By Grace Bruer
Southold High School
My name is Grace Bruer, and I’m a 17 year old senior at Southold High School. I’ve lived on the North Fork since I was 1½ years old; it’s the place I call home. As an openly bisexual young woman, I know that this community sometimes has a hard time accepting people seen as “others”, if only because of lack of understanding. However, even in my short life I have watched my community become more inclusive in just the last few years. This is mainly because of people educating and discussing things such as gender, sexuality, race relations, and multiculturalism with each other. The more open to discussion my school and town have gotten, the more people have learned and accepted each other.
I have attended therapy for generalized anxiety since I was 13 years old, and my therapist told me recently that the center I went to was going to start an LGBT youth/therapy group. He wanted me to act as an advisor for the other kids in the group, and I happily agreed. There are three kids in the group with me who are ages 12-15. I remember being very self conscious about my sexuality at that age, and although I have friends who are also LGBT, I know I would have benefited from a group like this one. Two of these kids are students at Greenport School, and one goes to school off the North Fork. During one session, we were discussing our (respective) schools’ Gay-Straight Alliances– I’m an active member of Southold’s SAFER club, which is our re-named GSA. The two students from Greenport told me that Greenport doesn’t have a GSA and the climate towards LGBT kids is one that is not nearly as tolerant as Southold’s. One kid was called slurs to his face and the other had a slur written on his locker, all within a few months. It was distressing, quite frankly, and both of them were outraged but had no idea what to do about it. Both kids expressed that having a GSA would at least give them a place to talk to other LGBT students in their school safely, and at most improve the attitude towards LGBT students in the school. Since Southold and Greenport both have Mr. David Gamberg as our superintendent, I offered to speak with him about the hate speech and the lack of a GSA at Greenport. They agreed and the next day, I set up a meeting during my lunch period with Mr. Gamberg. He was just as disturbed as I was about the slurs being used at Greenport, and promised to talk to Greenport’s principal about starting a Greenport School GSA. This all transpired before December break, and I recently learned that Greenport’s GSA is now officially an up and running club. Although the two kids in my youth group are the only two LGBT kids I know at Greenport school, it makes me incredibly happy to know that I helped them and other LGBT kids– and I would do it a hundred times over if I had to.
I’ve been passionate about social justice and activism since I was a young child. I would love to help more people like my friends at Greenport, and going to college would help me hone the skills I already have and teach me new ones as well. I’m going to American University, where I plan on applying for housing in the Social Justice Living Learning Community. American University’s Social Justice LLC is “designed for students interested in better understanding and practicing social justice” (via the American University website) which is exactly what I want to dedicate my life to. I also plan on majoring in International Studies and minoring in Justice and/or Political Science. After college, my main goal is to make the world a better place using the skills I have learned through my life experiences and education. I know that it’s a broad goal, and some of my more specific ones include working with an NGO (such as Amnesty International) for LGBT rights worldwide, working as a policymaker in the White House, or being a Senator or Congresswoman. My loftiest goal, however, is to be the President of the United States. In any case, my life will be a fulfilling and happy one as long as I help people. I have been told that I was a negotiator since I could speak, and that I have always stood up for what I believe in. This scholarship would assist me in making my dream of helping others a reality in this community and in broader ones.