The after-YES booty shakin' dance, 5-8pm, (for youth only), including special drag performances by local drag troupes!
A huge range of workshops including legal rights, safer sex, gender and sexuality, how to have a kick-ass GSA, HIV/AIDS education, and much more!
COMMUNITY RESOURCE FAIR
Where youth and allies can learn about services and organizations in the community.
On Saturday, December 11th, 2010, over 450 youth activists came together to gain leadership skills and tools to fight homophobia and transphobia at Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s 7th annual Youth Empowerment Summit (YES). This year’s conference showed record-breaking attendance, as the largest YES event in GSA Network history!
Middle and high school youth activists traveled from all over Northern California, the Central Valley, and even a busload from Eugene, Oregon to Horace Mann Middle School in San Francisco, California to be a part of this dynamic activist conference.
This event, organized and led by student leaders from GSA Network’s Northern California Youth Steering Committee, was for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, and straight ally youth who are dedicated to fostering safe schools and youth activism. Sam Alavi, a sophomore at Aragon High School and Youth Council member said:
The conference was a daylong event that began with a presentation about GSA Network’s Make It Better Project , youth speaker Rochelle Hamilton, and a screening of the film Always My Son by the Family Acceptance Project .
All of the morning speakers told the audience how acceptance and student activism could make schools safer for all. Rochelle Hamilton, a former Vallejo Unified School District student, spoke about how she was harassed by teachers at her school and worked with the American Civil Liberties Union-Northern California  to sue her school district. Students were so inspired by Rochelle’s courage that they came up to her throughout the day to talk to her about her actions and acknowledge her bravery. She took little credit for her bravery, insisting any young person can stand up to bias and win.
The Family Acceptance Project  shared data on how an accepting home environment can lead to greater feelings of self-esteem among LGBTQ youth, as well as less risk of HIV, homelessness, suicide, and substance abuse. A screening of their film, Always My Son, was followed by Q&A with researcher, Caitlin Ryan and the Plata family. Youth audience members were moved to tears by watching the family’s process of acceptance with their son, and at the close of the film, the family received a standing ovation from the crowd. Inquisitive and excited, youth audience members asked the family tons of questions about their son’s life and where he was now since the making of the film.
GSA Network’s Make It Better Project  was featured through a montage of film clips that youth created on how they are making change in their schools, communities, and personal lives in regard to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Students were encouraged to be a part of the Make It Better movement by telling their stories at the conference’s storytelling and film workshops.
Overall, the conference held thirty-three workshops that students and their adult allies could attend to learn how they could make their communities and schools more respectful and inclusive of LGBTQ students. Workshops included ones led by the American Civil Liberties Union  on students’ legal rights, a domestic violence workshop led by La Casa de las Madres , and several suicide prevention workshops led by Trevor Project  and San Francisco Suicide Prevention . In the Make It Better Project workshop, youth learned how to tell their personal stories and were invited to create Make It Better videos to reach out to other LGBTQ youth. The videos were edited together and shown at the closing ceremony, where they received laughter and heartfelt responses from the audience. The conference also had three new ‘Live Social Networking’ workshops where youth from all over could chat with one another to connect their school Gay-Straight Alliances and meet new friends in the movement.
After the full day conference, youth were invited to a three-hour dance party to get down and have fun! The DJ spun hits from Lady Gaga to Madonna and Usher until the activists couldn’t shake it anymore. "Words cannot describe the energy and enthusiasm presented by each person at YES!” said Max Philp, a 17 year-old student at Menlo-Atherton High School.
With the conference’s timely focus on preventing bullying and suicide, YES received additional attention from local media. Thanks to several TV stations that showed portions of the opening speeches on the evening news, the YES conference was able to spread the message that we can make it better to a much larger audience.
Events like YES showcase how LGBTQ youth are today’s leaders in the safe schools movement. At GSA Network’s events, which include YES in San Francisco, Expression Not Suppression  in the Central Valley, Models of Pride  in L.A., GAYLA  and Queer Youth Advocacy Day  in Sacramento, the National Gathering , and dozens of leadership summits throughout the year, youth gain new skills and learn organizing tools through leadership training that they take back to their schools. GSA youth activists are using these skills to make it better for themselves and their communities.
said Amanda Harris, GSA Network’s new Northern California Program Coordinator. “I am also impressed by the level of hard work and diligence YES organizers Monica Canfield-Lenfest and Renee Bracey-Sherman put into this conference. We had the biggest YES event to date thanks in large part to their incredible leadership,” she added.