New Haven Public Schools Sponsors First LGBTQ Youth Summit

City of New Haven LGBTQ Youth Task Force | May 3rd, 2024

New Haven Public Schools Sponsors First LGBTQ Youth Summit

Citizen Contributions  |  Culture & Community  |  Education & Youth  |  LGBTQ  |  Arts & Culture  |  New Haven Pride Center  |  New Haven Schools


Fana Hickinson Photos. 

The following citizen contribution was submitted by the City of New Haven LGBTQ Youth Task Force.

This past week, New Haven Public Schools sponsored the first annual GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) Summit, in partnership with the New Haven Pride Center and the City of New Haven LGBTQ Youth Task Force. This gathering, held at the new aboveground location of the New Haven Pride Center at 50 Orange St., brought together over 80 young people across New Haven high schools to learn, dance, and celebrate. 

Back in the fall, representatives of the City of New Haven LGBTQ Youth Task Force David Weinreb and Erin Michaud presented at a November Board of Alders Education Committee workshop, recommending a variety of next steps for NHPS including public visible support for LGBTQ youth and investment in GSAs (see full list of recommendations here). 

Superintendent Dr. Madeline Negrón came to visit the Pride Center in December, and soon after New Haven Academy Magnet Resource Teacher Fana Hickinson began stewarding the volunteer planning committee, including Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School art Teacher Erin Michaud, Co-Op Physical Education Teacher Catherine Malfitani, District Social-Emotional Learning Coach Mary Sullivan, and Pride Center Youth Director T’Mo Lawson-Dickerson, to plan the first Citywide GSA Summit. 


Fana Hickinson Photos.

All New Haven high schools were invited; in attendance were students from James Hillhouse High School, Wilbur Cross High School, New Haven Academy, Sound School, Metropolitan Business Academy, and Cooperative Arts & Humanities Magnet High School. 

“Students from across the NHPS community could meet others who share similar experiences; they came together to feel validated, normal, and empowered,” said Michaud. 

The joy and smiles of the students as they entered the colorfully decorated Pride Center were infectious. Most students said that they had never visited the center before; both T’Mo and Executive Director Juancarlos Soto welcomed them with open arms as well as lots of information about available resources and upcoming events. 

“The beauty and authenticity of our students was on full display,” said Hickinson. The day began with ice breakers, dancing, and snacks. Workshops titles included: "Navigating the College Search as an LGBTQ Student," "Teen Talk," "Finding Identity and Finding Community, Stress Management," and "Arts and Crafts."

Students were joined by Superintendent Negrón, Chief of Staff Michael Finlay, Executive Director of Student Services Typhanie Jackson, and District SEL Coach Monica Abbott.


Love n'Co. performs. Fana Hickinson Photos.

Love n’Co rocked out during a lunch orchestrated by Paul Bryant Hudson from Yale’s Dwight Hall. Their lead singer Lovelind works at Co-Op, and guitarist Lamar Smith is an intern at New Haven Academy. “I saw introverted students from my own school walking up to meet new people, exchange contacts, and pose for photos together,” said Michaud, who is one of the GSA advisors at Co-Op. 

Students (who chose to remain anonymous) shared that “The summit was awesome! It was great to meet other students from other New Haven schools and make connections with them. It made me feel less alone, that there are many LGBTQ kids everywhere. Sometimes being queer feels isolating, but it's great the city gave us this event to come together.”

Another said, “I felt joy and it felt like a celebration of our diversity ... the Pride Center is awesome and I’m glad I learned about the resources they have.”


“I was happy to see such a wonderfully inclusive event for our students,” said Sullivan. New Haven Public Schools and the organizers intend to make this summit an annual tradition, and hope to continue to invite more students, gather more resources to share, and participate in the public celebration of New Haven LGBTQ youth.

“There needs to be more events like this for students, including a middle school summit in the future. In addition, I think GSAs and comprehensive, inclusionary health curriculum is of the utmost importance,” said Michaud. 

“We’re grateful for this unprecedented investment and public visibility from NHPS leadership,” said Weinreb, Magnet Resource Teacher at Elm City Montessori and one of the founders of the Task Force. “And NHPS surveys and students tell us there is much more work to be done to provide for the safety, health, and wellness for our LGBTQ youth. In the year to come, we expect to see required training for staff, the launch of more middle school GSAs, and further inclusion of LGBTQ identity across curriculum. We’re thrilled to be working in partnership with NHPS leadership to move this work forward.”