Michelle and Rozina hope the educational pride wall will help people better understand and respect the diversity of sexual orientations and genders that exist in the world. /LAURA KEIL

By Laura Keil
A special “Pride Wall” has taken its place in one of the hallways of Valemount Secondary School thanks to work by students Rozina, Gr. 9, and Michelle, Gr 12, from the school’s Social Justice Club.

Michelle says the idea originated from “controversial Twitter posts.” In her free time, she decided to put together a Google Slides presentation detailing the different sexual orientations and gender identities. After learning about how other schools have created similar information displays, she and Rozina decided to do something similar during Pride Month using Michelle’s presentation; they also added the covers of books and films with LGBTQ+ themes and/or characters. They hope people can stop and learn something they didn’t know and keep an open mind.

“I think it’s important to educate people,” Rozina said.

“I hope people can keep their minds open and not be closed-minded when meeting new people who might identify as something they don’t totally understand,” Michelle said.

Michelle has observed a number of people stop to read the display and familiarize themselves.

“I’ve had a couple people ask me questions about stuff and we had a good conversation,” she said. “That was kind of the goal of putting it up – we’d educate people and start conversations.”

Teacher Peter Takach said a lot of people have been excited to add new books and movies to their reading/viewing lists.

When asked what they would like to see on a community level, Michelle said she would like to see general acceptance of LGBTQ+ and gender identities as well as a lack of hatred and bigotry.

“As soon as the rainbow crosswalk went up, people vandalized it. That stung, for sure. I thought Valemount was better than that at this point.”

Rozina said it’s also about creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ people to be themselves in community.

“I don’t think going out of our high school and seeing a vandalized crosswalk is a very good welcome sign.”

Michelle said she’s seen improvements over the year but there’s still work to do.

“LGBTQ+ identities are valid and real and something to be respected,” Michelle said.

Rozina says she’s okay if not everyone agrees: “You don’t have to necessarily agree with them, but at least be respectful and learn what you can about them.”

Michelle, who just graduated from Gr. 12, says she’ll continue her goals and education in university at UNBC next year.