As the performance of the HWS/Geneva Theatre Guild production of “The Laramie Project” nears, Kathy Collins ’09 has been strategically reaching out to and educating the local community about bullying and hate crimes. Her outreach initiative has been well received in area high schools, Geneva High and DeSales. At DeSales, the senior class is reading the play and Collins is preparing 16 of the students to talk to the rest of the school and serve as peer educators on gay dialogue and bullying in general. Collins is the daughter Professor of Education Pat Collins, who is the director of the play.
At Geneva High School, Collins has been talking in physical education classes as well as three child development classes that explore, “What makes a Family a Family.” Collins has also had the opportunity to talk to the high school’s gay alliance group, Ally, who have expressed that what can be most hurtful and yet least talked about in high school is the language many students use.
“Bullying” Collins reminds us, “starts with language. Violence escalates from language but, sadly, many students don’t realize it’s their own language that creates hate.” She notes a common phrase such as, “That’s so gay” can be more hurtful than many students think. The student group was formed by two interested students who had witnessed behavior in school that bothered them. The group is now much larger and, since October of 2009, has been meeting twice a month to discuss ways to raise awareness of the poor choices of language used in school. The Geneva Ally group also spent Ally Week (Oct. 18-22) making announcements during the morning and having students and staff sign the Ally Pledge at lunch time. They also had posters around school reminding students of poor language choices.
Joan Fratangelo, a Geneva High School teacher and Ally group adviser, speaks very highly of Collins: “Kathy’s presence in our school has been nothing but positive. The students like to hear that she is a graduate of their school and that she understands how life in high school can be challenging. She has also helped teachers develop new perspectives to pay attention to individual students that may be struggling with not fitting in.”
Because of Collins’ education initiative, many teachers have pledged to listen more closely to students as they walk in the hallways from class to class, and to pull students aside and remind them if their language is inappropriate.
Fratangelo admits, “Teachers, like students, need to be reminded of things we would assume they know already, but maybe do not always focus on or forget about.”
Tickets for the “Laramie Project” may be purchased at the College Store, Area Records and Music, the UPS Store, and online at GTGlive.org. General admission is $12, seniors/students $10, HWS students may pick up a free voucher at the Student Concierge Desk in the Scandling Campus Center. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Free shuttle service from the Medbery parking lot to the Community Center will be provided beginning an hour before the show with return service following the show. Seating is limited and latecomers cannot be seated.
The play will also be shown on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m., and again on Sunday, Nov. 7 in a matinee at 2 p.m. The show will also be presented next weekend Nov. 11 – 13 at 7:30 p.m.
This play contains adult language and content and is recommended for mature audiences.