The Revival of HC’s PULSE Club

The Revival of HC’s PULSE Club

Over the 2021-22 school year, Hunterdon Central’s GSA (gender and sexuality license) has experienced a highly noticeable increase in both its attendance and outreach productivity. The GSA–more popularly known as P.U.L.S.E, or People Understanding Love Serves Everyone–has been around for many years, with the main goal of providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ and allied students.

In recent years, the club hasn’t necessarily been as highly regarded as other alliances. According to senior Rigo Salvatierra, one of the current co-presidents, “[during my freshman year] the videos advertising the club were the subject of ridicule by my fellow peers, it was often referred to as ‘the gay club’, and meetings were held in one of the sheds to the side of the 11/12 building, almost as if they were intentionally being hidden away. Moreover, while the atmosphere of the club was welcoming and fun, it was hard not to notice how everyone who attended meetings regularly were all already friends with each other. Meetings felt less like a club reuniting once a week and more like a friend group hanging out after school.” 

While at the time PULSE did seem to provide an enjoyable atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students to socialize, it was stigmatized by other students and not taken very seriously. It acted as more of a social environment than an organization with the goal of enacting change. Rigo also noted that “this issue was only made worse [during my] sophomore year … Meetings were more disorganized, the stigma around the club continued to persist, and our previous advisor did nothing to help the club.”

It was at this point that members of the club began to change the way things were run. They spoke to other teachers in hopes of making more connections and started planning out ways to make meetings more productive. But just as things began to look up for PULSE, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the club’s efforts were abruptly halted. During the 2021-22 school year, meetings were held on a biweekly and completely virtual basis. These factors may have also played a role in the club’s smaller attendance, with usually only a few members attending each meeting. 

This year, however, everything changed. Being fully in-person, P.U.L.S.E membership began to skyrocket. The official roster contains over 70 members, making for lively and social meetings. A large portion of these new members were the incoming freshmen, who may have been less influenced by the club’s stigmatized reputation. Though stigma still certainly exists around the club, it is not nearly as prominent as it once was years ago. 

Heather Baldwin, the current advisor, had this to say on the matter: “What I love about P.U.L.S.E now, aside from finally being in person, is to see how engaged everyone is with being open to helping the campus change, and taking a stand in having a voice in the policies and way things are done here. We have had so much admin come to our meetings and everyone has always been so good at being honest and open with their experiences. It’s this openness that will create change, and I love that we are a group of people that want to see that inclusivity on our campus.”

In addition to membership rates rising, P.U.L.S.E has had a noticeable increase in its activism and involvement within the school community. Throughout the school year, the club has hosted fundraising events, fought for LGBTQ+ inclusivity at BoE meetings, created awareness PSAs for the morning announcements, and even created a Queer Handbook for staff members contaning explanations on a multitude of LGBTQ+ issues and inclusivity in the classroom.

Our recent school climate survey revealed that approximately 15.3% of the 1400 students who responded identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. That is why it is so crucial for our school to have a club like P.U.L.S.E. Today, it acts not only as a safe space for all of these students, but as a driving force behind the protection and destigmatization of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

After a year of many victories, P.U.L.S.E hopes to continue providing a place for students to feel accepted and to continue making its mark on our school community.