Sometimes students must teach their teachers.
Sameer Jha, a 16-year-old LGBT activist, has made it his mission to end anti-LGBT bullying in schools. He recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to publish a teacher’s guide to creating safer schools for LGBT students.
"Every teacher whose heart and mind we touch can in turn impact the lives of hundreds of students," Jha says, adding that most books about LGBT students are written from an adult perspective. "Slowly but surely, we can make a positive change to our school culture so that the most vulnerable youth are supported and protected."
A Congressional Award recipient, Jha has served as a youth ambassador and board member for LGBT organizations like the GSA Network and the Tyler Clementi Foundation. He was also the 2017 Youth Grand Marshal for the Oakland Pride Parade.
Jha has spent the past two years participating in conferences, workshops, and rallies across the country. "I speak on topics as diverse as trans rights, starting GSAs, overcoming hidden biases, exploring gender, and understanding intersectionality," he says. "Born to immigrant parents, I am especially passionate about removing the stigma around being queer within the South Asian community."
Jha also founded the Empathy Alliance, a non-profit that works with educators and student leaders to make schools safer for LGBT students.
“I was bullied throughout middle school because I was a gender nonconforming boy who loved princess toys, singing, and theatre," Jha explains. "After I came out during my freshman year in high school, my life turned around. I found love and acceptance, as well as a new purpose: to make sure others would not experience the same harassment I did.”
Jha notes that, according to the GLSEN National School Climate Survey, 85.2% of LGBT students have experienced verbal harassment at school based on their sexual orientation or gender expression.
Jha's goal is to publish the book online, making it cost-effective for schools to download and print. Those who donate to his GoFundMe campaign can have a complimentary copy sent to a teacher of their choice.