[Bangor, Maine – July 14, 2023] – Recently the Bangor School Department has come under scrutiny for a speaker series to empower LGBTQIA+ youth. The Bangor School Department received a generous $15,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation to support an engaging and informative speaker series and create valuable work/leadership opportunities for LGBTQIA+ youth at Bangor High School. As a point of clarification no drag performances took place.
“We are incredibly grateful for the numerous opportunities that we are able to provide for ALL students,” stated James Tager, Superintendent of Bangor School Department. “By hosting a speaker series and offering leadership opportunities, we aim to create a safe and inclusive environment where all students can thrive and feel a sense of belonging. We believe that education and dialogue promote acceptance, respect, and equity. It is my job to support each of our 3500 students, our teachers and our staff. This speaker series has strengthened the school’s efforts to foster inclusivity and support our students.”
It is essential to note that no taxpayer money was used to fund these DEIB initiatives, highlighting the commitment to our responsible allocation of public resources. The Nellie Mae Foundation’s grant enabled the Bangor High School students and staff to organize empowering and informative events that aimed to educate and foster understanding among students, staff, and the broader community. Through this initiative, professionals and experts have addressed critical topics related to LGBTQIA+ issues, inclusivity, and diversity. The series serves as a platform for dialogue, learning, and promoting acceptance within the school environment.
The grant also facilitated the creation of valuable leadership/work opportunities for LGBTQIA+ youth at Bangor High School. These opportunities enabled students to gain practical skills, experience, and professional growth while building a supportive community. In total the grant has funded two student focused speaker sessions, a panel for parents and guardians of BHS students, and six student leadership positions. Student sessions were provided snacks of cookies, cupcakes and bottled water, while the parent session included a catered meal through grant funds.
The first session by Dominick Varney, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising and Support Services and local actor, spoke to students from Q+ (Student LGBTQIA+ Organization), the Civil Rights Team and their advisors about his experience moving from the United Kingdom to Maine and growing up as a gay youth in Winterport, Maine in a session called “Make Them Hear You!”. Varney’s presentation focused on his extensive theatrical career, providing students with inspiration, skills, and professional development to lead and thrive authentically. The second session “Leading With Your Whole Self”, presented students with human resources data that shows why diversity matters in the workplace. The topic focused on the benefits of bringing your “whole self” to work, and exploring how valuing your own uniqueness can make students effective leaders for others. The third session was a panel discussion for parents and guardians of Bangor High School LGBTQIA+ students. The panel of content experts spoke about how to best support and empower all student needs within the Bangor School Department Community.
It is important to clarify that all presenters participating in the speaker series did so in their professional capacity, ensuring a high level of expertise and credibility. This commitment helps provide students with accurate information, broaden their perspectives, and encourage critical thinking. Furthermore, it should be noted that there were no drag performances within the school premises as part of this program.
“We stand firm by our DEIB initiatives that serve and protect the rights, dignity, and safety of ALL our students,” stated Marwa Hassanien, Chair of the Bangor School Committee. “We care deeply about the diverse needs and cultures of all students. Those in protected classes, and those who struggle with issues of identity, are especially at-risk for anxiety, depression, and higher suicide ideation. Our work fosters an inclusive school environment that centers our students and focuses on uplifting their unique voices and lived experiences.”
Reflected within our ongoing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives, the Bangor School Department proudly supports students and their families in sharing their diverse and unique life experiences within the school community.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Director of Community Relations and Safety
Bangor School Department