GSA offers safe, inclusive space at Prep

By Laritza Guerra-Mejia , Staff Reporter

Two years ago, a student asked Mr. Figueroa if he would help found a club for the LGBTQ+ community at Passaic Prep.

Mr. Figueroa, who teaches AP US History 1 and AP Human Geography, thought that was a good idea, and started the Gay-Straight Alliance. 

The Boulevard Online questioned Mr. Figueroa about GSA and what he wants to do with the club going forward.


The Boulevard Online: What is GSA, and what is the purpose?

Mr. Figueroa: GSA usually stands for Gay-Straight Alliance, but it can also stand for Gender and Sexuality Alliance (which is a more inclusive name). GSAs are school clubs where students can talk and learn about sexual orientation, gender identity, and some of the issues regarding the LGBTQ+ communities. At Prep, the GSA is set up just like any other student group, with a faculty advisor and regular meetings. Everyone is welcome: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic, agender and pansexual (LGBTQQIAAP) students, as well as straight students, students with LGBTQ+ families, and students who don’t have or need a label for their sexual orientations or gender identities.


TBO: What made you want to start this club?

Mr. Figueroa: Two years ago, a student asked me if I would be the advisor of a club for LGBTQ+ students at Passaic Preparatory Academy.  After giving it some thought, I decided to take this on because we did not have an organization that supported students of the LGBTQ+ community. Having a GSA at school shows that the Passaic Preparatory Academy is a safe and inclusive space for all students, especially students who identify as LGBTQ+.  


TBO: What activities do you plan on doing with the club?

Mr. Figueroa: The first year we held our GSA, we had an event where club members designed T-shirts to bring awareness to the violence the LGBTQ+ community faced as well as the violence women faced in the United States. This was a very eye-opening reality for numerous students at Prep because many shared their experiences regarding violence against the LGBTQ+ and against women. In addition to this event, we planned bi-weekly meetings where students took part in a meet-and-greet to discuss issues of importance to them. This is where many students made new and supportive friendships. Future GSA events will depend on what the students want to achieve and what goals they set this year for the club.  Some ideas discussed last year and the previous year were to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, participate in World AIDS Day, bring awareness to transgendered people and partake in Transgender Day of Remembrance. But our biggest achievement was being the first public building in the city of Passaic to raise the Progressive Pride Flag on June 1 this year. This was a very proud moment for the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters in Passaic. 


TBO: Does the GSA help people who are questioning themselves, like in sexuality and/or pronouns? How?

Mr. Figueroa: The GSA has many resources for the students at Passaic Prep. The GSA has information about local and national resources for issues that young people face, such as mental health, self-harm, body image, and support for LGBTQ+ identities.  This year we plan to invite members of PFLAG and other organizations to come and visit the GSA and talk about their groups and how they can be of service to the LGBTQ+ communities.  We also plan to invite and work closely with the school guidance counselors and social workers, who will visit with the GSA, present on LGBTQ+ matters, and provide one-on-one support, if needed.


TBO: On what days will GSA have meetings? And can people join later in the year?

Mr. Figueroa: The GSA will meet every other Thursday after school in Room 307 from 3:40 to 4:40 p.m. Students are encouraged to come out at the beginning of the year but students can join the GSA at any time throughout the year. If students want more information about joining the GSA, they can come visit and talk to me in Room 307 before or after school.

Thank you for your time Mr. Figueroa!