PRISM Provides a Welcoming Environment
When then-freshman Roman Wingenfeld was searching for a club to join, it was during the year schools switched over to virtual learning as a result of COVID-19. Rather than attending the annual NHS Club Fair and getting to meet the co-presidents face-to-face, Roman found himself reading club names off an online sheet list. He came across PRISM, which is NHS’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and joined via entering their classroom code into Google Classroom; by his junior year, Roman would become one of PRISM’s co-presidents alongside junior Gabriella Gustoso.
PRISM stands for People Respect Identity Sexuality and Multiculturalism. “PRISM works on promoting a safe place within the school where people within the LGBTQ+ community and alliances can meet, talk, find ways to educate their fellow peers and students, and come and support each other.” Chelsea Freda, PRISM’s club advisor, said. Ms. Freda was a part of the club back when she was in high school, and took it over with the objective of making it a safe space where everyone could feel included.
PRISM has held a handful of events in the past. One of these events was the candlelight vigil done on the lawn in front of the Nutley Public Library last November that honored Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers student who committed suicide. They also hold a “chalk walk" every year that involves writing affirmations of inclusion and acceptance on the outside grounds of the school. They plan to hold Pink Shirt Day next year, a nationally-recognized movement in which students and staff are encouraged to wear pink shirts to school in solidarity of a male student who was bullied for wearing a pink polo on the first day of school.
Co-president Roman appreciates the space that PRISM offers to its members. “To me, PRISM is a place where people can come and celebrate themselves and who they are when most people might not. It’s a safe space where people can be themselves and have fun.”
Sarah Nugiel, a senior who’s been in PRISM since her sophomore year, appreciates the atmosphere at PRISM. “The community’s very comforting. We all united under one huge struggle, and we’re all very welcoming and understanding to people’s changing needs and people’s identities.”
This year is freshman Desmond Bay’s first year being a part of PRISM. “The meetings can be a little chaotic,” Bay admits. “But everyone’s very friendly. We always see each other around the school, and it’s just nice having that kind of connection with a ton of people.”
PRISM aims to make their school community a safe space where students of different identities, sexualities, and cultural backgrounds can be themselves. Minority students are subject to discrimination, exclusion, and prejudice, and with a club like PRISM, these students can work together to put an end to this inequality. If you’re considering joining PRISM next year, “Join. Please,” said Freda. “You can be someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ spectrum or be an ally. We need everybody to be on board because we’re all humans, so join.”