Pictured: Julie Solan and Stefan Uvegas

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Newark Middle School Counselor Stefan Uveges and Julia Solan, NCSD UPK-12 Family Outreach & Community Schools Coordinator did an hour-long presentation in November at the New York State School Counselors’ Association Conference in Albany on “Championing LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Schools” 

“Our primary focus was highlighting the work we’ve done championing LBGTQ+ Inclusion, policy development and SafeZone training we’ve done in our district,’’ Uveges said. 

Uveges and Solan, who continue to receive training through the Rochester “SafeZone Initiative,” advocated for and received permission to revise “outdated policy” three years ago that resulted in the District’s “Student Gender Identity” policy being updated again in February 2021. 

Also, about 200 district staff members have received “SafeZone” training from them during the last five years either at Superintendent’s Conference days or through elective Professional Development. They also have trained staff from other component Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES districts or through the Teacher Resource Center on the BOCES campus in Newark. 

During their presentation to about 50 school counselors at the NYSSCA Conference last month, Solan said she and Uveges revealed how their work has aligned with the “District’s Mission, Vision, Core Beliefs and Strategic Plan.” 

They also described what their SafeZone training entails. 

Uveges said a SafeZone is a “fostered environment created to allow those who identify within the LBGTQ+ community to be their full, authentic self without fear of judgment, discrimination or hate. 

He said a SafeZone in the NCSD can either be a physical space or an individual identified by SafeZone stickers or pins. 

Uveges and Solan said counselors asked a lot of questions following their presentation in Albany. 

“It was a great opportunity to highlight the work we’ve done and explain what we have found helpful,’’ Uveges said. 

Both said it gave districts in need of updating their policies a framework to begin with. 

It gave a lot of people hope and relief _ it was definitely empowering,” Solan said. “After our presentation it caused us to reflect on what more we can do in our district.” 

Uveges agreed. “There is still more work to be done.”