A weekend of fun and educational activities for LGBTTTQQIAA HS youth hosted by students at a small university in Maine

Feedback Is a Gift

“Hey Lois-Ann! Could you let me know when applications go up for counselors? 🙂 ”

I was so excited in the fall to get this facebook message from a counselor from last year’s Rainbow Ball Weekend.   They also volunteered to coordinate the southern Maine bus stops again! Awesomeness.

The Rainbow Ball Weekend has changed in some way every year we’ve hosted it.  We take feedback from attendees and make suggested changes when we can.  Sometimes it takes us more than a year because of finances or structure.  For example, we added workshops and crafts and an admissions tour where there weren’t any in the beginning based on feedback from advisors.  We added zumba, martial arts, and belly dance activities based on a suggestion from a parent.  We also add and subtract from the three days based on our experiences of hosting it as well as if something seems important to include in a given year.  We had to nix the rave in the pool when we outgrew the safety regulations.  We added the support groups but learned to make it very clear that someone could go the support group of most interest (gay, bi/pan, ally, asexual, transgender, gender non binary, lesbian, questioning) and that chaperones should not go to these based on student feedback.

This year it seems really important to have a parallel track of workshops for educators and mental health providers for changing and supporting lgbt youth which will help these youth in different ways than the RBW itself.

We want to support college students as well as there isn’t much at many of the campuses in Maine, but it is hard to do both at once.  So  we kinda compromised, we have counselors.  These are former rainbow ball youth and/or current college students from other institutions who get training via distance and are such an amazing addition.

The small crew of 100% and friends, “Ballers”, scurry around decorating, giving workshops, setting up events, answering questions on a round the clock kind of schedule.  So, these designated godsends counselors for groups help provide the youth more of a mentoring experience and help make sure their folks get to where they need to go. Remember,“They put together the weekend’s events with small grants, donations, and volunteers. It is held together with bubble gum, baling wire, lobster traps and Down East love.”  The counselors make it possible for us to continue.

There was a time when we very very very seriously attempted to get a larger campus to host the weekend as it is tough for a tiny campus with few people/resources.  Three types of feedback convinced us otherwise. 1. Our president Dr. Cindy Huggins  encouraged us to keep going here if we could. 2. Our biggest youth supporters OUT! As I Want to Be Rockland  felt that our small, remote, safe campus was a preferred venue for wrangling a group of youth.  3. There wasn’t a larger campus which was jumping up and down to host. Ha!  We recommitted, went all in, and we own this hot glitter mess. 🙂

Action Hero Shout Outs:  There is a real need to support our lgbt youth and their allies and families.  In Maine there are 70 school clubs supported by over 100 amazing advisors who are directly supporting their students and their schools throughout the school year and beyond.   We have much love and admiration for these folks and many of the 100% members can point to an advisor who supported them in school and members want to pay it forward. We are all supported by the regional organizations Southern Maine GLSEN  and Downeast Maine GLSEN  whose members work hard to be networks of support for all the clubs and encourage us too!  Let us know what we can do to make it better for you – we want feedback.  We need your help to improve!

Unity Unicorn

“In a world plagued by darkness and hatred, one hero stands to protect those who shine bright.” Cover page of our Unity Unicorn comic strip prom photo backdrop! Design and photo by Chelsee Acklee

Because our fabulous counselors are there, they also give the traveling school advisors and chaperones some breathing space for networking during RBW.  In no way is this a respite weekend for the school folks and we hope they are willing to keep coming with their kids when they work so hard year round.

Last night I heard from a friend who was studying in Alaska for a couple years that there were folks he’d run into who had heard about Rainbow Ball Weekend!  Sure there is some type of Maine-Alaska corridor, but is was seriously cool to hear!  There was also a wonderful and successful fundraiser at Mount Desert Island High School for Rainbow Ball Weekend and their Black Rose Theater fund with the folks from Improve Acadia http://www.improvacadia.com/ The countdown continues.

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