Originally published to Casper Star-Tribune- March 19th, 2022
Growing up in Casper, Wyoming, as a closeted transgender man, I needed to build a safe space as I came to terms with my personal identity.
Navigating small town Wyoming as a transgender person was not easy, but I’m fortunate to consider my coming out experience a positive one. My family is so supportive, yet sometimes I felt scared that others might call me out in public for being different.
I knew I needed to build my own safe space as I came to understand my identity. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to enroll at both Kelly Walsh High School and at Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA), an online public-school program in our state. Dual enrollment allowed me to complete my classes at home while participating in extracurricular activities at my local high school.
I consider this time of my life “the best of both worlds.” I received incredible academic and personal support from my teachers and classmates, and I learned how to be organized, meet deadlines, and was able to discover my passions.
Throughout my time at both WYVA and at Kelly Walsh, I knew I couldn’t have been the only one facing challenges with their identity. The academic and personal support my family and I received at WYVA made me realize that all schools should provide a place where all students could feel at home.
Thus, the creation of Kelly Walsh High School’s first Pride Club. The world might be full of challenges for trans kids, but in our little club I was with people just like me, who accepted me, and I was safe.
The club wasn’t easy to establish. The district wouldn’t approve the club without a faculty sponsor — among other challenges — but once we gained a teacher’s support, we were able to welcome many people, both students and community members alike.
Pride Club was an incredible gift to me, during a time when I struggled to find acceptance. I am proud to say the club continues to run today.
As I continued online learning in high school, I was excited to have the time for a passion I love more than anything in the world: theater. The main reason I chose to stay enrolled in Kelly Walsh was because of its theater and drama programs. In theater, I could be myself, make friends, and be a part of a vibrant community. It led me to earn my associate degree in Technical Theater at Casper College and to continue my education in stage management at Columbia College in Chicago, where I am set to graduate next year.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunity to attend both online school and stay connected to the Kelly Walsh community. Dual enrollment gave me the strength to be myself — at the most challenging time of my life.
To learn more about Wyoming Virtual Academy, visit https://wyva.k12.com/