Group formed to celebrate diversity

Members of Untalan Middle School's READi Club gathered outside of their campus Friday as part of a wave to celebrate Unity Day, a bullying prevention event.
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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. For those who grew up LGBTQ, bullying could happen anywhere.

Reports have shown that LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk of being bullied. Statistics from the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that nationwide, around 27 percent of youth who self-identify as LGBTQ have been cyber-bullied while around 33 percent experienced being bullied on school premises.

Wilamina Diosa Duenas, from the House of Diosa, said bullying has pretty much evolved especially because of social media.

“People are more prone to bullying because of social media, especially because you can’t see the person who is doing the bullying. Sometimes, they have a little bit more power over the individual that they are bullying,” Duenas said.

But a local school counselor aims to change that. With the establishment of the Untalan Middle School’s Rainbow Education Alliance for Diverse Individuals — the first of its kind within the public middle school system — the club aims to celebrate the identities of its students whether it’s gender, sexual orientation, or culture.

Counselor Mark Pagsanjan said they opened the group to everyone.

“It’s open to everyone who supports acceptance and diversity. So that’s where we’re at. That’s where READI Club is for,” he said.

He added: “We have this club to ensure that the students feel safe and comfortable.”

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero recently signed a proclamation declaring October as Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month.