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Bayfield students in Gay Straight Alliance to attend diversity conference

Group provides safe place for anyone at Bayfield High School, members say

BAYFIELD – Bayfield High School’s Gay Straight Alliance formed last year, and seven students – about half of the group’s members – are preparing to attend their first statewide meeting, the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference, on Feb. 2 in Denver.

Workshops will cover race, disabilities and topics such as lesbian, gay and transgender students in athletics.

“A lot of different people change,” particularly in adolescence, “and learning those stories, and who they are, is eye-opening,” said Red Wageman, a member of the GSA in Bayfield.

Rachel Rosenthal, the group’s adviser and a special education teacher at BHS, said she’s looking forward to attending a talk by a Holocaust survivor. Ashley Weinmeister wants to learn more about disabilities.

Students formed the alliance last year to provide a safe place for anyone to gather at Bayfield High School, said Andrew Stumpf, one of the founding members.

The premise to be themselves is important for the alliance members, Rosenthal said. Weinmeister said having a place where students can come and be themselves – even during a few hours a week at school – provides needed support.

“We just want to be there for each other,” she said.

Alliance said they have had different experiences in dealing with sexuality and LGBQT issues at school. Wageman said he thinks the culture, on the whole and also in Bayfield, is becoming more accepting of diverse students.

Anthony Swenk wasn’t ready to agree completely with that statement, but added, “I’m committed to every way I can to make it better.”

Alliance members sold art and cookies to raise money for the trip, and families and community groups also donated money.

This is the 26th year of the conference, which is organized by Youth Celebrate Diversity, a Denver group that provides conferences, workshops, events and experiences for high school and college-aged youth to share ideas relating to human diversity. At this year’s Cherry Creek conference, more than 1,000 students and staff will represent 102 schools and groups in Colorado. The Bayfield group received scholarships from the group to cover the registration fee, as well as the hotel rooms in Denver.

The conference deals with a range of topics, including cliques; religion; gender; sexual orientation; physical and mental challenges; multicultural art and music; socioeconomic concerns; and teenage social problems, according to the group’s website.