FCTS Students Among Huge Crowd Celebrating Noho Pride Day
Photo credit: Justyn Melrose
TURNERS FALLS, MA – For the Franklin County Technical School students who marched with thousands of others in the 37th annual Noho Pride Day parade, the event was uplifting and inspirational.
On a warm and sunny day an estimated 40,000 people came to downtown Northampton to celebrate the progress being made for LGBTQ+ rights, with the realization that much more needs to be done to keep the momentum going.
“So many people are still in the closet, it felt nice to march for them,” said Halona Houle, a freshman Health Technology student from Greenfield. “You’re also marching for yourself and all other LGBTQ people.”
The FCTS students, who belong to the school group Sexuality and Gender Awareness (SAGA), were joined by tech school alumna Daisy Osowski, brought along a student from Pioneer Valley Regional School, and met up and marched with students from Turners Falls High School, Hampshire Regional High School, Minnechaug Regional High School, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, and Chicopee Comprehensive High School.
Amanda, who prefers that her real name not be used, said she didn’t know about Pride parades until last year, but was impressed with the atmosphere in Northampton, and that she’ll be going to more marches.
“It’s called Pride and everybody there has pride,” she said. “It’s nice to be there and not have to worry about what you say.”
English teacher Jeremy Mailloux and Social Studies teacher Randall Furash-Stewart, who are also SAGA advisors, accompanied the students to the march. Mailloux said it was “fun to see students who are on the margins of our school community walking in downtown Northampton and being cheered.”
“Everyone around you supports you, and that’s cool,” said Autumn King, a sophomore Programming and Web Development student from Bernardston. “I meet up with friends there that I don’t see very often. Everyone is really nice to each other and compliments each other.”
Another sophomore Programming and Web Development student, Eve Towne of Wendell, said she was overwhelmed by the feeling of support from everyone in the crowd.
“It’s more of an acceptance thing and everybody there accepts you for who you are,” she said. “Everybody there has been judged at one time or another and they know how it feels.”
As a teacher, Furash-Stewart said he was hoping the students would benefit from seeing all kinds of different people and get a sense of pride in themselves.
“It’s a chance for them to be celebrated,” he said. “To have access to this type of event is extraordinary. It’s a really important cultural experience for them. It warms my heart to see my students so happy and celebratory. It was a lot of fun.”
The SAGA students will also be participating in a number of upcoming events, including Massachusetts Youth Pride, a huge event in Boston on May 19, the Valley Pride Prom on June 9, and the Franklin County Pride Parade on June 23 in Greenfield.
Mailloux said the Franklin County march will be a special experience for the students.
“It’s more homegrown and small,” he said. “It’s fun and laidback. It’s nice to go to Northampton, but it’s important to have something like this in your hometown.”