Raise Up LGBT Awareness Program

Last November, I started my own LGBT awareness program in my hometown of Jasper, Indiana. My friend, Sarah Barry, and I created Raise Up because we couldn’t get a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) started at our high school so we thought we would start a program away from the school.

The first event we held in November 2011 was called Raise Up Awareness. Songs were performed while students from Jasper High School read the biographies of recent LGBT suicide victims. At the end of the event, we released balloons in the honor and had a mother from the community speak about her son’s suicide. This sparked controversy in our small town, but it also raised support and with the new momentum we began fighting again for the GSA which continued to be blocked by stubborn administration and a lack of a teacher sponsor.

So, Raise Up set out to raise even more support. We started our second event in January 2012 titled “Raise Up The Curtains.” For three months, Raise Up showed LGBT themed films, including transition surgery, homosexuality in the Bible, and same-sex couples. After each film, a panel educated on the subject answered audience questions. The film series was a hit and sparked even more interest in the community – enough to get the community to push for a GSA in Jasper High School. After many fights and a lot of pressure from the community, a GSA was approved and began hosting campaigns and events at the high school in March 2012.

Rallying on the success of the GSA, Raise Up is currently offering services to surrounding schools in southern Indiana to help them start GSA’s as well. Whether they need awareness event ideas, help with legal questions, or just support in general, Raise Up offers that network for them.

This summer, Raise Up began attending LGBT festivals across Indiana which helped to spread our name – giving the program opportunities to do bigger things. Another film series occurred this summer focusing on LGBT history – such as Milk, And The Band Played On, and The Celluloid Closet.

In August, Raise Up and the Jasper High School GSA partnered to become the first ever LGBT entry in the 2012 Strassenfest Parade, an annual celebration in Jasper, Indiana to recognize German heritage and promote local businesses and organizations. During this event, Raise Up promoted its latest project called Nix Six – a video campaign promoting the understanding of Indiana’s marriage discrimination bill, HJR-6. Nix Six aims to educate Indiana citizens on marriage equality and why they should vote NO on the bill. Handing out materials to promote this video at the parade caught the attention of Jasper locals because they didn’t even know the bill existed.

As of now, Raise Up is trying to establish an online presence while Sarah and I are in school in New York City. Like our Raise Up Facebook page and learn how you can help the cause.

This post was written by Tommy Craven, 2011 Point Scholar
Tommy is a sophomore at New York University where he studies Film & Theatre Collaboration. He continues advancing the LGBTQ community through his work with PFLAG NYC.  Learn more about Tommy.