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Headshots of Charlie and Katie, members of GLSEN's National Student CouncilCharlie Peña and Katie Regittko (Photos by Wunmi Onibudo)

First, applications for GLSEN’s National Student Council (NSC) are now open! If you don’t know already, the NSC is GLSEN’s national student leadership team for current U.S. high school students. If you’re interested in applying but aren’t sure what to expect, we, Katie and Charlie, want to share some of our experiences as members of the NSC.

Our journey officially started last July at the National Student Council Summit in Washington, D.C., where 18 of us met and prepared for the year to come. We got the chance to participate in various workshops about things like policy organizing and doing interviews with the media. We also got to feel like celebrities when we had a photo shoot and got interviewed on camera. One of our favorite parts was when we met Representative John Lewis and the co-writer of the book March, Andrew Aydin.

At the summit, we made valuable connections with our peers on the National Student Council. However, the most rewarding part happened after we got home.

Throughout the year, we worked on numerous projects and campaigns as student leaders for GLSEN. Some of them we even made ourselves! For example, the both of us, plus other NSC members Bex, Madison, and Emme, launched the #ILoveBiself campaign for Bisexual Awareness Week. For this campaign, we organized a Twitter chat and wrote a piece that was published in Teen Vogue. This experience was empowering and allowed our voices to be heard and understood.

Another highlight of the year was our Dear Mr. President video. Before the inauguration, our political climate left us stressed, drained, and weary of the future. As a body, we realized that other LGBTQ youth across the country were probably feeling the exact same way. We took our negative feelings and turned them into positive action by creating a video to serve as a beacon of hope and support for people like us. This video went on to be shared widely by major media outlets and across social media.

But of all these accomplishments during our time on the NSC, the best part by far has been working alongside our best friend (spoiler: we’re each other’s best friend!) Starting with rooming together at the summit, to currently Skyping four hours a night, we encourage each other’s growth as activists and as people. We truly don’t know where we would be if GLSEN didn’t bring us together.

Being a part of the National Student Council has changed both of our lives for the better. We’ve experienced things that we never thought imaginable and made connections to last a lifetime. But more importantly, we did it while changing the world.

Katie Regittko and Charlie Peña are members of GLSEN’s National Student Council. Apply now for the 2017-2018 NSC.

Photo of 3 LGBTQ youth with text overhead, "LGBTQ youth: lead, educate, organize"