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.
GSA Link Co-Founder/Treasure
Ryan Clark is the co-founder and secretary of GSA Link. He is currently a senior at Algonquin Regional High School and looking forward to a studying biology in his college years. Ryan is an active supporter, advocate, and speaker for the LGBTQ+ community. In his free time he enjoys competitive ski racing, art, and plays a variety of instruments.
Michelle Sordillo RN, BSN
Michelle is an Oncology nurse with her BSN in nursing. She is a dedicated advocate for LGBTQ+ youth. After witnessing the impact GSA Link has made on her transgender nephew and local LGBTQ+ youth she knew she wanted to do what she could to support and be a part of it.
Elijah Cohen- Gordon is an undergraduate student at Clark University studying history and education. He is a queer transgender man who began his medical transition at fourteen years old, and has since advocated for transgender youth's rights. Elijah is very involved with Jewish life on campus, and also serves as President at Clark's Hillel. His passions include writing, reading, proper queer representation in media, and helping others. In his free time, Elijah likes cuddling his beagle puppy and listening to Taylor Swift.
Emma has lived in Worcester & attended Clark University for the past five years, where she started out as a Biochemistry major but fell in love with Sociology her junior year. She graduated last Spring and is now in a Masters of Public Administration program, where she hopes to learn how to dismantle systems of oppression from the inside. Emma is queer and a Sagittarius, she loves to do puzzles and read science fiction, and is mildly nocturnal. Her favorite quarantine coping strategies are holding solo dance parties, video-chatting with friends, and asking her dad to send pictures of their border-collie puppy Scout. Most of all, she is super excited to be a part of GSA Link, get to know all of you better, and support you however she can!
Jaclyn is our Development Associate focused on the financial development of GSA Link so that we can continue and grow our current programming. Currently, she is graduating in May 2021 from Suffolk University with a Bachelor’s in Government and has previous experience working in multiple non-profits and political campaigns. She is very excited to be part of the team and is looking forward to helping GSA Link provide our members with a community she wishes she had growing up.
Melinda has a passion for creating a world in which everyone can feel comfortable to be themselves. She is a special education professional, certified crisis counselor, and a member of her town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Collaborative. In each of these roles, Melinda strives to empower each and every individual to see the beauty and strengths in themselves and to live their lives authentically. In her spare time, Melinda loves to travel with her husband and daughter.