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Latino Youth Summit inspired by Basalt girl’s suicide

The suicide of Dayan Diaz last April sent a shock wave through Basalt High School and left those close to the sophomore girl grieving.

But it also led a school leadership club, the Bilingual Forum, to create the Latino Youth Summit, scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. The summit will run all day, and all students must present a permission slip to attend.

Sharon Moya, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Basalt High School, sponsors the forum. She said it was started three years ago by a Chinese student to support non-native English speakers.



“Dayan was a member of the forum,” said Moya.

After Dayan committed suicide last spring, the forum’s students wanted to raise money to purchase a bench to honor their friend. But, Moya explained, “they started thinking it was a little too glamorizing of suicide.”



That’s when the idea of a conference came up.

Moya said the group started thinking about ways to provide information to Latino students to help prevent another suicide. They decided to ask students about the issues they face every day.

“We polled all the middle and high school Latino students in the district,” said Moya. “We went directly to the source. Everything came from the kids.”

The most requested topics Latino students identified were domestic violence prevention, women’s empowerment, suicide prevention, teen pregnancy, child development, and drug and alcohol abuse.

All those topics will be addressed at the summit.

As word of the conference got around, other entities joined the organizing committee. Colorado Mountain College’s Marianna Velasquez-Schmahl and Felicia Trevor of the Stepstone Center signed on, as did YouthZone, Latinos Americanos Unidos, Colorado West Mental Health, Advocate Safehouse and the Family Visitors Program, all offering to lead discussion groups and share their expertise at the summit.

“There are about 25 organizations and people involved in the summit at this point,” Moya said. “They’re either volunteering their time or giving cash donations. We’ve been so well supported.”

Organizers also decided to provide conference participants with community service and education information sessions, and writing workshops with Luis Polar, editor of La Mision newspaper. The summit ends on a light note with dancing classes and trust games.

Moya said the response has been tremendous and she anticipates a big crowd on Wednesday.

“We’ll have around 180 students from all three high schools in Re-1 attending,” she said, which includes Basalt, Roaring Fork and Glenwood high schools. CRMS’ upper-level Spanish-language students will attend, as well as 10 students from Yampa Mountain High School, four from Aspen, and about 17 middle schoolers from throughout the Roaring Fork district.

Debbie Crawford, public relations director at CRMS, said it’s going to be a full house for the summit.

“When we heard they were looking for a suitable place to hold the summit, we offered our barn at no cost, which can hold close to 250 people,” she said. “But apparently, they’ve had such a strong response that they’re also bringing in a heated tent that can hold another 150.”

The summit is receiving strong community support, and the Bilingual Forum members have also contributed financially. Moya said the group raised over $1,000 through projects like selling chips and drinks at school dances. They’ve also collected donations from area businesses.

Because of Diaz, suicide prevention will be a main focus of the summit. In addition, since Diaz was a teen mother, Yampa Mountain High School students in the teen pregnancy program will lead talks among students.

“This summit is in memory of Dayan,” said Moya. “During the welcome and overview, students have asked that we tell a little about Dayan and her life and introduce Dayan’s mother and son, so students who didn’t know her could have an idea of who she was.”

The Latino Youth Summit will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. The conference will be held in Spanish. Translators will be available. For information, call Moya at Basalt High School at 384-5923.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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