Palmetto’s Alliance Club: A Safe and Accepting Place for All Students

Olivia Solomon, Adverstising Chair

Alliance, formerly known as the Gay-Straight Alliance, unites students in support of the LGBTQ community and offers a place for people to feel safe as they come to terms with themselves. 

“When you’re not sure who you are it’s important to have a safe place to explore who you want to be,” Alliance sponsor Larry Schwarz said. “And that’s my favorite part about Alliance: I can see kids feeling freer just being themselves.” 

When the club originally began in the early 2000’s, leadership primarily consisted of allies, people who support and defend the LGBTQ community; hence the name change to Alliance, which promoted the ally aspect to a greater effect. 

Aside from giving students people to rely on, Alliance also creates a family-like atmosphere of  like-minded peers in similar circumstances. 

“Alliance is a group of people who can understand me in a way that most people can’t, especially as a transgender guy,” Alliance president and senior David Ferro said. 

In the past, the club has promoted advocacy and interactive activities. However, this has declined in the past few years. Ferro wants  to bring this back. He has already planned multiple speakers for the year, as well as continued to ensure that Palmetto remains a safe and inclusive place for everyone. This includes actions like having guest speakers educate on topics that surround the LGBTQ community and hosting a donation drive for Pridelines, an organization that caters to homeless LGBTQ youth. 

After over five years of sponsoring Alliance, Schwarz has made the decision to turn the club over to English teacher Dan Hurst, who he has taken under his wing in terms of leading Alliance. The decision comes from a place of love as Schwartz recognizes that he will retire in the next few years and wants the club to thrive with or without him.  However, Schwarz still promises to help any students who need guidance, as he wants Palmetto to remain a safe place where students feel comfortable confiding in teachers. 

When Schwarz attended Palmetto as class of 1979, it remained uncommon and unsafe to be out of the closet. 

“These were the days of harsh and open homophobia. No one was out and it is such a difference and an inspiration to me to see kids now who are accepting and open to this,” Shwarz said. 

Throughout the history of Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, they have served as central hubs for LGBTQ youth and education. At Palmetto, the Alliance club also creates a safe community for students to discover themselves and accept each other despite their differences. 

“I would feel more isolated and less connected with people at school without Alliance,” Ferro said. “It has allowed me to have a safe community at school.”