A new group has formed for Howell High School students who want to foster positive relationships between peers regardless of sexual orientation.

Howell High School drama teacher Amanda Malo said she was approached by a student at the end of the last school year asking if she would be a sponsor for a gay-straight alliance. Malo, realizing the student wouldn’t ask if there wasn’t a need, joined with fellow teacher Jay McDowell to form the Howell Alliance Community which began meeting last month. She says the H-A-C is not a club, but rather an open community to all 9th through 12th grade students regardless of their orientation or gender identity. She said it started as a gay-straight alliance, but is so much more now. They work with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Educational Network and are also open to the pan and trans communities. Malo said it really is a place to come together and talk about issues they all face in high school.

In their 3 meetings thus far, they have alternated between educational teaching and making the community a social place where the kids can talk about issues they face. Malo said the students have spoken up, wanting their voices heard, and are looking to branch out to the middle schools in hopes of creating safe places for students there. The students have also created a sign campaign that can be seen in many classrooms, informing students on what to do if they feel they are being bullied. Support from the community has been all positive. Malo said she has heard from many alumni and parents of students who said they wished this community existed when they were in school. Malo invites anyone with questions to contact her through email at maloa@howellschools.com. (MK)