Even in today’s internet-based world, age-appropriate books about LGBT people and issues can provide a lifeline for LGBT youth. Not all schools have the resources to put towards the inclusion of LGBT books in their libraries. Amelia Roskin-Frazeel, a 14-year-old from California is providing a solution with The Make It Safe Project, which gives free packages of LGBT books to schools without any, and makes sure students have access to them, according to Bay Windows.
"When I figured out that a lot of schools didn’t have any resources about what it means to be LGBT or how to come out," explained Amelia, "I decided that I wanted to help send those books to schools."
Since the project launched last month, Amelia has provided packages for schools in Arizona, Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey and North Dakota.
To raise money for the books Amelia has placed a donation link on the Make It Safe Project website. All the money donated goes to the cost of the books. Each package includes 10 books, and costs around $100. The books ship directly from Amazon, which provides free shipping on orders that size. Packages can be requested through the Contact Us section of the project website.
Of the 10 books in the package, six are fiction and four are nonfiction: Annie On My Mind, by Nancy Garden; Empress of the World, by Sara Ryan; Luna, by Julie Anne Peters; Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithanp; Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown; It Gets Better, ed. by Dan Savage and Terry Miller; GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens, by Kelly Huegel; Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens, by Kathy Belge; and Like Me, by Chely Wright.
Amelia explained that the books were titles she and her LGBT friends “responded well to and that covered a wide range of topics.” In a package she provided to a school with grades K-8 she changed out a couple titles in order to include LGBT-inclusive picture books.
The schools she has sent packages to thus far include a private California middle school where parents did not want to spend school funds or parent donations on literature with LGBT content.
An eighth grade student in Arizona was denied by her middle school when she requested to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA), so she started the group at her church. Since few schools in Arizona have GSAs, students from far away communities began attending. Members of the GSA can borrow the books from Make It Safe, lend them to friends and students at their school and return them to the GSA.
Amelia said that the books are usually “sent directly to the GSA president or faculty adviser to put on a classroom bookshelf, where a teacher will ensure that the books will be available for all students.” As long as the GSA is sure that the books will be kept safe and available to all students, they may also be kept in the library.
In addition to the book program, Amelia has set up the Make It Safe website to accept anonymous stories posted by students about their GSA experiences so that students thinking about joining or starting a GSA can learn from their peers at other schools.
Amelia came out in middle school where she founded her school’s Gay Straight Alliance and was a student representative on the Diversity Committee. She is now in high school, and a Student Ambassador for Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
Amelia’s mom is currently helping her turn the Make It Safe Project into a non-profit, which they hope to have happen next year.
Amelia is working to get the word out by word of mouth (her middle school friends now attend eight different high schools), and using Twitter and Facebook. "So much of this right now is just letting the schools find us, because it’s hard for people to have the courage to go look for these books," she said.