GSA sponsors clothing drive for homeless youth


Grace Coleman

GSA spread fliers around the school promoting a clothing drive for homeless youth. Students can bring new or gently used clothes to the attendance office and they will be donated to Youth Shelter Services of Des Moines.

Grace Coleman, Staff Writer

The high school and middle school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs are participating in a clothing drive for homeless youth along with other local businesses and GSA clubs.  Freshman Harshini Abbaraju introduced this idea to Johnston’s GSA clubs after coming up with the idea through the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council, also known as SIYAC.

“I’m a member of the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council,” Abbaraju said. “[It’s] a group of about 21 students from across the state, under the umbrella of the Department of Human Rights. We advocate for Iowa’s youth through lobbying, service projects and providing input on youth issues to different organizations around the state.”

Abbarju is involved with both SIYAC and GSA and wanted to find a way to make an impact on Iowa’s LGBTQ+ youth.

“For our spring service project we decided to do a drive of some sort,” Abbaraju said. “We’re all really passionate about LGBT rights and empowerment, so we decided to contact One Iowa and go from there.”  One Iowa is an organization that advocates for equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in Iowa by grassroot efforts and education.  “Once we got in contact with them, we were able to plan a clothing drive and get a bunch of local GSA’s involved,” Abbaraju said.

Counselor and GSA sponsor Stephanie Guthrie supported the Idea. “Harshini brought it to our attention and asked if our GSA would like to help sponsor the drive,” Guthrie said.  “The president and I met with her and then she sent us the fliers. (We then) put fliers around the school, put it in the announcements, and put a bin in the attendance office for students to donate.”

Students can bring in gently used or new clothing to the attendance office and it will be donated to Des Moines Youth Shelter Services, a non-profit organization that provides resources for homeless youth. “They provide not only clothing items and basic needs, but they also provide a safe and secure environment, counseling, and education,” Guthrie said.

Abbaaju’s passion for LGBT youth is driven by staggering statistics regarding homeless LGBT youth.   “We decided to do [this] project because 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBT,” Abbaraju said. “(And) we know that by raising these donations for all homeless youth (we) will impact and better the lives of LGBT youth who are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized youth in our state.”