Monroe Pride flag raising: ‘Love and support was just overflowing’

Jonathan Ganino, left, and First Selectman Terry Rooney raise the Pride Flag.

MONROE, CT — Connecticut State Treasurer Erick Russell was among the speakers at the Pride Flag raising last Saturday, a day in which the flag was raised to half mast up the flag pole in front of Monroe Town Hall to mourn the loss of Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, who was killed in the line of duty.

“What a great day to kick off Pride month,” said Michelle Dao, who organized the event with Janice Persico, a Monroe Town Council member. “We had amazing speakers and the love and support was just overflowing!”

Dao thanked everyone who came to the community event, while helping to make Monroe a safer place for everyone to be who they are.

“‘A safer place to be who they are,’ I mean … I can’t believe I even said that,” Dao said. “Why do we need to ensure a ‘safer place to be who they are’? Because this is the world we live in, and this is why it is important to be vigilant in working to make sure Monroe continues to be a safe place. Showing up is key. Thank you for your support!”

Speakers included First Selectman Terry Rooney, Persico, Tanya Hughes (executive director of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities) and Assistant Superintendent Sheila Casinelli (reading a speech from Superindent Joseph Kobza who couldn’t make it).

Jonathan Ganino was among the young people who spoke, along with Aurora Bresky, a Jockey Hollow Middle School student who won CHRO’s statewide middle school essay contest for her piece about LGBTQ bullying, which she believes is not taken seriously at Jockey Hollow.

“I take pride in supporting the LGBTQ+ community, especially our Monroe Public School students,” Kobza said in a speech read by Casinelli. “While we’re always striving to be better, I am proud of the safe spaces that we create at each of our schools for our LGBTQ+ students. There are allies all over the district, many of our biggest ones are here today.”

Staff members Jessica Champagne, Jenna Rice and Gloria Ganino and school board members Alan Vaglivelo and Chrissy Martinez were in the audience.

Kobza said educators have special development from the district’s social workers, collaborate with outside agencies, analyze school climate surveys, and provide after school clubs like Sage, the Alphabet Council and Peer Leaders — all with the mission of creating more inclusive schools.

The superintendent said many strides have been made the past few decades, though more work needs to be done.

“I’m sure there are many young people in attendance once again, speaking up for what they believe in and trying to make the world a better place by making a difference in their town,” Kobza said. “Remember: Showing up is an act of bravery! Thank you for being here today and helping us celebrate what makes us unique. My words will always pale in comparison to your actions.”

“To our LGBTQ+ kids … please continue to keep living your most authentic lives,” Kobza said. “That is the most powerful thing you can do to make a difference. And I applaud you for your courage in doing so!”

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