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Local high school GSA sees increase in membership
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Local high school GSA sees increase in membership

by James Whitely - SGN Contributing Writer

Sarah Brandenstein is no stranger to the workings of how to effectively organize for LGBT rights, education and community on a high school campus. From coming out as a freshman to being approached by the seniors for help in starting her high school's GSA back when she was a sophomore, she has an invigorating passion for organizing that seems to get noticed by those around her.

A senior now, president of her Woodinville High School GSA and one of last year's honorees for the Washington State Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's "Most Inspirational GSA Member" award, Brandenstein has left an indelible mark on her high school that won't be soon forgotten as she passes on the torch to a younger student upon graduation this year.

The Woodinville High School GSA has seen a large increase in membership already, even though it's still early in the school year. Going from having five active members for the past two years, the GSA now has 23-24 active members that regularly attend weekly meetings.

With the increased support from not only the staff, but the student body as well, the GSA members of Woodinville High School have been able to organize for the Seattle AIDS Walk and LGBT Equality Weekend, as well as work on organizing social events with other GSAs in the area - all on top of their own on-campus organizing.

But it wasn't always this easy. The beginnings were, as Brandenstein puts it, "rocky."

"The GSA started two years ago when I was a sophomore. It grew out of Falcons Against Discrimination Everywhere. & I was one of the leaders in that, and two seniors asked me if I would help them make a GSA," Brandenstein told SGN.

So they began putting flyers up around their school. "By the end of the first day, every single one had been torn down or written on," said Brandenstein. "We didn't have many students coming [to meetings]. We had five members, two of which were Gay."

Membership was stagnant for both years. "A lot of the Gay kids, even if they were out, didn't want to be in GSA & and straight people didn't want to be thought of as Gay," Brandenstein told SGN.

The GSA didn't really have a lot of support from the staff, either. "Our first year, they didn't let us do the day of silence," said Brandenstein. "Last year, we held a conference with the administration. We gave them a presentation on the day of silence asking for their support. They let us have it, and about 40 kids participated."

This year, the GSA seems to have full support from the administration, and a recent meeting drew 34 students. On top of trying to organize getting an American Civil Liberties Union speaker to come to her school, Brandenstein is working with the GSA president from Inglemoor High School to better integrate local GSAs and plan social and educational events with other GSAs in the area.

They are planning a spring social, which would entail brainstorming, workshops, and bringing in local speakers from the community.

Brandenstein is the only student who's been in the GSA at Woodinville High for all three years of its existence.

"I came out in ninth grade. I'm probably a Lesbian, but I'm not sure yet. I didn't know any other Gay kids at all then. I really wanted to start a GSA at my junior high, but they told me to wait until high school," Brandenstein told SGN.

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