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Vibe City club offers safe space for high school students

Lake City Secondary School’s Pride club spreads acceptance, love, safety
West Brooks (they/them), David Julius (he/him) and Gosmer Redford (he/him) (L to R). Julius, who is one of the school counsellors, helps facilitate the Vibe City Pride group at LCSS, which is largely student-led by students Brooks and Redford. (Kim Kimberlin Photo/Black Press Media)

Vibe City may be a catchy name, but the high-school group at Lake City Secondary School (LCSS) is so much more than that.

“It’s a safe space for LGBTQ+ kids to come,” said David Julius, one of the school counsellors.

“A lot of it is just that, hanging out and eating lunch together in a room where no one’s going to judge.”

Julius said he inherited the group — this being his first year at the high school; previously, he was an elementary and junior high counsellor, for over ten years combined. The group has been active for a number of years, although it’s mostly student-led, he said.

Two students, in particular, have taken it upon themselves to lead the group, Gosmer Redford in Grade 11 and West Brooks in Grade 12.

When asked what being part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community means to each of them, Redford said, “It’s all about self-expression and safety. As a trans person it is sometimes difficult to connect with people outside of the communities because of current stigma, so just knowing that there are people out there like me brings me a lot of confidence and comfort. Without the community, all the negative things in the world would get the better of me.”

For Brooks, they moved to Williams Lake summer of 2022 and being in a new school for their final year, Vibe City was a great place for them to meet like-minded people and make new friends.

“The club has benefited the school both by providing a safe space for any student who may need it, but also by providing visibility so that even the students who may not wish to join Vibe City still feel welcomed in the school,” said Brooks.

“Being queer in small-town Canada can be difficult. I’m happy that Williams Lake has such an active and accepting community!”

The Pride group meets Thursdays at lunchtime, and along with playing games and sharing snacks, the students have been working on several initiatives.

“I’m excited for the Pride Week we have planned for June,” said Redford. He went on to say how Pride initiatives will not only help grow the club at LCSS, but also how the events will help him “create relationships that can prosper outside of the club and school” once he graduates.

For the week of June 12, they’ll be hosting Pride Trivia over the school’s intercom system, with a bunch of fun pop-culture-type questions related to the queer community (think, what sitcom had the first gay wedding, kind of thing, said Julius). Students will be able to race out of their classrooms and whoever gives the first correct answer will receive a prize.

There will also be theme days, with each day of the week representing a different colour of the rainbow for students to wear.

Coming up Vibe City will be hosting an open mic event for students to come and perform. Sunny Dyck, the president of the Williams Lake Pride Society will attend and be available as a resource for students to ask questions or simply hang out.

“We are incredibly supportive and proud of all the work put in for and by Vibe City and it is an honour to be invited. Really looking forward to it. The day will be a great opportunity to meet some more members, allies and friends of Pride,” said Dyck.

The stage at LCSS is adorned with a rainbow flag and there is a 2SLGBTQIA+ display at the front of the library, with posters and books. Vibe City also keeps the school’s display board in the hallway up to date with Pride-related information.

Unfortunately, not all are allies of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and Julius explained that some of the behaviour within the general population is still homophobic, precisely why Vibe City is so crucial for the school, as it offers a place for students to be themselves.

Julius’ approach to things is one of positivity.

“I know there’s a lot of controversy around it [2SLGBTQIA+] and I try to win people over with kindness rather than conflict. It’s really tough out there, especially with what’s going on in the States, but I just find, our best bet is, we’re not going to change minds by fighting with people. So, I’m all about providing a safe space.”

In the future, Vibe City wants to raise money for a rainbow mural to go up in the school.

When asked for advice Redford and Brooks would give allies or 2SLGBTQIA+ students, here’s what they had to say:

Redford: “Come join us at Vibe City! No matter who you are or how you might identify, it’s always nice to have a fun and safe space where you can connect with other peers who might be going through something similar … It’s okay to be who you are … Sometimes the reminder is nice.”

Brooks: “My advice for people questioning their identity is that it’s completely fine to experiment. It took me a few tries to figure out how I identify and some days I still question. Don’t fret too much about your labels because at the end of the day whether there’s a word for you or not, you’re still you.

“When it comes to finding a safe space, check what’s around locally such as clubs like Vibe City and The Pride Society. If you’re uncomfortable with in-person clubs, I have found online spaces such as Reddit and Discord to be some of my greatest resources.

“Do some research, find out how you can help your LGBTQ+ friends. In a time where politics targeting how people identify is becoming much too common, we must stand together because division within our community means defeat. Spread love, not hate!”

READ MORE: Williams Lake Pride Society looks toward getting back out in community after pandemic

READ MORE: School library book bans are seen as targeting LGBTQ content


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Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

I joined Black Press Media in 2022, and have a passion for covering topics on women’s rights, 2SLGBTQIA+ and racial issues, mental health and the arts.
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