Gail Costello, an educator at Oromocto High School, is one of seven New Brunswickers to be featured in the Endeavours Art Stuff Pride Heroes Gallery currently on display at Government House in Fredericton. The display showcases strong positive role models from the LGBTQ2+ community in the province.
Costello is staff leader for the high school's Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), a group which has been recognized as a role model organization for youth, winning awards for the work it has done in the school and community. She has been involved with the group for 10 years.
"My approach to our GSA group has always been to find a way to empower youth," Costello said. "They need to feel affirmed and made to feel proud of who they are and what they can accomplish."
Each year, the group participates in important LGBTQ2+ commemorative events and works to educate the school community and the community at large about the rights of the individual and safe school environments for all students.
"The work we have done at OHS has opened the door to allow important conversations in classrooms and with other teachers and administrators. Many of our staff and even parents now march with our GSA youth in the Fredericton PRIDE parade, proof that education works."
Costello strongly believes it is important for schools to be doing GSA work with the ultimate goal of schools no longer needing them.
"Personally, I know I would not be teaching today if I was not involved with our GSA and my LGBTQ2+ work in the education system," she explained. "The pride I have in working with these strong, resilient students to help make their environment safer is immeasurable. It has been difficult at times, but always rewarding."
Costello said she has taken youth to GSA conferences across the country and the experience has been rewarding for her as a teacher.
"The happiness I get to witness when these youth are in a safe, inclusive environment for the first time is something that most educators will never experience and cannot understand. I am privileged to have had this opportunity."