For the past sixteen years, Betsy Parsons has spearheaded support for students starting Gay-Straight-Trans Alliances (GSTAs, school clubs to reduce anti-LGBT hate language and harassment) in nearly half of Maine’s high schools, representing every county but one. Hardy Girls Healthy Women honors Betsy’s work as part of their annual celebration of girls’ activism and leadership.

Betsy Parsons taught English for 30 years at public high schools in Portland, Maine and was a founding member of GLSEN-Southern Maine (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Southern Maine Chapter) in 1996. As her district’s first LGBT faculty member to teach fully out to students and families, she affirmed Deering High School students’ request to help them start a GSTA. Now, decades and many GSTAs later, Betsy organizes regular GSTA educational programming to strengthen this growing youth movement.

“A GSTA makes school safer and more affirming for everyone, gives struggling students hope, teaches them self-dignifying ways of answering oppression, develops their courage and leadership, and provides an avenue for them to help teach peers to be allies for each other,” Betsy says. “A GSTA also helps young people know they are a valued part of a community — not just the LGBT-and-allied community, but the one we all live in. Across the full range of sexual orientation and gender identity, they learn that they have important contributions to share and a responsibility to use their gifts to make the world around them a more compassionate and respectful place.”

“Betsy Parsons’ organizing and activist work in this peacemaking youth movement is an inspiration to girls and young women all over the world,” said Hardy Girls Healthy Women president, Kelli McCannell. “Our co-creators honor her commitment to strength-based programming that promotes equal educational opportunity, youth leadership and nonviolent social change. All causes Hardy Girls shares and highlights in this annual weekend celebration of the power of girls.”

Girls Rock! Weekend is an annual event put on by Waterville-based non-profit Hardy Girls Healthy Women and consists of a two conferences for 4th-8th grade girls (Friday, April 4th at Colby College in Waterville and Saturday, April 5th at King Middle School in Portland) and the annual Girls Rock! Awards at the Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta on Friday night. Five girls will be honored for their efforts to make their communities safer, more supportive places for girls. Betsy Parsons will be honored with the sixth award, the Co-Creator Award, given to a woman who is furthering Hardy Girls’ vision of equality, independence and safety for all girls and women.

Read about our five Girls Rock winners here

For more information about Girls Rock! Weekend, visit our website.

To support other Maine girls’ activism, leadership, and hardiness, give a gift to Hardy Girls.