RED DEER -- Two Red Deer high schools celebrated Pride Day this week.

On Wednesday, at Hunting Hills High School, students and staff celebrated Pride Day by hosting a Pride Day picnic. Event organizers handed out cupcakes while wearing their Pride colours, and the Progressive Pride Flag was placed in the cafeteria. The picnic was spear-headed by Dorain Doran, a member of the queer-straight alliance (QSA) at the school.

“It’s really important for people to see that they’re seen, and they are welcomed and recognized,” Doran said.

The decision to have a Pride celebration was left to students and staff at individual schools after the Red Deer Public School Board, earlier this year, voted against a district-wide Pride Week. Instead, they voted in favour of a Diversity Week which would take place in June.

“We were pretty upset about Diversity Week feeling that it made us sort of less important or not as seen,” Doran said.

“I feel like everybody should have their chance to be in the spotlight.”

Celebrations were also underway at Lindsay Thurber High School: the first school in Alberta to have a gay-straight alliance (GSA) which was formed in 2000. However, on Wednesday, the school celebrated its first ever Pride Day, more than 20 years after the formation of the GSA.

“I’ve been here since 1997, and I’ve been waiting since 1997 for this to happen,” said Trina Penner, learning assistance teacher and staff supervisor of the QSA.

Students and staff at Lindsay Thurber raised the Progressive Pride Flag and chalked positive messages of Pride onto the sidewalk. Teachers were also supplied with an educational slideshow that they could share with their students.

“Our LGBTQ+ students need a place where they feel welcome and where they can be their authentic self and we strive to accept that at Thurber,” Penner said.

The school board’s decision to not have a Pride Week also left members of the QSA at Lindsay Thurber frustrated. QSA member Ava Lelond said the board did not consider that many students may find it difficult to approach their schools to set up a celebration for Pride.

“I’m very disappointed in the school board because now we as students have to come forward and we as students may have to out ourselves,” Lelond said.

But, Grade 12 student Lelond was grateful to experience a Pride Day before graduating.

“This is definitely a very good first step and it shows respect,” Lelond said.

“I feel very happy. I feel energetic. It’s a good feeling.”