve the community through community efforts like the Pride Pantry. “A lot of students don't really know who we are or what we do and we're really just about creating positivity on campus and creating more opportunities for all students. And so that might be as simple as I need a granola bar today. Being able to meet that need of students in a very basic way is, I think, something that GSA wanted to do in order to just support others on campus.” says Mrs. UP.
In the past few years, the club has always created a safe space for all students whether it was once a week in her classroom, a place for people to hang out or even share things in a more comfortable environment. “I think this is one of the first times that we're really trying to do something concrete and specific and really make it something that is accessible” says Mrs. UP, “ It really is something that all students can benefit from. And a very simple way, isn't it's that it's a small thing, but has a huge impact”. The GSA Club has already made a huge impact on the school’s community and culture and right in Mrs. UP’s very own classroom. “Students will leave and say “Maybe I didn't like this from my lunch today” and so they'll leave it in our pantry area, and then I'll see somebody snacking on it later” she remarked, “And I think that's really cool because somebody just left something that they weren’t interested in, but then it met a need for another student. It's a really visceral way to see how we can be helping each other”.
Maintaining the pantry is based on the efforts of the club, but are welcome to any financial, clothes, or snack donations to continue sharing with students. Mrs. UP has been trying to organize ways to get supplies and get donations for the Club’s communicative efforts, saying, “We have been receiving donations and then we're also receiving financial donations. So then we can put those into our fund and then whether we go out and buy and get reimbursed or get some petty cash to go out and buy supplies”.
Currently the club is hoping to expand to provide different hygiene supplies, feminine products, and other supplies for students who are in need of it at school. It’s important to remind students and adults that not all students have access to these kinds of supplies and it’s helpful for students who can’t afford or have access to it. “A lot of times for students it’s just like, “I need something to eat or I need a snack” and so I would love and welcome as many people to get involved as I want to. And whether that's donating an article of clothing that they're not interested in wearing anymore or they have something extra in their lunch that they're not going to eat and they want to share that with somebody else and dropping that off so somebody else can” Mrs. UP said.
The Pride Pantry is available anytime in Mrs. UP’s classroom, room 610, where there are snacks and clothes available to all students for free. Anyone is welcome at the GSA Club and are invited to hang out and have a safe space to talk to those who are interested. “We want to share that space with anybody who is interested. Even if you just have questions, you're like, what is Gay-Straight Alliance? What does that mean? And what it means is just that no matter your sexual orientation or your gender identity, we all have a place here as Mustang's and we just want to celebrate that and acknowledge that. And in the spirit of doing so, you know, I love the idea of like everybody being welcome at the table”, Mrs. UP said, “And I think food is such a great way to come together. And so, you know. Come on, by for a snack and we'll feed you!” GSA Club meets every Friday in room 610 during lunch and is welcome to anyone interested in learning or experiencing this positive and safe cultural space.
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