Teen organizes local Day of Silence | SummitDaily.com

Teen organizes local Day of Silence

LORY POUNDER
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE ” After reading about hate crimes and witnessing intolerance, Chris Gabrels decided to localize a national event and raise awareness about gay and human rights.

“I think there’s a lot of bigotry in the world regarding homosexuality,” said Gabrels, a junior at Summit High School. “There’s a lot of hate toward people.”

Friday, the National Day of Silence, is about bringing attention to anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. And this year’s event is being held in memory of an eighth grade California boy murdered in February by a classmate because of his sexual orientation, according to the event’s website.

Locally, a rally ” National Day of Silence Gay and Human Rights Awareness Rally ” will be held at the Blue River Plaza by the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday. Anyone is welcome to join, and Gabrels is hoping many people turn out to show their support for the event hosted by the Summit High School GLBST (gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgender) club. They are not affiliated with the school, but a couple teachers, including Kristin Yankowski, sponsor the club.

A group of students started the club last year and they won an award from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for starting a new program for equal rights, Yankowski said. “What we’re really trying to do is break down some barriers,” she continued, adding that what they do is all student-driven and for any student interested.

Through this first public club event, they are hoping to create a “higher level of acceptance,” Yankowski said.

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Two of the other students in the club helping Gabrels organize the rally are freshman Chamonix Adams-Porter, and junior Randy Clark.

The Day of Silence began 12 years ago and each year the numbers who participate grow. The goal is to improve school climate and make it a safer place for all students regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression, according to the website.

Across the country, nearly 5,000 middle and high schools registered for the event last year. Also, many of the students who participated are involved in gay-straight alliance clubs.

Hundreds of thousands of students are expected to participate throughout the U.S., taking a vow of silence for the day or part of the day. They will hand out cards to explain. An excerpt reads, “I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices.”

“It’s held for victims. … Lawrence King (honored this year) was murdered for being gay,” Gabrels said, shaking his head. “Hopefully we’ll bring a lot of awareness to the county.”

“It blows my mind how gays are having to fight for civil rights,” added Gabrels who plans to attend University of Denver and get into civil rights law. “We’re in the new millennium. … I think gays should have the same rights as straight people.”

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