Cherry Creek Diversity Conference



On Feb. 2, 2019, seven students from the Mountain Vista Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club attended the 26th annual Cherry Creek Diversity Conference at Cherry Creek High School. Each year, Youth Celebrate Diversity (YCD) works with Cherry Creek High School to create the program designed to celebrate diversity in schools and communities.

“This is my first year at the diversity conference, however, I have been engaged in the GSA at Vista for four years,” said senior Zoe Johnston. “[The conference taught me] to continue to challenge my thinking and to pay attention to the language I use. My language impacts my actions and how the simple things I take for granted can lead to a wider system of oppression.”

Students and chaperones started their day at 7:30 a.m. in which they were taken through a Diversity Fair hosted by several colleges across Colorado and various organizations, including, March for Our Lives Colorado, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation– an organization dedicated to telling the story of the murdered teenager and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

“The Diversity Conference impacted me in a way I didn’t expect, said sophomore Ryan Richardson. “I kind of went in expecting people to more or less complain about a lack of diversity in schools and communities. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised that people actually came together to fix the problem of lack of diversity.”

Attendees then headed to the Opening Ceremony, featuring, a powerful slam poem, a CHEER Colorado performance, and a performance from Westminster High School, Mariachi de la Luna.

“I particularly enjoyed how we heard songs in different languages. It was their culture and I am glad they shared it with us, even if I didn’t understand,” said sophomore Aleza Khan. “I know they were happy and [the performance] mattered to them.”

Following, YCD introduced the program and addressed the keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Paula Stone Williams. Williams spoke to the group about her story of coming out as transgender, the struggles that came with it, and the strain it had on her faith.

“My favorite part was seeing the keynote speaker. I loved her story and I felt it was the best environment to hear her speak in,” said Khan. “Between the messages to keep going [and] ‘you’ll be okay,’ everyone loved her and cheered.”

After, the students went to workshops they previously signed up for. Classes were taught by various students, adults, and professionals. The lessons ranged from “Know Your Rights,” presented by ACLU Colorado, to a session titled “There is No Racism Problem In America,” taught by Joe Chavez.

“Something that I learned was how many people have to hide a part of their culture to try to fit in,” said sophomore Sophia Flores. “I never really thought about how many people in our community had to do this and I want to make more people feel comfortable.”

Overall, the GSA had a positive and eye-opening experience at the conference. The club encourages other students to attend, with or without GSA. Inspired by other schools, the club will attempt to plan a “Diversity Day” at Vista, in hopes of bringing the impactful lessons from the Conference to school.