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Graduation 2020 revised

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• • • •• • • • • • - € ‚ € ƒ ƒ• ƒ ƒ„„ • ƒ ƒ • ‚ • • … • „• - †• † † •• • † ƒ † ‡ † ˆ ƒ • • •• • ••• - •€ • • • • €„„ • •• • ˆ • • • • • • • •• • „„ • ‚ - - - - • - • ƒ … †• • • ƒ ‰ Š Š • Š Š• ‹ -• • Œ• SANTA CRUZ -- To mark a milestone for LGBTQIA+ youth in Santa Cruz County, a special celebration was planned. But as the date approached for that special occasion, coronavirus and the county's subsequent ban on large gatherings forced Safe Schools Project of Santa Cruz County to rethink its ap- proach. The special gradu- ation ceremony was supposed to be a new addition to the annual Queer Youth Leadership Awards, an event that was eventually can- celed. However, the coro- navirus obstacle didn't slow down the vision Ra- chel Morales Warne had for a ceremony to cel- ebrate the accomplish- ments of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, in- tersex, asexual) youth in Santa Cruz County. The event will include many traditional elements of a graduation ceremony, guest speakers includ- ing school and elected officials, a commence- ment address, dynamic LGBTQIA+ students and music. "There was no prom, no grad night, no walk across the stage," Mo- rales Warne explained. "There's already a lot of uncertainty for queer kids. We were thinking, 'Are we going to get through this?'" Morales Warne is the mother of two queer high school students, a trans son who is a sophomore and a pan- sexual daughter who is graduating this year. Both attend San Loren- zo Valley High School and while the family, along with her husband Mark Warne, is very sup- portive of their children, they know that there are others that can't be forthcoming about their sexuality or identity at home. Sheltering in place during the coro- navirus pandemic exac- erbated that reality. "I'm hoping this grad- uation ceremony is the anchor they can look at and see things will get better," Morales Warne said. "This is an oppor- tunity to think forward, not just in the moment right now, but what we're leaving behind. "I do have hope," Morales Warne con- tinued. "Santa Cruz has a very good queer community. We hope this ceremony reaches out to those who don't already have a safe place and someone to talk to." Cholë Rae Adolfo, who is graduating from Soquel High School this year, is the host of the virtual ceremony. "It's definitely a weird time ... but an oppor- tunity stands for us to be able to pause and reflect on all of our years as students in the LGBTQIA+ community and its really awesome experience," Adolfo said during a public service announcement posted on YouTube. She encouraged grad- uates in high school and those moving up in junior high and middle school to participate in the ceremony at 3 p.m. Wednesday by registering at https:// safeschoolsproject. org/programs/lgbtqia- graduation-ceremony/. There are a few ques- tions to answer includ- ing tassel preference -- there are three to choose from, trans, bi, or rainbow. The Santa Cruz County Office of Educa- tion and Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah showed their continued support for the event and LGBTQIA+ com- munity by giving a new look to its logo. "It was important to Santa Cruz COE to use the newest version of LGBTQ+ flag that include black, brown, and transgender colors to signify our commit- ment to diversity and inclusion of all identi- ties," Sabbah said in a prepared statement. "While this logo is new and will be used at the first annual LGBTQ+ graduation, our com- mitment to diversity, inclusion, and equitable practices in education is ongoing - and so the logo will be used for a number of different LGBTQ+ related pro- grams and events that we host." Stuart Rosenstein, chair of the Queer Youth Task Force, said he was overjoyed when Morales Warne came to him with the idea. "It made me reflect on my time as an under- graduate and being a part of the first Rainbow Ceremony at UCSC. It was more impactful than I had imagined," Rosen- stein said. "To have a parent of two queer youth offer to create an experience, a celebra- tion and more impor- tantly to inspire kids in elementary, middle school and high school is amazing." Given the change in plans, Rosenstein said they had to ask, how do we still celebrate and have these students still be seen and heard? "We hope to send a message of hope, respect, visibility and celebration," he said. "We wanted all graduates to stand on stage and receive ap- plause and have that moment. We want to acknowledge their hard work and being out is being celebrated," he said. "The goal is to still show that we honor them, celebrate them and wish them grand success in what's next. ... It's an important mile- stone that needs to be acknowledged." Safe Schools Project Santa Cruz County moves LGBTQIA+ graduation ceremony online By Melissa Murphy, Santa Cruz Sentinel EVENT INFORMATION WHEN: 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 3 REGISTRATION DEADLINE: 5 p.m. Monday, June 1 INFORMATION: https://safeschoolspro- ject.org/programs/lgbtq- ia-graduation-ceremony/ WHO: Safe Schools Project GUEST SPEAKERS: Alma Isabel "Isa" More- no, UCLA 2021, 2017 Valedictorian, Watsonville High School, Congress- man Jimmy Panetta, As- semblyman Mark Stone, Secretary John Laird, Cabrillo College Trustee Adam Spickler and San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District (SLVUSD) Trustee Gail D. Levine.

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