GSA LINK THEORY OF CHANGE
Schools can be sources of intense stress for any kid, but for LGBTQ+ youth, this may be heightened due to bias-based bullying and harassment. Alongside feelings of isolation and internalized negative feelings, academic performance and skill development can also be negatively impacted. GSA’s help to develop safer and more inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth at schools, lowering reports of feeling unsafe or hearing homophobic/transphobic remarks. Not only does having a GSA show LGBTQ+ youth that they are valued and important, but they also show heterosexual and cisgender peers and faculty that we exist and matter.
GSA Link seeks to extend these benefits by connecting GSA’s across schools, bringing together young people who may then build an even larger and deeper network of support. We seek to create a space separate from their schools where LGBTQ+ youth can meet, have fun, and talk about issues that are important to them. Having this other space is crucial in that it acts as a resource for kids to gather, be themselves, and share their stories so they know that wherever they go, they will never be alone. This space is supported by adults, but the youth really steer the program by supporting and empowering each other.
We will know that we have succeeded in our mission each time we see the youth involved in our programs make a new friend, try out an identity label for the first time, do something they are passionate about, or just simply being their authentic selves. Through providing leadership opportunities within the organization, cultivating spaces for creativity and innovation, and providing resources for youth to pursue their goals and knowledge-building, we will know we have accomplished our mission. With all that we do, we aim to ultimately continue to fight for LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity, with love and intention.
HOW WE BEGAN
Founded by Melissa Clark and her son Ryan, GSA Link is a 501c(3) organization that aims to connect, empower, and inspire LGBTQ+ youth. With LGBTQ+ youth often being subject to violence, marginalization, alienation, and rejection from a variety of sources, including their family members, peers, teachers, strangers, and the media, community is vital. With this in mind, Melissa and Ryan decided more needed to be done, and started GSA Link to become the link that connects, in an effort to help to support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth.
GSA Link connects LGBTQ+ youth to collaborate, share ideas, and build community in a safe space. Through meetings, workshops, events, education, resources, volunteer and internship opportunities, we support and empower our youth in centering their voices. We aim to create brave spaces for youth to interact with others in their own age group. This is to aid in them developing multiple networks of support, while empowering each other to be their most authentic selves.
The community and relationships built will ultimately help the youth involved in our program to better navigate challenges they may face in identity exploration, coming out, breaking down internalized messages of hate. This may also assist in developing self-advocacy skills, and in identifying their passions.
At our core, we value creating spaces where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and queer people come together as a community surrounded by people and opportunities invested in their success, growth, and identity development. Our team and members are making real, lasting change where it matters. GSA Link continues to strive to be the link that connects LGBTQ+ youth with each other, and the link between now and a better future.
To connect, empower and inspire LGBTQ+ youth.
GSA Link seeks to connect, empower, and inspire LGBTQ+ youth. Today few programs currently exist to serve this specific population. For the youth who get involved, we have a variety of programs designed to listen to and promote their voices, with peer and adult support. With every new struggle, discovery, friend, and triumph, we aim to show LGBTQ+ youth that they deserve to be their most authentic selves, and that we’re here to celebrate them through it all.
MEET THE TEAM
Melissa is the president and co-founder of GSA Link. She is also a speaker and advocate for LGBTQ+ youth. She is passionate about creating a world for LGBTQ+ to thrive, feel empowered and live their most authentic and successful lives. Melissa enjoys spending her free time with her two sons and loving husband.