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Chatfield celebrates Unity Week

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By Deborah Swearingen

What began last year as a one-day event at Chatfield Senior High School has morphed into a week-long celebration of diversity, inclusion and coexistence, and it’s a tradition organizer Aaron Abai hopes will continue long after his graduation in May.

Unity Week kicked off April 2 with a multicultural dance and musical performance and concluded at the end of the week with two guest speakers — Doug Hill, pastor at Abiding Hope Church in Littleton, and Paula Stone Williams, a transgender woman and pastor of preaching and worship ministries at Left Hand Church in Longmont. In between, there were food trucks, informational booths and decorations celebrating the South Jeffco school’s diversity.

Though some believe Chatfield is not diverse, Abai said the flags representing students’ backgrounds told a different story.

“It’s subtle diversity,” Abai said, “and it’s also the little pieces that make us special.”

To culminate the week, Williams spoke to a crowd in Chatfield’s auditorium Friday morning, sharing her experiences as a trans woman and answering questions from students.

She knew that she was transgender at 4 years old but didn’t transition until she was 60. Fortunately, she was able to fight through the depression that many transgender people face. Many are not as fortunate, Williams said, later citing statistics that show 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide.

With a background as a pastor in an Evangelical church, Williams has a particularly unique perspective to share. She continues to hold her faith close and offered a piece of advice to teenagers in the LGBTQ-plus community.

“You are normal. You are just as normal as anybody else. Don’t let anybody, anywhere, any place tell you that you’re not,” she said. “ … LGBTQ people are every bit as healthy as the normal population. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

For Abai, it has been fun to watch the event grow and develop. Last year’s Diversity Day was not as well attended as Abai would’ve liked, but he was impressed with the enthusiasm and participation throughout Unity Week.

“This is actually making a change in the way people see each other,” he said.

 

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.