The Welcoming and Safe Schools Youth Conference is a conference which brings together middle and high school students, started in 2012 and 2013, as a Maine Civil Rights Team Conference. After a year off in 2014, we returned in 2015 as the Creating Welcoming and Safe Schools Conference, and welcomed all school and youth organizations to participate. In planning for the 2017 conference, we altered the name from Creating Welcoming and Safe Schools Youth Conference to just Welcoming and Safe Schools Youth Conference.
The mission of the conference has never changed, to create a safe and affirming space for middle and high school youth, along with their mentors and educators, to come together and share best practices and learn from each other. The success of the mission and the conference is seen clearly each year through the presentations, conversations, and smiles on the faces of the attendees.
The conference has been run by Dr. Julie Alexandrin, the first two years with Sarah Rubin, and with Graduate Assistant help for 3 years. Lex Lyon, Sarah Adkins, Meg Rooks and Rebecca Bolton have also worked on keeping the conference alive.
From the start, GLSEN Southern Maine has been a big supporter of the conference with youth presentations. In 2015, GLSEN SoME became the biggest sponsor for the conference. University of Southern Maine has also been a strong supporter, giving space for the conference each year, and paying for all USM students to attend starting in 2016. New Beginnings,
The Department of Education, and the Maine Humanities Council have also been big supporters.
All are welcome to submit proposals and attend the conference.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the planning committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Conference Committee
Lex Lyon is in his eighth year of teaching at Portland Public Schools, has presented at the Welcoming and Safe Schools conference, and currently serves on the board of GLSEN Southern Maine. He stepped in for Julie (previously of GLSEN Southern Maine) some years ago to plan the conference. He received his Masters Degree in Teaching and Learning at the University of Southern Maine, where he focused his research on what middle school students want teachers to do to best help LGBTQ+ students in middle school. When he is not teaching he is likely surfing or hiking along the coast of Maine.
Meg Rooks is a librarian for Portland Public Schools and has presented at the Welcoming and Safe Schools Youth Conference. She is the advisor of the SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Acceptance) groups at Lincoln and Lyman Moore Middle Schools. Meg also sits on the board of the local non-profit, "I'm Your Neighbor", which encourages students to read books about New Arrivals to build understanding and see commonalities among diverse groups of people.
Robin Lea is a science teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Portland. She has worked with youth and their advisors around North America to promote youth leadership, anti-racist community building, social action and more. She is very excited to be part of the conference planning team this year.