GA Voice - - Georgianews -

When walk­ing through the park­ing lot on the way into Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Con­gre­ga­tion of At­lanta, you’re quickly alerted to the fact that they do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. The “Flam­boy­ant Min­is­ter Park­ing” sign in one of the spots is a dead give­away.

Upon en­ter­ing the lobby, you’re greeted by seven-foot tall signs with mes­sages like “No one left out” and “Who­ever you are, what­ever path you are on, you are wel­come here.”

“When you walk in, there’s nothing in here that would typ­i­cally push out folks, es­pe­cially those in the LGBT com­mu­nity,” says Chris­tian Zsilavetz, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Pride School, a K-12 school for LGBT ed­u­ca­tors, stu­dents and fam­i­lies.

That’s one of the rea­sons that, after two years of plan­ning, hus­tling, con­nect­ing, fundrais­ing and more, Zsilavetz chose UUCA as the first home for Pride School, the first of its kind in the South. And Zsilavetz and all those fam­i­lies and ed­u­ca­tors he’s got­ten to know are count­ing down the fi­nal days un­til the first day of Pride School.

‘Fam­i­lies are com­ing from all over the place’

For Zsilavetz, a trans­gen­der ed­u­ca­tor, Pride School is per­sonal. He came up with the idea in March 2014 while work­ing at a small pri­vate school. He re­al­ized that even though he had tran­si­tioned eight years prior to that, he was not out to fam­i­lies and most of the staff.

“I re­al­ized that it was in­hibit­ing my abil­ity to be the best ed­u­ca­tor I could be be­cause I could not be au­then­tic on the job and be the best ed­u­ca­tor,” he said at the time to Ge­or­gia Voice, the first me­dia out­let to re­port on Pride School.

He cur­rently has four stu­dents signed up to start school next month with a goal to start the school year with seven—they’re hop­ing to open on Au­gust 8 to fol­low the Dekalb County school cal­en­dar.

“We may back the start date up a few Pride School ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Chris­tian Zsilavetz hopes to start the school year on Au­gust 8. (Photo by Pa­trick Saun­ders) weeks to con­tinue to get ev­ery­thing in align­ment, but we as a com­mu­nity have al­ready been to­gether build­ing the com­mu­nity in the last two years,” Zsilavetz says. “Fam­i­lies are com­ing from all over the place—Al­pharetta, we’ve got some­body in Vin­ings, we’ve been talk­ing to some­one in Wood­stock.”

The cur­rent four stu­dents range from 13 to 16 years of age, but they also have a 10-year-old part-timer and they have a 17-year-old they want to bring on board. The $13,500 tu­ition can be a hur­dle for some, but some stu­dents are on par­tial tu­ition and some are do­ing vol­un­teer work.

“The amount of tu­ition that peo­ple are pay­ing is vary­ing be­cause we re­ally want to make this accessible,” he says. ”We also have rolling ad­mis­sions, which is re­ally nice, es­pe­cially for once you start school and you re­al­ize things ar- en’t work­ing well, we can be some­one’s backup plan. That’s one of the rea­sons we ex­ist.”

Fundraiser sched­uled for July 30

Luck­ily for Zsilavetz and the fam­i­lies and ed­u­ca­tors at Pride School, they got their first choice of lo­ca­tions in UUCA. The North Druid Hills area church has in­cu­bated three other schools in re­cent years, each of which branched out and now have their own fa­cil­i­ties around town. Plus the lo­ca­tion had to be LGBT-friendly and UUCA had that in spades.

“They have a huge al­lied com­mu­nity, a huge pres­ence at Pride,” Zsilavetz says. “They’re re­ally about so­cial jus­tice, which I think is un­usual for a lot of faith com­mu­ni­ties.”

Pride School is rent­ing out three rooms to­tal­ing 1500 square feet, which Zsilavetz says is more than enough room for 10 to 15 stu­dents. And the

Pride School At­lanta Fam­ily Fes­ti­val Fundraiser

Sat­ur­day, July 30 from 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Con­gre­ga­tion of At­lanta 1597 Frontage Road, NE At­lanta, GA 30329 events/1296909553660520


ameni­ties were hard to pass up, in­clud­ing a key­coded door, a fenced-in playground that’s wheel­chair accessible, a large pa­tio, a vegetable gar­den and a but­ter­fly gar­den. The school will use the rooms dur­ing the day on week­days while the church will use them for var­i­ous func­tions on nights and week­ends. “So we pay very lit­tle rent for the use of this space know­ing that we were shar­ing the space,” he says. “And we knew as a fledg­ling school, that was how we needed to start.”

The fact that he’s got­ten to that point— start­ing—is a fact that Zsilavetz calls “ab­so­lutely fright­en­ing.”

“I’ve been around peo­ple in my life who have a great idea, and it’s a great idea for five min­utes, and then they move on be­cause they re­al­ize that 350 other peo­ple have al­ready done the same thing,” he says. “To be here two years later, and go­ing, ‘Wow, we’re still do­ing this,’ is re­ally some­thing else.”

But to get where they need to be, they need to keep rais­ing money. They just got their 501(c)3 sta­tus, they are ac­tively seek­ing grants and have a big fundraiser com­ing up on July 30 at the school.

As the school’s sta­tus has grown, Zsilavetz oc­ca­sion­ally fields ques­tions about the need for a school for LGBT stu­dents, ed­u­ca­tors and fam­i­lies. He di­rects the an­swer at the par­ents of LGBT kids.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing openly af­firm­ing and act­ing as if ev­ery­body has a great time with your kid be­ing gay or gen­der di­verse. We know that ev­ery par­ent strug­gles. All of our par­ents have strug­gled. And if you hang out with peo­ple who get it, then you’ll get it faster. You can be up­set about it for the next 50 years but we can take care of your kid in the mean­time.”

July 22, 2016

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