Project Prism flyers everywhere. An archive of easily found SIS notes online. Rainbow heart stickers on IDs after club fair. The common denominator? Vivienne Germain.
Vivienne Germain is a Kent Place Alum from the Class of 2020. Over her time at Kent Place Upper School, she created Project Prism as leader of GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) and helped convert Ballast Online (a subsection of Ballast) into the independent Starboard we know today. She took her passion for writing with her to college. Pursuing a Concentration in English at Harvard University (with a secondary field in French), Vivienne is the president and founder of the Adams Creative Writing Forum, an associate arts editor of The Harvard Crimson, and a former board member of the Harvard Creative Writing Collective.
The Journey of Project Prism and Other Diversity-Related Events:
I enjoyed going to APICA and Latinx night this past year and I’m looking forward to the Black History events this February. However, several years ago, I may not have had these opportunities: Kent Place did not have many of the cultural events that we have now, especially for GSA. “I think people need a space to feel comfortable, safe, and proud,” Vivienne said. “I [thought] we [could] lean into community based initiatives and educational initiatives [...] and actually make this a really good club, with a lot of good things happening. Because people deserve that!”
Initially, Vivienne tried to emphasize the inclusivity of GSA for queer students in other ways. As a co-leader of GSA in her sophomore year, she helped change GSA’s acronym from the Gay Straight Alliance to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. She started to distribute dozens of rainbow-heart stickers to her fellow high schoolers at club fair (a tradition that still continues today); these stickers served as a symbol for how Kent Place was a safe space for queer students. However, Vivienne kept circling back to her first idea - a community event for the LGTBQ+ community and its allies at Kent Place.
This turned out to be a challenge. Vivienne first tried to bring back GSA’s previous tradition of a movie night. “Movie night was a failure,” Vivienne said. “So I was like, forget movie night. It worked five years ago, but it doesn't work anymore. Let’s try something else.” Attending the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) gave Vivienne inspiration for Project Prism. In her junior year, Vivienne Germain and her co-leader, Anna G. (‘19), decided to model off of SDLC’s discourse themed structure and plan a discussion-based event for GSA.
Project Prism was intended to include participants from multiple schools and perspectives. “I love really digging into topics and learning about them,” said Vivienne. “I like how people can come and be allies, and you don’t have to out yourself. You can just be comfortable in this space.” Besides, an evening of discussion centered around LGBTQ+ themes would solidify the bond between GSA members and also open connections between students from different schools. And it did. Project Prism of 2019 had great food, many participants, and lively discussions. The event has continued every year after that.
Vivienne’s work with GSA, however, was far from done. In the spring of 2019, Vivienne worked with the RAIN Foundation, New Jersey’s only LGTBQ+ youth homeless shelter, to organize a supply drive at Kent Place for the shelter’s needs. “We called them first,” Vivienne said. “You want to give [a non-profit] what they need, not just what makes you feel helpful.” She recalls the drive’s success: “We collected boxes and boxes and boxes of [stuff] for people there. [When delivering the donations,] my car was so full you could not see out the back window.” Additionally, in October 2019, Vivienne Germain and Jenna Smith, both leaders of GSA in the 2019-2020 school year, organized a school-wide LGBTQ+ History Month Assembly.
In organizing events, Vivienne faced challenges as well. One of the activities that Vivienne was helping to plan was a diversity-oriented workshop set to happen in the spring of 2020. However, with the pandemic, the workshop was canceled. Fortunately, Vivienne was still able to educate the KPS community during her final trimester at Kent Place through her second passion - writing and Starboard.
The Journey of Starboard:
A couple of years ago, Ballast had an online subsection called Ballast Online. It served as an extension of Ballast and shared its mission. However, Ballast Online was never Ballast’s focus. A team of dedicated juniors and seniors (class of 2017 and 2018) in Vivienne's freshman year started an initiative to create Starboard, a publication that would exclusively focus on online content. Because Starboard wouldn’t have Ballast’s formal days of distribution to families (although it did have an e-newsletter) the range of articles on the website could be more flexible in terms of content, quantity, and publication dates.
As a staff member of Ballast Online in her freshman year, Vivienne was heavily involved in the Starboard creation process. Most notably, perhaps, she found and revised multiple possible website templates for Starboard to use. As a junior editor in her sophomore year and editor-in-chief in both her junior and senior year, Vivienne continued to establish and develop Starboard as its own publication. In total, Vivienne created over 50 articles and other forms of Starboard content.
Vivienne’s projects have some common themes: a promotion of inclusivity, and an emphasis on impact. Her projects at GSA tried to create a space where all queer students at Kent Place could embrace their identity, while also helping fellow LGTBQ+ youth in need. At Starboard, Vivienne tried to address important topics such as Black queer history, climate change, and mental health awareness. However, Starboard also tried to create a platform that promoted the voices of Kent Place’s students, from opinions on prom to advice to freshmen.
Vivienne Germain has taken many of these passions with her to college. Specifically, she incorporates her interests in literature (especially Shakespeare) and activism into her publications both as an editor for The Harvard Crimson and as a past intern for the Simon and Schuster company. “I feel like people should take advantage of the resources [around them]” Vivienne says. “[These projects] are meaningful, and [they] feel meaningful. My favorite thing about [my projects] is how they impact my community. They are fun because people are feeling seen and feeling safe.”