PRIDE is a time for celebration, and oh is there so much to celebrate at El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, California (USA)!

While (most) schools across the country continue to struggle in their efforts to build safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ students, El Camino seems to have it all figured it out, thanks in no small part to Sue Frietag, the school’s leading drama teacher, GSA advisor, and out-and-proud faculty member.

For two years running, Frietag and her effervescent crew of thespians have hosted the school’s very own PRIDE FESTIVAL leading up to summer break. The event takes place in the middle of the school day, in an auditorium packed with 500+ students and decorated top-to-bottom in rainbows and glitter.

Our staff had the tremendous honor of being on-site to witness the event in all its glory this year, and trust us when we say you haven’t seen anything like it before at a public school in America!

To start, this year’s festival was headlined by leading LGBTQ+ activist and feminist writer Jacob Tobia (they/them), who led a powerful and informative discussion on the true nature of gender. To get the gist of Jacob’s presentation, watch their video below.

After Jacob came Erik Adamian from ONE Archives (the oldest existing LGBTQ+ organization in the United States and the largest repository of LGBTQ+ materials in the world) who gave a compelling recap on the history of PRIDE. He was followed by our very own Director of Education and Global Programming, Justin Tindall, who shared the following tribute from last year’s Long Beach Pride.

To close it all out, local drag queens Karma Lush (an El Camino ’17 alumni) and Hershii Liqcour brought the house DOWN with some gag-worthy lip-sync performances. Didn’t we tell you that you’d never seen anything like this at a public high school in America?!

After all of the incredible presentations and performances, chairs were cleared away to make room for a spacious dance floor, as well as booths featuring free food, a Glam Station (for all your face paint and makeup needs), a Connection Corner (think IRL Tinder, but for teenagers), and an Ally Station (where non-LGBTQ+ students could learn how to lend  support to their LGBTQ+ peers). What a party!

El Camino Real Charter HS is far from perfect. A number of teachers and students we spoke with are still concerned about anti-LGBTQ+ bullying both on and off campus, and not all faculty members are enthusiastic about supporting something like Pride.

But that hasn’t stop Freitag and her drama students, who work tirelessly to make each day at El Camino just a bit better for LGBTQ+ students. We witnessed their efforts play out before our eyes, and we couldn’t be more blown away by what we saw. Congratulations to everyone involved. We can’t wait for next year!