Triangle Program, Canada's only LGBT high school, a safe space for students
'They start to realize we care about them.' Triangle teacher says
For almost every one of the dozens of students who attend the Triangle Program, an alternative school run out of the Metropolitan Church of Toronto, traditional school would mean a life of bullying and exclusion.
But for the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and questioning students in the program, Canada's only LGBT high school, which was founded in 1995, is a haven.
"I don't think I'd be anyone" without Triangle, said Chavva-Tal McLaughlin, a graduate from the program. "No, this program saved my life."
Anthony Grandy and Jefferey White have been teaching at Triangle since the early days.
"We use the Ministry of Ontario curriculum but we infuse it with LGBTQ issues," White said.
In the 90s, they would cold-call shelters asking if they had anyone who looked like they should be in school instead of the streets.
"You have a youth that won't look in your eyes, has their head down, hoodie up," said White. "Over a period of time, they start to listen to what's happening in the classroom. They start to realize we care about them."
Grandy adds: "A lot of the time we are the first adults they've trusted in a long time."
About half of the students at Triangle are trans, including Maria Martin's son Scott, who was always an A student until bullying became too much in grade eight.
"It wasn't a happy scenario," said Martin, one of two parents who volunteer at the school. "Many students don't have the advantage of parents in their life."
McLaughlin, who graduated last year, says Triangle has helped her and many other students after high school.
"About 600 students have cycled through here," said McLaughlin. "Many of them have gone on to university or college and most would say they couldn't do it without these teachers."
With files from Ali Chiasson