BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Tolerance and acceptance are pinnacle in Clarkston High School’s PRISM club, a space for LGBTQ students and their allies.
“In terms of how it’s changed over last year to this year, it’s become a lot more normal at the school,” said co-founder and member Daniel Ephlin. “Last year, there was some little instances of people being resistant to the club’s existence. However, this year, there’s been a lot more normalcy of it. It’s not questioned anymore, it’s sort of the club is here, anyone’s welcome to come, it’s no longer people fighting to get it taken away.”
Ephlin said the club, which was created in April, 2016, has around 30 regular members, has centered around selfdiscovery, promoting inclusiveness, and creating a community for LGBTQ students.
“A lot of our club has been focused on bringing in people who might not know other LGBTQ people and focused on creating a safe community and a safe space,” Ephlin said.
The club raises awareness through posters, a hallway display case, and working with other clubs and students, such as government students for a talk about how to contact your senators.
“Lots of word of mouth, like we constantly have friends who’ll bring friends to the club and they’ll bring other people, so it kind of like created a web pattern,” member Cleo Scott said.
Co-founder and member Lorraine Walsh said the club is mainly student-led where every member contributes and puts forth ideas and activities.
“We have a lot of voices here and as such there’s a lot of creative ideas and creative sources,” Ephlin said.
Walsh and Ephlin said the club plans to be more active in the future. One event they hope to do is a fundraiser for an LGBTQ charity.
The club is just settling in after it’s first year, but club adviser and high school counselor Nicole Toderan said she’s been trying to get one started for many years.
“Dr. Rock is very accepting and very supportive and, so, when we first took it to him, he said absolutely.” Toderan said. “He was on board right away and said absolutely, if there’s a need we need to get this club going.”
Club member Anna Forshey said some people on the outside looking in think the club is just a place where they get together and hang out, but it means a lot more for members who don’t have another support system.
“To have a community to be able to go to, even once a week, just to meet people who will listen to you and accept you and are just open minded to anything you have to say and think that you’re valuable,” she said. “If somebody doesn’t have any other place to get that, then like this could change their entire outlook on life.”
Toderan said LGBTQ students are much higher at risk for depression, suicide and bullying.
“It was a long time coming, but it’s definitely needed, and so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon, everyone sees the value in it,” Toderan said.
The club’s excitement and ability to resonate with what’s relevant in society will help keep it going for the future, Ephlin said.
“We survived a year that wasn’t the most favorable for a community such as this and to exist in such a peaceful manner with each other and with the world around us is, I think, an achievement in and of itself,” he said. “This club’s continued existence is to service a safe space for those who don’t always feel welcome and for those who just want to show their support for others and I think the big message is we’re still here.”