COLUMBIA- The Columbia School Board approved the third-party grant awarded to the Rock Bridge High School Gay Straight Alliance for its clothing closet project during the board’s regular session Monday night.
The $10,000 grant was awarded by the It Gets Better Project as part of its school-based grant initiative “50 States. 50 Grants. 5,000 voices.”
“What’s special about this particular initiative is that all of the proposals that we received were initiated by LGBTQ+ students or their allies–in partnership with educators and school administrators,” Brian Wenke, executive director of the It Gets Better Project, said. “And the whole goal of this effort is to put power back in the hands of LGBTQ+ youth who, on a daily basis are having their confidence stripped away from them.”
The Coming Out of the Closet In Style Clothing Closet will allow students to change into clothes in which they can express themselves, according to previous Missourian reporting.
“Having something like a gender affirming closet at a school is is a way for the adults in the room to say, ‘hey, we support you during this very tumultuous time of adolescence.'” Wenke said. “And, you know, everyone who’s a teenager is having some challenges, figuring out who they are, what they want to be when they grow up. And LGBTQ plus people have a harder go of it.”
According to previous KOMU 8 News reporting, GSA members plan to break down the $10,000 funding among different closet items. The proposed budget includes:
- $4,000 for clothing,
- $2,500 for shoes and accessories,
- $1,500 for inner wear such as binders, bras and underwear,
- $1,000 for furnishings in the physical closet space,
- $500 for makeup,
- $500 for inventory and bookkeeping material.
“High school-aged youth are just getting to the point in their life where they’re discovering themselves, and figuring out who they are as individuals,” Cameron Nielsen, a board of director for The Center Project in Columbia, said. “And so having access to gender affirming clothing, and just clothing in general to express express who they’re becoming is just incredibly vital.”
The Center Project has a gender affirming closet that is similar to what Rock Bridge will have.
“They’re starting similar to what we have here at the Center Project, a gender affirming closet. And that will be open to all students,” Nielsen said.
The Center Project’s closet is open to all ages.
“There is just such a beautiful thing in being able to choose clothing that best represents who we who we feel we are inside…It’s an incredibly personal experience to share what we how we see ourselves and to reflect that to the world. And it’s just incredibly rewarding,” Nielsen said.
The It Gets Better Project will implement a second round of the “50 States. 50 Grants. 5,000 Voices” grant for the 2022 through 2023 academic year.
The Columbia School Board also voted to pass other proposed funding and agenda items during the meeting, including:
- $110,020 for sidewalk replacement at Gentry Middle School
- $182,500 for tutoring services
- $1,180,000 for New Southwest Elementary School Architect Services Engagement
- $783,400 Columbia Area Career Center Addition/Renovation Architect Services Engagement