Abbotsford Senior Secondary is looking more welcoming than ever.
Last week, the school was the first in the district to have a rainbow crosswalk installed, bringing cheers from a gathered crowd at an unveiling celebration.
The project has been in the works for 10 years, says teacher Kathleen Black, who sponsors the school’s Gay Straight Alliance Club (GSA). And it has a strong connection to the club’s very existence, she explained to The News.
“Bonnie MacKenzie had started the initiative 10 years ago when a student of hers came to her asking if they could start a GSA club and go about getting a rainbow crosswalk,” Black said.
While MacKenzie was unable to dedicate the amount of time necessary for a project this big, she kept the club going strong and the objective was always top of mind.
Then, when Black took over the club two years ago, the group “took up the mantle of pushing for a rainbow crosswalk to be installed at our school,” she said.
“Last year my club started putting a proposal together and went through all the necessary district directed steps,” she said. “We presented our proposal to staff, the Parent Advisory Council and the school board; collected feedback from three sets of surveys we had sent out to parents, staff and students; and put the all the data collected into a spreadsheet and also presented that to the school board along with our proposal.”
It took them one full year to get the crosswalk approved, on top of all the groundwork laid in previous years by MacKenzie.
“This would not have been made possible without Bonnie starting it 10 years ago and tirelessly working for its approval,” Black said.
While it was the GSA Club that rallied for the rainbow crosswalk, and they often associated with Pride, there are multiple meanings behind them.
Black said they also represent other groups, such as people who are neurodivergent.
“It’s a spectrum which encompasses and promotes the idea of inclusivity and visibility,” she said.
They can also serve as a starting point for positive conversations around inclusion, and allows the school to “be the pioneer in paving the way for the future.”
There were obstacles, including finding funding and even facing homophobia.
But Black said her students met those obstacles “with positivity, dignity and grace.”
“They chose to rise above the discrimination and hate speech they encountered and responded with respect and tolerance,” she said. “They are shining examples of how we should all treat each other in this world, with respect, tolerance and love and showed so much courage in the face of adversity. I am so very proud of these kids in every way possible.”
While Abbotsford senior is the first public school to have a rainbow crosswalk, the University of the Fraser Valley paved the way locally. One was created in 2016 on the Abbotsford campus, and they have one at the Chilliwack campus as well. Multiple public schools in Chilliwack also have rainbow crosswalks.