Two young women in the eighth grade have displayed courage and drive that has made me inspired, hopeful, and so very grateful to know them and able to share their story. These young ladies, Mady and Lauren, from San Ramon, California, have taken a stand to support members in the LGBTQ+ community at their school, leaving an imprint of positivity and forging a better future. Excelling in their leadership program at Windemere Ranch Middle School, they designed lessons and videos and also created a pin for students to wear reading, “I will stand for acceptance. Will you stand with me?” And spirit days for each day of the week designed to highlight differences within their community consisting of:
Inside Out Day - to highlight loving people for what’s on the inside and not on the outside Mix and Match Day - to celebrate diversity in our community Rainbow Day - to recognize the LGBTQ+ community Pajama Day - be comfortable with who you are Purple Day - to show support for the “National Day of Silence”
Wearing the pin and participating in the spirit days was optional but for the most part they found support from their classmates, and though there were a few that were uncomfortable, they still were respectable. There were, however, some parents that were against it and pulled their children out of school, leading to local press and a flawlessly delivered speech written by them both to a crowded room with standing room only and the entire district school board stating their purpose and what they stand for.
I am looking forward to seeing what else these amazing girls do with their lives and in our world as they have committed to continue their support of the LGBTQ+ community and to make a safe place for everyone to live. As if I weren't impressed enough just speaking with these bright, beautiful young women who just radiate light and goodness, their responses below left me cheering on the inside and smiling from ear to ear. Thanks Mady and Lauren for all that you are!
How did it all start? What made you decide to pursue this path?
Mady: Last year some students brought the idea to our leadership teacher and together they created Acceptance Week. We wanted to continue the Acceptance Week at our school because we kept hearing the phrase “that’s so gay” or “no homo” around campus. We decided that we wanted to raise awareness to the students that saying phrases like “that’s so gay” could really hurt someone even if they didn’t know it.
Lauren: Well the idea was created last year by a couple leadership students who noticed that the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t being respected at our school. They talked to our leadership teacher and together decided to create Acceptance Week. One of the things leadership does is create character-building lessons. When signing up for our week, we decided to do the week that would be Acceptance Week because we both felt strongly that our school still wasn’t giving the LGBTQ+ community the respect the community deserves. Instead, people were using homophobic slurs and phrases such as “that’s so gay.”
What steps did you take to get to this place you’re at now?
Mady: We started to create a lesson for the week. We had to look through many videos and see which ones were the most school appropriate. We also had to see which lesson activities best showed the students what we wanted to raise awareness for.
Lauren: The first step was creating what acceptance week would be this year. Last year focused mainly on the gay community and this year we broadened the spectrum. We had spirit days focusing on respect for others in general (such as mixed match pattern day for diversity, and pajama day to be comfortable with who you are). We had videos to show experiences from LGBTQ+ members (this is where we focused on the entire community). Then we had the lesson where we focused on assessing and recognizing the problem in our school, and then putting yourself in the place of people who are being offended.
What do you have planned next? What are your future goals?
Mady: I plan to take on high school and see what that leads me to.
Lauren: We recently took part in creating our middle schools Gender-Sexuality Alliance, which is a club that provides a community for members of the LGBTQ+ alliance, and their allies. I plan to be a part of the branch of this club that is at our high school, as well as find other ways to support LGBTQ+ youths in our community. My main goals in life right now are to continue to do well in school and dance.
What advice have you received about succeeding in the “real” world?
Mady: I have been told that it’s tough and that you just need to stick with who you are and never change from that.
Lauren: Definitely stay true to yourself, and take risks.
Finding a mentor is key. Do you have a female mentor or idol who has significantly impacted your lives? How?
Mady: A female mentor/idol of mine is our leadership teacher Ms. Greeley. She has supported us all throughout the journey of starting to plan for this week and all the parent comments. She has been an amazing teacher the past 2 years I have taken leadership and she has helped me become the person I am today.
Lauren: There are so many amazing females in my life right now that it’s hard to choose just one. My leadership teacher, and all of my dance teachers are insanely strong women that I look up to, but if I had to choose just one it would be my mom. She is one of the most amazing people I know. She always stays true to her values, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what she needs to change. She has an incredible sense of determination, as well as confidence. She would do anything for the people she loves, and she deserves all the recognition in the world for just being so awesome.
What/who inspires you to get through each day & overcome every challenge?
Mady: All of my friends and family that support me in whatever I decide to do.
Lauren: One of my largest struggles in life as a 14-year-old girl is getting out of bed in the morning. I wake up and have no reason to get out of bed and leave the warm embrace of my mattress, but then I remember all the things I have to do that day, and I want to get out of bed even less. Fortunately my mom will then come upstairs and practically drag me out of bed. I am not a morning person. But once I get out of bed I get to do things I love, I get to laugh, and I get to be around people who really care about me. So when I’m down and I need inspiration I drag myself out of bed and I find that love in my life. I talk to one of the people I love, or I do something I love, and that is what gives me the inspiration to keep on going on, and to overcome what is tough.
What was it about each other that made you feel that you would make a good team?
Mady: We have been friends since fifth grade and we have always been able to work together.
Lauren: We have been friends for about four years now. We first became friends in fifth grade and we have only grown closer since. We work really well together so when we get the chance we always work with each other. One of the most important parts of a good partnership is trust, and since we are such good friends we have already established this trust. Another good thing about our partnership is that we know each other's strengths and weaknesses and can help each other where we are lacking.
How did you manage to stay away from envy, ego or jealousy from getting in the way of your friendship/partnership?
We are both awesome people with different strengths that we respect each other for. When someone gets something we are proud of them and what they have done.
What qualities must a good partner have?
In general a good partner should be responsible so that you can depend on them, respectful so that you can share ideas without feeling judged, and creative so that they bring new and exciting ideas to the table.
If you were to pinpoint a few tools for success, what would they be?
Mady: I would say that you have to surround yourself with a good and hard-working team who you know will not back out at the last second.
Lauren: I would say first, be realistic with what you can handle. Be mindful of your time limits, and your work ethic. Some people can take on lots others cannot, so make wise decisions on how much you take on. Second, always be prepared for what lies ahead. Having backup plans and extra supplies never hurt anybody. Third, never give up. Kind of cliché I know, but if you want something you shouldn’t stop trying for it. Finally, don’t let anyone else control you. Make sure that your voice is heard. As women we often forget that we have voices, don’t let that be you.
What is your definition of BEAUTIFUL?
Mady: Beautiful to me is being truly happy with who you are on the inside and out.
Lauren: Beautiful to me is confidence and happiness. Anyone who is themselves and is happy with themselves is someone who exudes beauty in my mind.
Do you have a favorite quote that empowers you? If so, share it with us!
Mady: One of my favorite quotes that empowers me is, “Create your own happiness,” because it tells you that you have control over your life and no one should influence that.
Lauren: My favorite quote is definitely, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” by Mahatma Gandhi. I like this quote because it reminds you that if there is something you don’t like, you need to do something about it.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!