Coastside Leadership Academy is a gender inclusive all girls program that supports all LGBTQIA+ community members. At CLA, girls refers to gender expansive youth including cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth, and any girl identified youth. This is a core aspect of our community because we believe that all students have a right to feel safe while experiencing joy, healing, and growth in a learning environment.
For us, making sure our students feel seen, safe, supported, is our highest priority. Our inclusive culture promotes learning and exploration both personally and academically. We practice non-judgement and have a culture that respects everyone’s journey as their own instead of comparing ourselves to others. We meet our students where they are and are supportive when they are exploring different aspects of their identities. All pronouns, names, and sexualities are welcomed and celebrated.
One of the highlights of our year was exploring the CoastPride Center in Half Moon Bay. CoastPride works with local schools, churches, and other organizations to “improve the support, visibility, and awareness for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer individuals and families”. Our students received a tour of the center and learned more about the resources they provide LGBTQIA+ teens. Our students lit up when asking questions during our conversation with Cameron, CoastPride’s Coordinator. We learned about the organization’s mission and the history of how CoastPride was started to help support LGBTQIA+ community members and allies on the coast so they didn’t have to travel to other cities. Our students were excited to be in the inclusive space and left feeling inspired to volunteer or join a program in the future.
This year I have watched our students thrive because they have had the freedom to be themselves and feel the support of a like-minded community. Many of them have reflected deeply on who they are and what they believe in, and I am so proud of them. Feeling loved and valued is the foundation for confident leadership. Gender inclusive girls programs like CLA are the first step toward building an inclusive future. It is my hope that our students lead us into an inclusive future where all people can feel safe in their own bodies, regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, or ability.