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Central Bucks students visit LGBTQA exhibit

“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
- Harvey Milk

When most students were getting off the school bus to start their weekend, a group of students from three Central Bucks middle schools were embarking on a field trip to the Bucks County Visitor’s Center in Bensalem on Feb. 22.

Bucks County Visitor’s Center is hosting the New Hope Celebrates History Exhibit “Equality – Pride in Our History.” The exhibit opened Jan. 13, showcasing local leaders and change makers who shaped the LGBTQA community in New Hope and Bucks County. The exhibit is a colorful kaleidoscope of the last 50 years of the gay rights movement.

The Pennsylvania LGBT Network is also at the exhibit with its display “The Long Road to LGBTQ+ Equality in Pennsylvania.” Paying homage to all those who fought for equality, it is a lesson of hope and perseverance.

These were the lessons learned by students of Holicong, Lenape and Tohickon middle schools, who came to see the exhibit. Keith Willard, teacher and advisor to Holicong’s GSA Club, Bridget Fox, librarian and advisor to Tohickon’s MS Diversity Club and Robi Gluck, teacher and advisor to Lenape’s MS SAGA Club (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) were in attendance with their students. The students had the opportunity to explore and bond together, witnessing a piece of history. They respectfully read the stories and looked at countless photos of those whose lives paved the way for equal rights in the LGBTQA community.

Paul Becivengo, vice president of Visit Bucks County, gave a welcoming speech to the students along with Matt Hanson, president of New Hope Celebrates.

“The field trip allowed students to learn about the rich past of the LGBTQ community,” Willard said. “It also created a unique opportunity for students to connect with peers across the district. I think many of the students were surprised to learn that there was so much LGBTQ history in Bucks County. The exhibit allowed students to explore a past that mirrors their own struggles, and to celebrate a movement that will benefit their own futures.”

Students were later asked to write their own thoughts about the exhibit.

“It was surprising to me that our area had such a rich history of LGBT culture,” Emma Strom said.

“I learned that the LGBTQ movement started in 1969, but was being talked about in the early 1960’s,” Jacob Chavez said.

“I really enjoyed learning about the process that it took for the LGBT+ community to stand up against discrimination,” Jenna Murray added.

“It’s incredible to witness the progression of the LGBTQ body. The community’s history brings inspiration to those who are still waiting to discover themselves. Thank you,” Brooke Dougherty said.

“Not only were there LGBTQ activists, but there were a few recognitions for black advocates, people who stood up for the people of color, during the time of the gay community marches. BCVC also has a wall of well-known or Bucks County “Legends,” who were known for doing great things for the community or just for people in general.

“Overall it’s a great place that recognizes great people who paved the way for many people and gave hope to those who were once scared. The staff is also friendly. ... It was a great place where we got together to see the history of LGBTQ, especially because some of us might inspire others one day,” Samuel Fleischer said.

“I really enjoyed the field trip. I found the exhibit fascinating and the people (students from other Central Bucks schools) I met just as neat. It was cool to see the history of people like me that I haven’t been taught before. I enjoyed seeing the people and events, old and new, that made a difference in our community. I shared experiences with friends, old and new. It was really cool to see, and get to experience,” Maya Leedom added.

“It was really great to go to the exhibit and see everything. There was a lot of really interesting information that I probably wouldn’t have ever really thought to ask about if I hadn’t had this opportunity. What surprised me most about the exhibit was that my Uncle Joey was on the Local Legends wall. It was really interesting to read about how he contributed to the community and how he affected the lives of the people who knew him. It felt like he was right there with me,” Riley Ramirez said.

It was an inspirational day for all the students who came out to see the exhibit and one that will continue to inspire.

There is still time to see the exhibit. It will run until March 23 and end with a closing party hosted by Visit Bucks County and PARX Casino.

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