Safe Space to be Under New Management Next Year

Jessica Townsend

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Stephanie Eldridge, a Biology/Earth Science teacher and the current head of the Safe Space club, will be leaving Ashley Ridge next fall. The club, made to create a supportive and open environment for LGBT+ students, will be co-run by Sharon George and Lisa Hendershott, both of whom are English teachers.

Eldridge reached out to these teachers on her own, and by a recommendation from an assistant principal. George and Hendershott have expressed their excitement for next year, and have said that the shift will not make any major changes. George wants “continuity,” for the kids returning next year. They have already begun helping out and planning. Hendershott says that having “two brains working together,” will assist in bringing ideas to the table. Two teachers also makes it “easier for kids to reach out,” says George.

Hendershott has been a teacher for eight years, but this is her first year at Ashley Ridge. She says that one of the reasons that she wants to help this community is because of an openly gay family member, who she had watched suffer and often felt protective of.

George started teaching at colleges in 2001, but she became a high school teacher two years ago. George also has personal experiences with the LGBT+ community. When she worked at colleges, they had Safe Space clubs as well. She says that teaching has expanded her views by listening to her students experiences. George says that “They [students] need to feel safe, especially those who come from unsafe families.”

George also wants to try to bring in speakers next year. Although everyone’s story is different, having speakers talk about their experiences can not only help struggling kids, but also provide perspective to those who were raised to believe negative things about the LGBT+ community.

For the students who use this club, Hendershott says, “We can’t control who or what they run into in life, but we can control this small space…It’s important to know they’re not alone and can get support.” Safe Space meetings are open to anyone, and are currently held every Tuesday in D108.