Developing a Connection With Your High School

The first step in returning to your high school is, of course, contacting your high school. When making the first phone call, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not simply trying to arrange a visit through The Homecoming Project. You’re also building a relationship with your school.

Who do you call? What do you say during your first conversation? How does the process start?

STEP ONE: Do some homework.

Visit your school’s website and browse the list of teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors. Is it possible that any of the school’s faculty might remember you? If so, this person is your first point of contact.

If you don’t recognize any of the teachers at your school, simply call the school and talk to their version of the “main office.” Briefly introduce yourself to the receptionist and ask, “Does your school have a Gay-Straight Alliance club?”* If they do, ask to be connected with the club’s advisor. If not, ask to be connected with a guidance counselor. These men and women work to ensure that students enjoy a safe and healthy high school career. When speaking with guidance counselors, you have the opportunity to communicate that you would like to work with them to make their school a more welcoming place for LGBTQ students. Who doesn’t want that?

*A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club in a high school or middle school that brings together LGBTQ and straight students to support each other, provide a safe place to socialize, and create a platform for activism.

STEP TWO: Introduce yourself.

Briefly introduce yourself to the GSA advisor, teacher, or guidance counselor. Tell them about Live Out Loud and the Homecoming Project. Explain that you would like to arrange a time to speak to a group of students at the school.

Remember: The Homecoming Project doesn’t have to be a school-wide assembly! Ask the school if you can speak to a GSA club, diversity club, health class, or psychology class.

Consider the following script when beginning a conversation with your school:

Hi. My name is [name]. I attended [school name] from [years attended]. I’m calling because I recently learned about The Homecoming Project, an initiative started by Live Out Loud, a nonprofit organization that works with LGBT youth. The Homecoming Project is helping LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals return to their high schools to offer encouragement to LGBT students and their allies. I would love to tell you more about the project and hopefully come back to [school name] and speak to either your Gay-Straight Alliance club or another group of students. If you would like to learn more about Live Out Loud, their website is filled with great information – including a short video from a past Homecoming Project with Academy Award winner Lance Black.

Click here for more information about Live Out Loud and The Homecoming Project that you can use when talking to your school.

Some Homecoming Project participants encounter the challenge of leaving repeated messages with school personnel without getting a response. Keep in mind that guidance counselors, teachers, and club advisors are often overworked and extremely busy. Because of their teaching schedules and after-school responsibilities, school personnel may be unable to answer the phone during certain times of the day. Unfortunately, it’s easy for a message from a stranger to fall through the cracks. Consider the following tips when making first contact:

  1. Keep track of your calls. Make a list of both what day and what time you leave messages. Vary the timing of your calls. Some teachers will be more reachable in the morning. Others may be easier to connect with in the afternoon.
  2. Use email. Ask the school’s receptionist for the email address of the Guidance Counselor or Gay-Straight Alliance advisor. The school’s website might also have a “Contact” page through which you can send an email. Click here for a letter you can send to school contacts to give more background about you, Live Out Loud, and the Homecoming Project. [link to customizable letter]
  3. Be persistent. It is important to make sure school personnel don’t forget about your call. Calling several times per week not only ensures that teachers and guidance counselors are frequently reminded to call you back, it also communicates that the Homecoming Project is important to you. A school principal we recently worked with told us, “Your persistence is the whole reason The Homecoming Project happened!”

What if your school says no?

Unfortunately, some schools may tell you that they are unwilling to host a Homecoming Project. Click here for suggestions about what to do if your school says say “No.”

STEP THREE: Ask questions.

Once you’ve made contact with a guidance counselor or GSA advisor, ask questions that will help you gauge the climate of the school and how receptive they are to LGBT issues. Remember, when you have a conversation with a school, you are not just gaining information, you are also building a relationship! Some questions to consider during your conversations:

  • How active is your GSA? How many students attend? How often do they meet? What do they talk about?
  • Has there been any recent LGBT “news” on campus?
  • What is the general feeling about LGBT issues and “coming out” at the school? Do you know of any students that have recently “come out”? How did other students respond? How many “out” kids are there at the school?How many “out” teachers or school administrators does your school have?
STEP FOUR: Set a date.

Your school may be ready to set a date for the Homecoming Project during your first conversation. Your contact may, however, need to get permission from a school administrator before scheduling a time for your Homecoming Project.

To help ease this process, send your school contact a letter that can be shared with administrators to provide more background about you, Live Out Loud, and the Homecoming Project. A customizable letter can be found here. You can also send them a link to our promotional video about the Homecoming Project.

Don’t be discouraged if a few conversations are required before you are able to set a date. Once the date is set, be sure to ask:

  • What time will the club or assembly start?
  • How long will I have to speak?
  • Will there be a computer and projector available for visual aids?
  • How many students do you expect to attend? What are their ages?

Now that you have a date set, let us help you develop your presentation!

Do you need help with this stage of your Homecoming Project?
Call us at (212) 651-4231 or email Tom Hernandez