What is the BEARS Club?

Dani Bonafede and Breanna Rooney

Hawthorne High School is home to many different students and people from many different walks of life. The staff at HHS always aim to create the most comfortable and safe environment for all of their students. A way Hawthorne provides a safe space for students is with clubs; from the Italian Club to the Drama Club, there’s a place for everyone.

One of these many clubs is the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance); however, you may have noticed that name’s absence this year. This is because the GSA has been renamed the BEARS Club- BEARS stands for Bringing Equality And Respect to Students. BEARS is a club that is aimed to bring equality to all, and their purpose is to spread their message of respect and kindness throughout the school.

The decision to change the name from GSA to BEARS came about when the name “GSA” became outdated and was not inclusive to all students, whereas the acronym of “BEARS” shares the message of universal respect, acceptance and equality. BEARS is a club that spreads awareness of issues within the community and beyond. It is a safe, nonjudgmental and comfortable environment for all students to talk about whatever they are burdened with.

The Clarion reached out to one of the advisors of the BEARS Club, Social Studies teacher Ms. Katherine Lyness, to find out more.

Lyness stated, “We want all students to feel accepted. We would like to raise awareness in the community because many people are fearful of the unknown. When people do not know something or do not understand or have never met someone different from them, they often fear that,” and provided the quote, “Fear and ignorance keeps prejudice alive.”

The reason this is so important is because LGBT students are 3 times as likely as non-LGBT students to say they do not feel safe at school (The Trevor Project) and that a large percentage of LGBT youth have attempted suicide (Suicide Prevention Research Center). These startling statistics are absolutely preposterous, and actions such as those of HHS and BEARS must be executed in order to ensure safety to all students.

The BEARS Club has already accomplished a great amount, such as teaming with the Creative Writing Club to host two authors who have written books from the LGBT perspective, which can be found in the Hawthorne Press. BEARS also worked with the Life Skills teacher, Ms. Danielle Forshay, and her students to create images and graphics for the club. Additionally, they collaborated with the Life Skills students  last year to make t-shirts for the Day of Silence and are planning on doing the same this year, as well.

BEARS has already done many amazing things, but plan on going even further. They will be collaborating with HHS art teacher Danielle Russo and the Art Club to develop different images that represent respect and equality, and may even open a gallery for students and the public.

Lyness says, “We would like to do outreach in the community to help people better understand our club and the importance of the BEARS Club at Hawthorne High School.”

One of their biggest events is The Day of Silence on April 21, 2017. This day is a “national day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools” (The Day of Silence).

The BEARS Club is a very proactive club that provides a haven and comfortable environment for any and all students, and ultimately aims, along with protecting students, to educate the community and beyond about LGBT people in order to erase any negative stigma and start making a difference.

We are excited to see what the BEARS Club has in store!