I first became aware of Diversity Role Models (DRM) in 2013. I happened to see a post online from a friend who was a volunteer role model for them. She described sharing her story and experiences with a class of year 7s and the thoughtful and curious questions she received from the students. In the session feedback there were comments from LGBT+ students who were so pleased to see their identities represented and explained. They said they felt supported. The comments from non-LGBT+ students said that the stories from the role models helped them understand some of the issues that LGBT+ people face. It was the first of many similar posts I saw from friends who volunteered with DRM.
Reading those posts reignited memories for me of feeling isolated and alone because I never saw or heard representation of the LGBT+ community in school. It pushed me to act. I volunteered for DRM. I came to the realisation that if sharing my own personal story and insights in a class room could make a positive difference to even one single student, be they LGBT+ or not, then it was something I had to do. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to return to my old secondary school, no longer the scared closeted student, but as a proud DRM staff member. As I walked into the foyer, one of the first sights that greeted me was an LGBT+ display filled with support leaflets and rainbow colours. I can only imagine the difference that support must now make to LGBT+ students at my old school.
The value of shared stories and experiences cannot be overstated. They can be key to building empathy and understanding in a diverse student body. More importantly, the visibility of those stories and experiences can give hope to those who are struggling to embrace their identity and help to give them confidence to be able to voice and embrace their authentic selves. We need to ensure that we represent the diversity of all the students in our schools. We need to do this because it is an essential element of being able to give them a supportive environment in which they can thrive.
Role Model Stories are at the heart of everything DRM does and geography is no longer a barrier. Teachers can now access role model stories and complimentary teacher resources to deliver inspirational and informative LGBT+ lessons in their schools.
Kate Hutchinson, Regional Officer (NW), Diversity Role Models