KOSTENKO: Nonnewaug’s Welcoming Environment Crucial During Pandemic


Marisa Christoff

Nonnewaug’s Gay-Straight Alliance, which is promoted outside room A8 at the school, is one of many ways in which inclusivity is promoted in the Chiefs community.

Ryan Kostenko, Reporter

I have only been at Nonnewaug for a little over a year, but this school has proven to be one of the friendliest and most welcoming environments I’ve experienced in a school. I, and many others, believe it is because the teachers and students make it into what it is. 

I have a lot of friends and fellow students who have different sexual orientations, and from experience I have learned that they are normally some of the most anxious students. Knowing this, it really helps all students that our school allows us to have clubs such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and Equality Association.

Taryn Fernandez is Nonnewaug’s assistant principal and also the founder of our Equality Association. She said that Nonnewaug faculty members encourage students to identify the unpleasant situations so they can make the change.

“We try to create a community atmosphere of empathy and respect,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez’s desire to encourage students to try to make changes has a humongous impact on us because it’s not always going to be adults fixing our issues. We all have to learn to solve issues on our own and to make life as pleasant as possible for others. This is especially important during times like these, when we’re all trapped in our houses worrying about COVID-19.

Fernandez also thinks about the impact the pandemic has on students — especially those in the LGBTQ community.

“Hybrid learning makes it hard for students to feel comfortable and hard to make relationships with other students in the LGBTQ community,” Fernandez noted.

Making students feel more welcome really makes them feel more comfortable in environments that they normally would not feel as comfortable in.

With the coronavirus crisis that has been encapsulating the globe, it has made life for all very difficult — especially for new students who have harder times fitting in or people who have difficulty coping with such times. With COVID-19, it’s important that we keep track of our mental health and those who we know may have a harder time feeling comfortable. That might include reaching out to resources at Nonnewaug.

“Support services are used frequently to help uncomfortable students that other students don’t want to help,” Fernandez explained. 

I would encourage you to keep an eye on people you know and make sure you are checking in on your friends who you feel may be having a more difficult time with all of this. Stay kind and inclusive to all who have a different sexual orientation, because we are all still people living on the same earth. And if you or someone you know is having a hard time, remember to seek support from a loved or a support group.

This is the opinion of Ryan Kostenko, a general-assignment reporter for the NHS Chief Advocate and a junior at Nonnewaug.