There’s a new prom in town for high school students from North Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, one that’s helps celebrate the LGBTQ-plus community on the Central Coast.
“It’s all about gathering together with your community and dancing, or putting art together, or just making new friends,” Art and Soul founder Faith LeGrande said.
LeGrande worked with San Luis Obispo’s Gala Pride and Diversity Center volunteer Val Jones, who uses they/them pronouns, to coordinate the Pride Prom, which took place on May 20 at San Luis Obispo High School.
The event was just one of many in a month-long celebration that Central Coast Pride is putting together for the months of May and June including Pride at the Park, Pride in the Plaza, and Trans Pride at the Park—coordinated by Laura Albers who serves as the Central Coast Pride director.
“So many people—whether it’s students or adults—have expressed how profound the personal impact is for them,” Albers told the Sun. “We want to create as many spaces as we can because they are truly more impactful than what any of us can understand.”
The Pride Prom reaffirmed that mentality according to LeGrande, who saw students experience a prom event where they could truly be themselves.
“It was an incredible event,” LeGrande said. “We were able to provide a brave, creative space for students to not only express themselves how they truly wanted to, but also be comfortable in doing so.”
She told the Sun that the event’s success gives her hope that this is the first of what will be many youth proms on the Central Coast.
“Throwing this was our way of telling these students that they could dress how they wanted, behave how they wanted, and connect with those around them who affirm and support them,” LeGrande said. “The impact events like this can have the youth or just anyone that identifies as LGBTQ-plus is endless.”
Several of those students who helped coordinate the Pride Prom told the Sun that an event like this has long been in the works, and now with the help of Jones and LeGrande, they were finally able to bring the prom to life for students across two counties.
“It’s really been awesome to see this idea our club has had for years become a reality,” said SLO High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club Vice President Kyle—who asked to only go by his first name. “It’s definitely not something we would have been able to do without their help.”
Jones also praised the students for their efforts to bring an event like this together for their peers and make sure everyone from across the Central Coast knew about the event.
“It’s incredible to see how involved the students have been with the whole planning and promotional process,” they said. “We worked with the GSA and other clubs around the county with students from different schools putting up posters and helping sell tickets and it’s really helping the whole thing come together.”
Albers, Jones, and LeGrande told the Sun that they received support from all over with companies like Jamba Juice and Insomina Cookies offering smoothies and cookies as snacks for the prom event and PG&E sponsoring the Trans Pride at the Park event.
“We really want to throw an event that invokes that same inclusiveness as Pride Prom,” Albers said. “Thanks to all of the sponsors, companies, and nonprofits that are contributing to our events like the prom and Trans Pride at the Park, we are able to support some of the more marginalized groups within that LGBTQ-plus spectrum.”
While the events do have an LGBTQ-plus focus, the organizers said that they’re open to all residents who want to attend—regardless of whether they’re allies or members of the LGBTQ-plus community.
“Much like the Pride Prom, we are extending the invitation to allies and LGBTQ-plus members throughout northern Santa Barbara and SLO County,” Albers said. “We want everyone we are celebrating to know, no matter where you are from or why you are here, you are loved.”
• Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley will host its third Countywide Tobacco Prevention Summit, a free event that will cover tobacco prevention, mental health, and fentanyl and opioids in Santa Barbara County. Specifically, the summit will highlight the Headspace mental health app, current tobacco trends and policies, fentanyl and opioids, and Narcan training. There will be a teen mock bedroom presentation called Hidden in Plain Sight where attendees will see what paraphernalia youth are using and how they disguise them. The event is scheduled to take place on May 31 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Buellton Rec. Center—located at 301 2nd St. Email [email protected] for more information.
Reach New Times Staff Writer Adrian Vincent Rosas, from the Sun’s sister paper, at [email protected].