January 2, 2017 8:04 pm

Get REAL program aims to help LGBTQ students, allies use power of personal stories

WATCH ABOVE: Get REAL, a youth-driven, non-profit organization, runs inclusivity workshops at the high school and middle school level with a focus on eliminating LGBTQ discrimination and bullying.

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It’s a new year and for one youth-driven organization says it’s time to Get REAL.

Founded by university students in 2011, Get REAL focuses on LGBTQ students and their allies to voice their stories. The organization strives to utilize the power of personal stories and aims to breakdown prejudice, promote unity and foster compassion.

“We run inclusivity workshops in middle schools and high schools that combat discrimination and work to provide an inclusive environment for all students,” Get REAL’s executive vice-president Marley Bowen said.

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The workshops are becoming increasingly important, especially in today’s school environment. Bowen said judging by the feedback she hears from students, the need for these workshops is there.

“They’re worried about their future. They’re worried about fitting in. They’re worried about their appearance, who they like, who they are dating. I think that’s a huge part of it … feeling like they want to find a place – a place they belong,” she said.

By hearing lived experiences, students walk away from these workshops with a better understanding — whether they identify as LGBTQ or not — of what it’s like to be affected by such things as bullying and discrimination.

“I came out as gay after high school,” Bowen said. “Looking back on my experience, I think that… it wasn’t an environment that I felt comfortable coming out in. And if that environment would have been created when I was in high school, I think things would have been a lot different for me.”

Luke Martin, a grade 7/8 teacher at Glen Ames Senior Public School, said he has arranged for the workshops to be held at his school for several years. He said organizations like Get REAL play a vital role in shining a light on issues faced by students that are often hidden or buried.

“I think that omission can be an unintentional form of oppression sometimes,” Martin said.

“If you don’t talk about issues, students don’t get used to them. So I wanted an organization like Get REAL to come out and talk to the students on their level.”

Click here to learn more about Get REAL.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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