Old Boy Chris Studer returned to Upper Canada College on April 3 to help Year 7 boys “Get REAL” when it comes to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and its allies.
The one-hour Get REAL workshop focused on support, awareness, the impact of words and making the school a more positive place. It was meant to teach boys about building compassion and dispelling stereotypes, while showing them that all people have challenges, can be kind and are a lot more alike than different.
“I believe the boys were able to reflect on things for which they are grateful and on personal challenges,” says Jill Stewart, a UCC French teacher and coordinator of health and life skills and community service at the Prep School.
“They were about to discuss the notion of having someone else’s back, even if you don’t fully understand their experiences. Lastly, I believe it was beneficial for them to hear some lived experiences from someone in the LGBTQ community, and from an ally.”
Stewart originally heard about Get REAL through former UCC Middle School head Bernard Lecerf. She said previous guest presenters spoke with Year 7 boys about homophobia, and she thought Studer’s experience with UCC would bring an added element of context for students.
The Get REAL workshop tied in with UCC’s April 10 recognition of International Day of Pink, which celebrates diversity and raises awareness to stop homophobia, transphobia and all forms of bullying that result from discrimination.
“In post-workshop discussions, our students reflected on what the UCC community is doing well and areas in which we could improve with regards to the LGBTQ community,” says Stewart. “Get REAL provided us with the ideal opportunity to further our conversation in that area.”
While students in 7F, 7G, 7M and 7T have already attended the Get REAL workshop, boys in 7B and 7P will take part in it on April 16.
UCC students have also learned about diversity and discrimination from other speakers.
Year 6 and 7 boys heard from Samar Carmack, a Year 11 boarding student from Chicago, who spoke about the challenges of being a young black man in Toronto as part of February’s Black History Month.
Paul Rosen, a three-time Paralympic Games gold medalist, is expected to talk to boys in Years 4 through 7 about diversity, respect and resilience next month.