To mark their first annual district-wide Pride Day, students from Merritt Secondary School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) hosted a Pride Wellness Walk through downtown Merritt.
GSA Club students designed and printed on-site custom shirts for their Pride Day event, which were eventually received by club members, staff,
and District 58 faculty alike as they made their way to Spirit Square and throughout downtown Merritt.
“We wanted to make ourselves known in the community. We took a ‘wellness walk’ with chalk and wrote positive messages of love, acceptance and tolerance all over downtown,” said Marika Cram, GSA coordinator and MSS English teacher.
Walk participants left a trail with messages like “love is love” and colorful heart shapes in sidewalk chalk, hoping to raise awareness and encourage acceptance and diversity within the community.
“There are old ideas and some ignorance. It’s important that people see that it’s not just someone on TV or some nameless people, it’s us. We were born here, we come from here, we love it here and we are visible and part of it,” added Cram.
According to Cram, the community welcome to the Pride Day walk was warm, with drivers slowing down to wave and honk, and ample displays of support throughout the walk’s duration.
Madison Nicholls, an MSS student and member of the GSA, was present at the hike and was actively involved in planning the day’s activities. She says the walk met the students’ expectations and conveyed an important message.
“It was great, we had a lot of fun. It was nice to spread the word,” Nicholls said.
“It’s great to have this community. Especially with the way some people are, it’s nice to have a place where you can come and know you’re safe and having fun.”
The GSA recently returned to Merritt Secondary after a pandemic-related three-year hiatus, but the club’s efforts were further hampered by the flooding event in November. With the students returning to MSS after spring break, GSA was in full swing planning Pride Day activities.
Aside from the annual event, the GSA provides a safe space for students belonging to the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum through weekly Thursday lunchtime meetings, craft, advocacy and queer history classes.
Merritt Township Police Officer, Cst. Blake Chursinoff was also present at the Pride Wellness Walk. He stressed the importance of supporting students and GSA members and engaging with community organizations.
“I think it means getting involved in the community and trying to get into every little root of the community,” said Chursinoff, also an MSS liaison officer.
“There are all kinds of organizations and dynamics in our community, and the more we can get involved in each of them, the more important it is. It lets them know the Merritt RCMP is there for them and we are the same people as you.”