GSA is Loud and Proud!


Will Eaton, Writer

Looking for a club to join here at HHS that aims to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everybody? Would you like to meet like-minded people and feel more comfortable here at school?  The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is a program here at Helena High that does exactly that. The program is advised by Ms. Potuzak and student-led by President Isacc Nehring, Vice President Naomi Sweeney, Secretary Kaylee De Montigny, and Treasurer Andrew Stanfel.  

Even though the GSA is not officially a school sanctioned club, it doesn’t mean they are any less of a program. The new statewide policy adopted by multiple AA districts like HHS includes guidelines saying that clubs must align with school curriculums – which in turn has hindered the GSA in becoming an official school club, but hopefully that will change in the future.  

Senior Isacc Nehring chose to become a part of GSA during his sophomore year as he feels it is an important club to have for a community often left out. Fellow senior Naomi Sweeny said she decided to “jump on the train” with Nehring this year to help start up the club again because she feels it is especially important for the younger classes in the school so they can feel there is a safe space to feel welcome.  

Ms. Potuzak, the program’s advisor, has helped lead GSA for all seven years that she has been at HHS but has been an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community for much longer. Potuzak noted that she has many ties to the community, with some of her favorite people being a part of it and a love for the community in general. More than anything, Potuzak said she wants kids to feel safe at school. “To have the ability to go somewhere and feel accepted and find other people with similar mindsets or sexualities” is what she noted was a main part of the program. Potuzak simply put that she wants people to enjoy school without having to worry about things they cannot change. 

Regarding the safety of students in the community and how open queer students can be at school, Nehring said that “tolerance improves with time.” He continued by saying he feels as though the younger grades can be immature when talking about these kinds of things, but that they can grow, learn, and improve throughout their time here.  

Sweeney said she feels the negative aspects of the culture could improve- such as offensive things people say, or prejudices held in place. Sweeney said that helping to diffuse the active opposition to queer people in the community is a main goal of the program. Ms. Potuzak said that as far as school environments go, Helena High is fairly accepting of queer individuals while being such a red state. “Bullying unfortunately doesn’t happen right in front of a teacher, because that would make my job a lot easier,” remarked Potuzak. She continued by saying that while there’s always an exception, from her perspective, Helena High predominately accepts all walks of life in our halls.  

To students who are hesitant to check out GSA because of the fear of being labeled, Nehring said that the GSA mainly aims to have a lot of fun. They provide a place to deal with and joke about shared experiences in an inclusive community. “It’s not too serious, it’s not resentful, it’s about embracing a joyful part of being this” said Nehring. He continued by saying the GSA stands for community, advocacy, and leadership. Community, advocacy, leadership, and making people lead in all those aspects are what Nehring says GSA stands for and will continue to stand for in the future. Sweeney said that in her view, labels do not matter a whole lot. “You don’t have to know exactly who you are or what you like when you’re in high school, so don’t take yourself too seriously.” Similarly, Potuzak said high schoolers are “starting to figure stuff out, but things like what you want to do with your life or the people you choose to surround yourself with all changes so much.” In particular, Potuzak commended the students of the GSA for building up the allyship and making the program inclusive and a safe place for everybody.  

Much respect should be given to the GSA program and all the people involved; you guys are doing wonderful things. Thank you for helping to create a safer and more comfortable environment for all students.