About 10 years ago, Gerard Lowe started a club for LGBTQ youth at Corner Brook Regional High.
The first year, no kids showed up.
The second year, an inquisitive student showed up with her friends and started growing something that eventually spread to other schools around the province.
This year, Lowe was bestowed the national school counsellor award by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.
"I'm quite amazed and shocked, honestly," he told CBC's Newfoundland Morning. "To be considered, to be nominated and to win it is quite overwhelming and surreal to me when I think about it."
Lowe specially thanked Kendra Wheeler, the student who helped start the LGBTQ Alliance at Corner Brook Regional High. He said the students did all the work, while he simply provided oversight and helped the group organize.
"They started something that just blossomed into this amazing kind of initiative at school," he said.
I thought it was spam. I was ready to delete it. - Gerard Lowe
It's one of the main reasons Lowe believes he was singled out for the award.
Lowe was surprised and thrilled to be nominated by staff members at his school. Last week, late one night, he got an email from the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association telling him he'd won.
"I thought it was spam. I was ready to delete it," he chuckled.
Despite its false start in the first year, the LGBTQ Alliance was never met with any kind of negativity, he said. It helped kids come out to their friends and family, and helped make their school a place they felt safe.
Group may have saved lives
It was launched the same time the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District started its safe and caring schools policy.
Lowe believes it helped pave the way for important work all over the province.
"I believe that over the years, maybe we saved a couple lives," he said.
Lowe will travel to Edmonton — on his own dime — to accept the award and its $300 cash prize.
While it's a humble amount, he said what the award stands for is much more important. To be recognized by his coworkers and peers in the counselling field is nothing short of "amazing," he said.