09 February 2018

Alumni inspire students to ‘Be Proud’ at East London girls’ school


‘Be Proud’ co-founder Nick Bentley

Sarah Bonnell School is an 11-16 girls’ school in Stratford, East London. Its motto starts, ‘Be Proud’.

There is no better place for students to feel this sense of belonging than in the ‘Be Proud’ club: a weekly group for LGBT+ students and allies.

To kick off LGBT+ History Month 2018, former students Victoria and Alison went back to school to share their experiences of being LGBT+ at Sarah Bonnell and at college. ‘Be Proud’ co-founder and Lead Practitioner Nick Bentley said, “our students really want to make the world a more accepting place, and hearing from the former students- who are clear about our shared responsibility to do this- really motivates them.”

Assistant Head Joseph Begley, another of the group’s co-founders, said it “provides any student with a space to learn, to develop a support network and build the confidence to be themselves”.

Tasnim, a Year 8 student, said “I liked it when Alison talked about the second week at college. When she came out in class everyone was supportive and high fiving. It was normal to all her classmates. It must have been such a nice moment for her. I’m excited for college now.”

Fellow Year 8 Aliza agreed: “I was dreading the day, but now I’m looking forward to going to college a bit more. I feel more confident about it.”

Former student Victoria had been nervous at first to come back and speak to the students, but soon realised how welcoming they were. “It’s a great experience. You can have such a positive impact on other people’s lives. To know that you did that is such a rewarding thing.

We know what the school is like – we’ve been where they are now. We can say that this school, these teachers are really supportive, and they know we know what we’re talking about.”

Be Proud co-founder Nick told us how the day even helped to spark some new ambitions for the young people involved. “Several students approached me after the session to explain how they had enjoyed hearing from Victoria and Alison. They talked about feeling inspired and hoping to make a difference in their communities and in their world. Some students are even inspired to be volunteers in the future, which shows the kind of impact a session like this can have!”

LGBT History Month is February, and member schools can find an activity pack to help them involve former students in school on our Digital Toolkit.

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