Storm squeeze into tournament

The sounds of sneakers pounding on the court’s floor at early morning practices replaced teary goodbyes as the Dixie State University volleyball team has a shot at making history.

Despite what seemed like a season-ending loss against Point Loma Nazarene University Nov. 11, DSU earned its first NCAA Division II tournament appearance. DSU, the sixth seed in the West Regional conference, faces third seed University of California, San Diego, Thursday in San Bernardino, Calif., in its round-of-64 match.

Head coach Robyn Felder said the team waited in anticipation Nov. 25 as the tournament bracket was announced. The team’s regular season-closing loss to Point Loma made players face the fact that reaching the program’s first NCAA tournament may not happen. However, big losses by top-ranked teams opened the door for DSU, and Felder said the turn of events are hard to describe.

“You know, I think ‘shock’ is a great word,” she said. “The events that led up to us going (to the tournament) were just one-in-a-million kind of things, so we were absolutely thrilled.”

Watching an online feed of the tournament results with teammates, libero Haylee Wilkes, a sophomore English major from Salt Lake City, said “shock” may be an understatement when the Storm made history after facing numerous ups and downs.

“[When] our team’s name appeared [as] the sixth seed, everyone was screaming and hugging and jumping around,” she said. “It was like a New Year’s Eve count down. Anyway, saying we’re excited to go might be an understatement.”

The Red Storm have momentum going into the tournament from winning eight of their last 10 matches, and Felder said preparing for first-time opponents creates a different situation for both coaches and players. Other than making small adjustments for each opponent, the team’s overall approach won’t change. Felder said out-talking, out-hustling and outworking go a long way.

“We need to just take care of our side of the court, and that’s kind of what we’ve focused on all season,” Felder said. “We’ve scouted teams and watched teams, but when we really can control our side of the court and what we’re doing, that’s when we’ve been the most successful.”

Heading into the tournament, the Storm has had to refocus. As pieces fell into place and DSU rose in the rankings, Felder said players — particularly seniors — realized a second chance was imminent. Everything the team accomplishes now is building on an already historic season, she said.

“We’re thrilled to keep going,” Felder said. “We didn’t feel like we were finished; it’s kind of unfinished business for us (from) that last game.”

DSU’s performance in the tournament will not only build on this team’s legacy, but also lead the way to the program’s future accomplishments, Wilkes said.

“Now that teams know how good we are, we can play next year with other teams expecting more [from] us,” she said. “And we hope to make it on top every year from here on out.”

If DSU beats UC San Diego, it faces the winner of the Brigham Young University-Hawaii and Alaska Anchorage match Friday. BYU-H swept the Red Storm 3-0 in the teams’ matchup Oct. 26.

DSU club illuminates joys of giving

While collecting donations in the Wal-Mart parking lot, Circle K members heard a familiar excuse.

A woman assured the club members she’d go in to shop first and then come out with food to donate. Rachel Omofomah, a freshman communication major from Lagos, Nigeria and Circle K member, said although people normally use such a statement as an escape plan, the benefits of charity bring out the best in everyone.

“She actually came back with tons of stuff,” Omofomah said. “I was like, ‘Wow, who does that?’ I was so touched.”

Involved in various local projects, Dixie State University’s Circle K club and its members have put charity work before socials and activities. From collecting cans and selling Dixie Direct cards at St. George-area businesses, to cleaning Dixie Care and Share, members’ blush-inducing recounts of kindness aren’t just a once-a-year Christmas miracle, said Natasha Tiger, a freshman general education major from Las Vegas and Circle K communication director.

During the same drive, one of many the club held in November, Tiger said even less-fortunate people — those who Circle K’s efforts aim to aid — made sacrifices with improving the community in mind.

“We had this one lady [walk up], and she did pretty much everything,” she said. “She took out a 20 and put it in each of the buckets; she gave us money for our club. She bought a Dixie Direct [card]… It’s just great to see people actually want to be motivated to help us help people.”

The club’s community ties have allowed it to expand services beyond campus and to assist organizations like Dixie Care and Share with helping the less fortunate.

Jae Maxfield, Dixie Care and Share executive director, said 20,000 people in Washington County sit below poverty level — accounting for an estimated 5,000 families. Because of these numbers, Maxfield said extending volunteer opportunities to DSU students provides a much-needed experience for all.

“If you’re middle-class, what you tend to do is surround yourself with people who are middle-class,” he said. “…So you don’t necessarily [say], ‘I’ve got an afternoon, I think I’ll go down and hang out at the park and see if I can find some homeless people to visit with.’”

To see how others live, along with the positives giving back provides, has been vital to Circle K members, said Ariel Gutowski, a sophomore nursing major from Tooele and Circle K president. While cleaning the Care and Share building, Gutowski said she realized how well off most students are. Therefore, DSU students should make volunteering a priority.

Circle K encourages DSU students to join, but anyone can attend the group’s fundraisers and drives. With projects also promoting causes and bringing awareness to issues like texting and driving in the works, Gutowski said community and student support are essential. Teaming up with others who understand the value of community service is vital to any successful volunteer effort, she said.  

   Gutowski said Circle K members caught glimpses into the lives of community members who struggle to overcome financial obstacles each day while at Dixie Care and Share. Among the poverty-stricken and hard-working volunteers, the group’s bond strengthened.

Because of positive experiences in Circle K’s early endeavors, Kourtney Mcleod, a freshman communication major from Las Vegas and Circle K secretary, said the members, with similar goals, can motivate each other to spread the club’s impact and simple message: Helping community members in need develops student character and devotion. 

“We all joined the club for a reason, which is to do community service,” Mcleod said. “So we have that connection already, since there’s a purpose that we’re here for.”

Now having utilized their passions for service to make a difference, Circle K members see nothing but expansion and a bit of well-deserved fun in the future.

Abigail Segner, a sophomore accounting major from Gilbert, Ariz., and Circle K member, said the group understands its goals and what each individual must do to achieve them. Because of this collaboration, striving to leave an impact on both DSU’s campus and the community brings more enlightenment than any activity can provide.

“This club is really cool because we make a difference,” she said. “It’s not mostly just for fun or entertainment…and I think that’s really important.”

To join Circle K or find out how you can help, contact Tiger at 702-343-7836 or visit Circle K’s Facebook page

Years of debate, discussion end with tobacco-free campus

The nearly three-year-long push for a tobacco-free campus culminated in a unanimous vote in favor of the ban at the recent Dixie State University board of trustees meeting.

A policy was presented to the trustees on Nov. 22 that, among other things, stated, “The use, sale, distribution, or advertising of any regulated or unregulated item containing tobacco, tobacco products, or tobacco flavoring is prohibited on DSU campus.” 

The policy went on to include the ban of tobacco, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, vaporizing devices designed to function like electronic cigarettes, cigars, oral or smokeless tobacco, nasal tobacco and products intended to mimic tobacco.

The only exception to using any of the above listed items, according to the original policy, would be “… if individuals lawfully smoke inside private vehicles located on the DSU campus provided smoke is contained by closed windows and waste materials are disposed of properly.”

The debate between trustees wasn’t about the tobacco-free policy; all agreed that DSU should become the first public higher education institution in Utah to ban tobacco from its campus. The debate came over the caveat that students and faculty could still smoke inside their private vehicles as long as the windows were sealed.

Trustee Elisabeth Bingham said the exemption for smokers should be removed from the policy.

“The only issue we have with looking through [the policy is it] says you can smoke within your private vehicle,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to enforce that. But we would like to pass this policy the way it was intended with it just being a completely smoke-free campus.”

Trustee Christina Durham agreed and said DSU needs to be 100 percent tobacco-free, or the policy shouldn’t be passed at all.

DSU President Stephen Nadauld was the first voice of dissention as far as amending the policy.

Nadauld said he helped draft the policy in its state at that time so minorities would know they had representation on campus, and he asked the trustees to keep the caveat in place so smokers would have an option.

“For my part, I want to acknowledge the input of some of our faculty members to what they in their mind think would be recognizing minorities and giving a little bit of an opportunity for them to maybe be more welcome on our campus while they hopefully would get into a cessation program,” Nadauld said. “I think the policy you have before you has merit … I just want you to know that what you have in front of you is responsive to the minority.”

The trustees voted to amend the policy to exclude areas where people could smoke or use tobacco on campus.

The amended draft, which was approved, states that all tobacco products are prohibited “…except drug products containing or delivering nicotine or substances designed to mimic nicotine that have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for use in treating tobacco dependency (i.e. F.D.A. approved tobacco or smoking cessation products), including but not limited to chewing gum, skin patches, oral lozenges, nasal spray, and oral inhalers.”

The policy will be effective Jan. 1, 2014, and will apply to everyone on campus. 

Hurricane’s stage musical ‘Les Miserables’ delivers phenomenal performance

No amount of will power could have halted the tears that fell Nov. 18 at the Hurricane Fine Arts Center production of “Les Miserables.”

The community theater production, directed by Kyle Myrick, of the world-wide admired musical drew in a packed theater during its November performances — a remarkable feat considering the small-scale production. The show has since closed, but it brought to the community a powerful and unforgettable experience.

The opening overture of “Look Down” began; the booming trumpets and clashes of timbers made a melody all too familiar to the audience. Chills ran down my back, even though I’ve heard the tune more than a hundred times since I was a child. I had to wonder, after a quarter of a century, what keeps people coming to see “Les Miserables” performed on stage or on the big screen again and again?

Even being familiar with the story, even knowing the music by heart, people go in understanding they’re not going to get a show exactly like the one they’ve seen before. It’s because the characters in the story are fluid, and the show is never done the same way twice.

Brodie Perry, who played Jean Valjean, immediately caught my attention. If his incredible vocals weren’t enough, his approach to the relationship with Fantine was absolutely heartbreaking. While in other versions I’ve seen Valjean take a more fatherly liking to Fantine, Perry was clearly in love with Fantine. This made Fantine’s death scene all the more tragic to watch.

But before Fantine’s death, the incredible actress who played her, Alexa Thompson, sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the house after she finished.

Thompson sang like a Disney princess — but like a mature and broken-down Disney princess. There was no need for the over-the-top vocals for a performance that spoke all of her pain.

Cosette, played by Ellie Seegmiller, gave another unbelievable performance. The only thing more adorable than her small, tattered dress was her British-accented singing voice. Out of curiosity, I glanced at the program and was shocked to see that Seegmiller was only four years old. Her talent was extraordinary through both of the scenes she was in.

My favorite part of the show is when Jean Valjean and little Cosette escape from the horrid Javert, who set out to recapture Valjean for breaking his parole. They sneak into Paris, and the story jumps a decade into the future. The full effect of Valjean’s actions in saving Cosette is soon to be revealed.

Then enters Gavroche, the orphan boy of France with a gut for rebellion and the bravery of a lion. Usually portrayed as a young boy of eight or nine years of age, this boy I saw come on stage was at least 13 years old. This is not a criticism of any sort, though, since the boy did a phenomenal job vocally and theatrically.

At this point, many new characters are introduced into the plot. There’s Cosette, played by Kimber Worwood, who is all grown up now; Marius, a dashing young man who is leading the rebellion against the new regime of France; and Eponine, played by Sammy Myers, a city girl who has been Marius’ closest friend and partner in the rebellion.

Something started to nag at me while watching the relationship between Marius and Eponine. The dynamic among those two and Cosette created the most heart-wrenching love triangle in all of literature and theater. Marius and Cosette are supposed to fall in love at first sight, a love that saves one life and ends another. What I couldn’t shake was noticing how Marius, played by Jadon Webster, had his love interests a bit skewed.

This became most apparent during Eponine’s dying song, “A Little Fall of Rain.” She lays in Marius’s arms bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head and finally admits she has loved him all this time. He sincerely acted like he was more in love with Eponine than with Cosette, which I can’t completely dislike because it made Eponine’s death all the more tear-jerking.

To put on a production of “Les Miserables” is to have genuine confidence in the cast and crew involved. For the Hurricane Fine Arts Center, they did rightly so. The talent in the cast and ensemble was breathtaking. The effort these people put in to building up this highly-acclaimed musical showed in their passion to tell an extraordinary story on stage.

2 Men 1 Movie: “Catching Fire” surpasses expectations

Jordan’s take

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a film with wonderful acting, a great storyline and an interesting twist.

The sequel to “The Hunger Games” has a much better director with Francis Lawrence. He makes the film more real and shows a better way of telling a story from a book.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and the rest of the past Hunger Games victors will soon realize the odds will not be in their favor in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

For the 75th Hunger Games and the third Quarter Quell, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) of the corrupt Capitol, the city full of wealthy people, has the tributes for the Games reaped from the past victors. Since Katniss is the only female from District 12 to win the games, she is thrust back into the games against stronger foes.

The casting for the other victors was a lot better than the first film because of their size. The other victors were much bigger and stronger than the previous film, making the Games that much more exciting.

The actors didn’t lack in performance throughout the film. All of them played their respective parts well. Woody Harrelson is becoming one of my favorite actors, and he doesn’t disappoint in this movie as the drunken victor Haymitch.

I haven’t read the book, so I was confused with a few little things during the movie, but nothing that affected the outcome of the film. I would recommend sitting by someone who has read the book, though, just in case it gets a little confusing.

It is always a good sign when I watch a book-based film and have a desire to read the book after having seen the movie, and that is exactly how I am feeling after watching “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” If I do have the desire to read the book, that means the director did well enough interpreting the book that I want to read the smaller details that were in between the bigger parts shown in the films.

Now that I have seen this one, I can’t wait for the third installment of “The Hunger Games.” “Catching Fire” leaves the viewer with a little bit of a cliffhanger, so I wonder what will happen. I might just have to do some serious reading during the holiday break.

With a movie like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” I look for intensity and death in the film, and this one does really well with intensity. The Hunger Games are a great way to show off some intense moments and wonder of who will die and who will survive.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” deserves an A for the acting. Let’s make this next year quick so we can see the next film.

Matthew’s take

Although there’s not as much nudity as there is in the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment, even more so than the first. 

The fact that I read Suzanne Collins’ books almost ruined the first film for me. The incredible imagery I’d conjured up during the first fateful games dwarfed what the filmmakers gave me in “The Hunger Games.” So of course I was wary going into the sequel. What would be messed up this time? 

As it turns out, not too much. 

The return to the Games arena was almost exactly as I’d pictured it, and even some of the casting choices were pretty darn close to the characters I’d imagined. This film delivered, quite well in fact, most of what made the book great. 

Like the first film, we also got some scenes that weren’t in the book. But unlike the first film, the scenes added into “Catching Fire” were actually worth the screen time. We caught a glimpse behind the games that actually added to the story. The behind-the-scenes stuff in the first film just took me out of the plot for some reason. 

The best part was the character development of Effie Trinket, who is and always will be my all-time favorite character from this franchise. She was incredibly two-dimensional in the first installment, but the filmmakers shined a spotlight on her emotions in “Catching Fire.” 

It wasn’t a death scene that almost brought me to tears in this movie, it was a speech by Effie. Who would have known? 

The film pulled off one task too well, though. In the book, the world looks to Katniss Everdeen as the hero for some reason. They never look at Peeta with the same adoration, despite the fact that he did exactly what Katniss did. 

In the books, Katniss is pretty clueless. She’s always the last to figure out what’s going on, and she’s always sabotaging herself, her friends and her family. She’s clueless about Peeta’s feelings for her and her abilities to survive in the first story. I hoped “Catching Fire” would have played down her density and made her a little more likable, but Jennifer Lawrence is either an excellent actor or a horrible one because I cringed every time she opened her mouth to speak. 

Unfortunately, there are only a couple of scenes sans Katniss, but the overall excellence almost made me forget her.

I’m grading “Catching Fire” with a B. It surpassed my expectations and actually left me wanting more. If it weren’t for Katniss, I’d up this to an A. Let’s hope “Mockingjay” follows the pattern. 

Fight for Ryan Talbot Fundraiser

If you’d like a good news story for a rainy day, I’d recommend coming out to the Fight for Ryan Fundraiser. We were originally expecting to have 200-250 people, but are now expecting between 400-500. It’s going to be a great time! There will be a 5K run/bike/ride at Treasure Valley Park (4050 Crown Jewel Way in the Washington Fields) beginning at 9am. Yes, even in the rain! Afterwards, we will head up the hill from the park to Crimson View Elementary (2835 E. 2000 S.) and will be having a great event with raffles, a silent auction, $5 BBQ from D.U.B.’S and Cravings, games, bake sale, and more. That will go from 10am-2pm. We’d love it if you could make it!

Here’s a back-story on Ryan:

Ryan Talbot is a beautiful, witty, spunky and intelligent 31 year-old woman. She is the mother to 3 young children, ages 6, 3, and 15 months. Ryan has worked in our school district as a 4th grade teacher, and most recently as a teacher in the special education classroom at Crimson View Elementary. She enjoys biking, running, crafting, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband and family. On October 14th, 2013, just 9 days after running her first marathon, Ryan received the news that she had breast cancer.

Ryan was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma and had a lumpectomy on October 23rd. Also removed were 7 lymph nodes. After more testing was done, a second type of cancer, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) was discovered. This resulted in Ryan having a second surgery on November 6th. More surgeries are a possibility.

Ryan is looking at new kind of marathon. One consisting of years of chemotherapy, radiation, herceptin treatments, and other medications. In addition to at least $20,000 in deductibles, it is unclear if all her medications and treatments will be covered by insurance.

If you know Ryan, you know that she is a fighter! However, if we could take some of the financial stress off of her family, she could focus her fight on getting healthy!

Become one of Ryan’s cancer-fighting warriors by supporting her on November 23rd. Join us on a 5K bike/run/walk in support of Ryan and her family. All donations go to a fund to cover medical expenses, which will provide some peace in an otherwise traumatic time.

‘Student comes first’ at DSU

Student athletes often carry a bad reputation concerning academics, but those at Dixie State University are working to destroy that stereotype.

Several Red Storm football players were recently recognized for their academic performance. The Great Northwest Athletic Conference released its annual Academic All-Conference team Nov. 13, and of the 28 players on the team, nine hailed from Dixie, which is a conference high. 

The DSU football team has not always been known for its academic prowess, considering the program was marred by poor performance only a few years ago. The program has been working to improve since.

“Even though we didn’t have a great season, we had a ton of guys that have great grades,” said Jake Hardcastle, a junior communication major from Heber and member of the DSU football team. “(A lot) of players are graduating on time — or early.”

DSU football players are not the only athletes making a strong impression around campus. During the 2012-2013 seasons, a total of 125 Dixie State athletes from all 12 athletic teams earned academic All-Conference honors.

DSU student Quincy Newby, a junior CIT major from Circleville, has been impressed by the positive representation the athletes provide for DSU and the help they give to their classmates.

“It’s great seeing (the athletes) work hard in the (study) groups they’re involved in,” Newby said. “It shows they’re willing to work hard in all aspects of their lives.” 

NCAA academic adviser Dabney McIntyre credited Dixie State coaches for recent improvement.

“The coaches have done a very good job (the) last couple of years stressing how important academics are,” McIntyre said. “If you do well in the classroom, it shows up on the court or on the field.”

Newby also said the academic improvement in the athletic department is helping the school progress.

“It shows that we’re a university that is working toward (a larger) academic presence in the state,” Newby said.

Aarika Andersen, a member of the DSU women’s soccer team and an Academic All-Pacific West performer, said she and her teammates support each other and work hard to succeed academically.

“We study together and like to stick together,” said Andersen, a junior communication major from Bountiful. “We take classes (with teammates) so we can help each other.”

Because Dixie State is an NCAA Division II school, there isn’t a lot of hype surrounding the majority of its athletes. Most players who choose to attend don’t have expectations of making it to the professional ranks. Hardcastle said this makes academics all the more important.

“I’m on an academic scholarship,” Hardcastle said. “It’s not just football. A lot of Division II athletes are here because we want to go to school and get the perk of being able to play. Our main focus is still schoolwork.” 

McIntyre agreed with Hardcastle and stressed the importance of obtaining a degree.

“I think they all understand that to excel in life, they need some sort of a degree for their career,” McIntyre said.

Hardcastle also said Division II athletes have to take a lot more responsibility for their daily schedules as opposed to Division I athletes, who often have tutors and other academic aides plan out their days.

 “I think, at our level, it’s more of a win if you’re able to (attend) all the practices that a Division I player would and then still go to class and get the grades on your own, without the attention you would get at the Division I level,” Hardcastle said.

McIntyre said larger schools have the advantages of tutors and other aides for each athlete or sport. 

“The bigger we get, the more resources we’ll have for our student athletes,” McIntyre said.

Andersen wants the rest of the student body to remember the main reason athletes are here in St. George.

“Sometimes I feel like other students think we’re just athletes,” Andersen said. “[We’re] actually student athletes; student comes first.”

Latest Sears Art Gallery exhibit soars sky-high

With works depicting Batman sporting Converse and sipping coffee, to cloud watchers’ documentation, the newest gallery on Dixie State University campus will be exploring all senses of the phrase “head in the clouds.” 

“Sky: Feet on the Ground” is the newest exhibit in the Sears Art Gallery that opened Monday. Roughly 12 artists from Utah have collaborated with Kathy Cieslewicz, the Sears Art Gallery curator, to collect a vast variety of different works all created with different takes on the show’s theme. 

“This is how we live,” Cieslewicz said. “Our heads are in the sky, and our feet are on the ground, so (we’re asking:) How do we do that and how does it relate to our lives?”

The collection includes pieces that express the theme in divergent ways, from realistic landscape illustrations, to works that depict a behind-the-scenes glance at mundane perspectives of superheroes’ lives (including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman).

The mixture of art media is just as varied as each artist’s take on the show’s theme, Cieslewicz said. They include paintings, cloud watchers’ journals, installations, iPad artwork, and mobiles — kinetic sculptures comprising balanced and suspended components.

“It’s going to be very diverse,” she said. “You’re going to get everything from traditional realism (and) book art, to what’s new, like iPad art.”

Deborah Durban, an artist from Virgin, is showcasing the installation “Gaia’s Robe,” which is a garment made up of a collection of paper prints of cloud illustrations painted on her iPad.

As a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society, Durban said the sky has always been a fascinating and important part of her life and artistic inspiration, especially because of its nature to constantly change and act as a window to larger meanings of life.

“We are dust on the Earth — small,” Durban said. “And we have this beautiful cover, the sky…Loftily, it’s trying to remind us that we’re really insignificant and that’s it. And yet we’re all connected…and one of the biggest connections is the sky.”

She said through her artwork she hopes to aid people in allowing their minds to touch the sky and yet remain grounded to reality.

“Art is always an experience about transcending something other than what you are,” Durban said. “That’s what I work toward is having some kind of communication. The art piece is done and then it takes off, and it has a conversation with the audience.”   

Along similar lines, Rebecca Gaver, an artist from Kanab, said she aimed to convey the crucial balance of reality and creativity in her piece, “Destination,” which is a surreal landscape created with pen and colored pencil.

“Staying grounded is really important and difficult, (but so is being) able to fly and soar at the same time,” Gaver said. “You have to stay grounded in order to fly. The best art comes when you let go when you let things float freely in and that’s the head in the sky part. But you have to stay grounded enough to produce it and not just have it be this airy, fairy idea in your head.”

Gaver describes her piece “Destination” as a gestural, evocative, lyrical and animated depiction of energy that speaks for itself with messages that will reveal themselves in different ways to individuals. She said it was a product of free-flowing creativity that came to her on its very own, which gives it an origin that also relates nicely to the exhibit’s theme.

“I try and not let thinking get in my way of making my art because if you think too much, then sometimes it seems contrived or overworked or overdone,” she said. “It’s there; it just needs to come out.”

“Sky: Feet on the Ground” will be on display until Jan. 17, but the gallery will be closed on holidays. An artist reception will take place Friday from 7-9 p.m. at the Sears Art Gallery for students and community members to attend. 

DSU club encourages transgender tolerance

Imagine seeing one of your peers being thrown and kicked down the hallway in school — for simply being exactly who he or she is. 

This is the image that members of the Gay Straight Alliance at Dixie State University are painting for students in order to encourage them to learn more about gender identity.

The GSA held an event at the campus outdoor amphitheater in honor of Transgender Remembrance Day Nov. 19. The amphitheater was dimly lit by many small candles and a cozy bonfire. The purpose of the gathering was to honor those who have lost their lives for identifying themselves as transgender, transsexual or another gender identity.

“If you look around, one of you could be murdered for being exactly who you are,” said David Columbus, a sophomore art major from Los Angeles. “That’s painful.”

Columbus said the purpose of Transgender Remembrance Day is to make people aware that transgender individuals are people too.

“They aren’t freaks,” Columbus said. “They bleed like everyone else.”

Columbus, as well as other students who identify as transgender, shared their testimonies while enjoying pizza, s’mores and hot chocolate. Garner, a freshman criminal justice major from Riverdale, who requested only his last name be used, says that he’s much happier since he’s come out to his family and friends. He said he’s “getting there” and “staying positive.” Garner identifies as a male.

“I’ve known that something was different since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Garner said.

Garner said it was difficult for his family to accept him. He was bullied throughout high school, and during his sophomore year of high school, Garner attempted suicide. He moved to St. George to escape the harmful bullying.

“I was called things like ‘transvestite,’ ‘it’ and ‘she-male,’” Garner said. “There was one instance when I got kicked down the halls.”

As the speakers shared their sensitive testimonies, audience members offered words of encouragement like “You’re just talking to your friends,” and “We’re all friends here.”

Garner has known his girlfriend since middle school. She spoke about how great of a guy Garner is.

“There’s nothing different about him than any other guy,” she said. “It’s a long road, but he’s dealing with it, and I’m dealing with it, and that’s all that matters.”

A candlelit vigil and a moment of silence allowed those attending to reflect on the lives lost to bullying and self-mutilation. Performers lightened up the conversation with acoustic musical numbers between speakers.

Another member of the GSA, who chose to remain anonymous, helped form the “T” Club. The “T” Club is a section of the GSA that represents transgender individuals.

“My entire life I thought I was a tom-boy…,” he said. “I started to embrace who I really am.”

Both he and Garner stood up and explained how far they go to make sure they dress appropriately for their gender. One lifted up his shirt and showed the crowd his binder—a tight wrap worn on the upper half to minimize the appearance of breasts. Garner agreed that binders are extremely uncomfortable, but they give the wearer more confidence.

“It’s really hard sometimes,” he said. “I’ll look at myself in the mirror and get really frustrated.”

DSU sociology lecturer Christina Duncan said she is proud to be an ally and gave advice to those in search of their identities.

“I dedicate my work to all those fighting to understand themselves…,” Duncan said. “Never give up on yourself, never give up on your friends, [and] never give up the fight. I won’t give up on you.”