The Marmonte Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) will host a St. Patrick’s Day dance this Friday, and high school students throughout the county are invited.

Under the Rainbow will be held at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, and feature entertainment by live band My Native Tongue as well as a DJ, light show, bounce house, photo booth and more. According to Doug Pollock, activity coordinator for the Marmonte GSA, over 100 LGBT youth, friends and allies from Southern California high schools are expected to attend.

“In our area, no activities exist for LGBT youth other than Marmonte GSA activities and the GSA Dance,” Pollock notes. “The GSA dance provides an opportunity for these kids to enjoy an evening without being worried about being criticized or bullied. After the first dance in 2009, one of my students said, ‘Mr. Pollock, that was the first time in my life when I could just be myself.’ ”

That first dance was organized by the Westlake High GSA club, but quickly grew to include nearby schools. The Marmonte League GSA, comprising GSA clubs across the Conejo Valley, has been heavily involved since 2011; and three years ago, Saugus High School GSA asked to attend as well. With interest in the dance increasing, Marmonte GSA expanded its outreach.

“In 2017, students from high schools throughout Ventura County, as well as those in Malibu, the Las Virgenes area and the San Fernando Valley, were invited,” Pollock says. “This year, invitations were extended to two more, Fillmore and Oxnard High Schools, bringing the total number of schools invited to 22.”

“It is much bigger this year,” agrees Lucia Lemieux, an English teacher and GSA adviser for Newbury Park High School, which has been a major sponsor since 2012. “Now, with more cooperation between schools, it has been a lot easier — and allows this to grow.”

“I feel it is important that students in this community have the opportunity to be themselves and have fun,” she continues. “Everyone with a high school ID is welcome, and we have many straight student allies as well, but it is a place where everyone can be comfortable in their own skin, so to speak.”

Under the Rainbow takes place on Friday, March 16, 7-10 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, 1375 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $5 at the door, and valid high school IDs will be required. For more information, call 494-5156 or visit www.facebook.com/groups/MarmonteGSA.