Conference will allow Routt County students to focus on diversity |

Conference will allow Routt County students to focus on diversity

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Students from Routt County will travel to Gypsum this month to learn about diversity and share their views on a wide range of topics during the Mountain West Diversity Conference.

"This is important for students to met and engage with other students from across the state," said Lexi Miller, Routt County director for Grand Futures.

She will be escorting a group of 13 students from the teen council, representing Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs, to the regional conference, which will take place Oct. 14 at Eagle Valley High School. Another group of roughly 20 students  from Steamboat Springs High School will also make the trip.

The regional conference, which is new this year, is an extension of the statewide Cherry Creek Diversity Conference, which has traditionally taken place in February. Many students from mountain towns have missed that event the past two years because of weather, which is one of the reasons why organizers from Youth Celebrate Diversity have started holding regional events.

“I'm one of the staff facilitators, along with Beth Gravelle, for the Gay/Straight alliance,” said Steamboat Springs High School teacher Chris Ruff. “Kari Faulk and I have been working very closely together to try to find a multifaceted group of Steamboat Springs Sailors to go” to the conference.

“Anytime we can get students together with students from other communities, even in the intermountain region, interacting around issues surrounding diversity, equality and tolerance that's a great thing for our students,” Ruff explained.

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Ruff said three groups from Steamboat are going to the conference as part of a delegation representing the high school. Those groups include the Student Council, student leadership and the Gay/Straight Alliance. Ruff, Faulk and Kelly Erickson will attend and serve as facilitators. Miller’s group will represent another wide section of Routt County.

"The Yampa Valley can be like a bubble, and it's great for students to get out and meet students from other communities," Miller said. "They will participate in two break-out sessions during the day and listen to two keynote speakers."

One of those speakers will be Carlotta Walls LaNier, who was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine — a group of African-American students who were the first African-American students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. She was the first African-American female to graduate from Central High School.

LaNier will kick the day off and then students from different geographic areas will be split into discussion groups.

"The students are expected to engage with their peers and other students at the conference," Miller said.

In the afternoon, the students will have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions addressing race and ethnicity, gender, disabilities, hate crimes, stereotypes, self care, art, music and yoga. 

"We are lucky to have this opportunity to take students to this event," Miller said. "This gives them the opportunity to talk without adults around and hopefully get into conversations about what they see in their communities, schools and friends and how they can be more inclusive and understanding of others." 

The conference will include over 200 students and teachers  representing 20 Western Slope schools.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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