Council Commends FHS Club For LGBTQ Youth

Gayle Nelson and Township Councilmember Ed Potosnak after Potosnak presented a commendation to the FHS PACE club, for which Nelson is the advisor.

A Franklin High School student group geared to LGBTQ youth received a commendation at the June 28 Township Council meeting.

Going by the acronym P.A.C.E. – which stands for “protect, accept, care and educate” – the club was formed to “support and protect its students representing the LGBTQ school community and their allies,” according to the commendation.

Accepting the commendation was Gayle Nelson, the clubs’ advisor.

“I know some people have their issues with certain people or communities,” Nelson said. “But as a teacher going into that high school every day … I had to take notice. I had to stand with those students who they felt needed protection.”

“This was a very important journey for myself as far as growing and supporting the students at the high school,” she said.

Nelson spoke about a book written by the club members, “Empowering Teardrops,” in which the students spoke about the trauma they were experiencing during the pandemic.

“As I began to get entries … I thought I was going to get this sweet little poetry; it was more like a purge of the trauma some of our students were going through while they were home from the pandemic,” she said.

“I had to respect that, and I had a big meeting and I said how do you want to go with this, and one of the students said, let’s call it empowering teardrops,” she said. “This is how we empower our teardrops.”

The club is planning on writing a second book, which they hope will be a fundraiser for a local “safe house” for LGBTQ students in crisis.

“I don’t want our kids to be in crisis and have to travel to Newark” for a safe house, she said. “We have to protect our kids. It’s a mean world out there.”

Township Councilmember Ed Potosnak (D-Ward 1), who presented the commendation, said he believed there were many people who would help in bringing such a safe house to reality.

“Your passion is infectious and I think there’s a lot of people who would like to help you in your journey to help these kids in their journey,” he said. “It means a world of difference for these young people.”

“I can’t tell you what it would have meant to me as a young person to have someone like you in my life,” Potosnak said to Nelson. “It is just particularly important, and we all thank you.”

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