Garden advocates for change, inspires individuality

KALEB FIGHTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Speaking at South’s annual concert “Jamnesty”, junior Kaleb Garden gives a passionate speech to his peers. Garden talked about human rights issues in an effort to raise awareness throughout South.

Sam Parsons

KALEB FIGHTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Speaking at South’s annual concert “Jamnesty”, junior Kaleb Garden gives a passionate speech to his peers. Garden talked about human rights issues in an effort to raise awareness throughout South.

Dea Sulejmani, staff reporter

“A true leader.” That’s the most accurate phrase to describe junior Kaleb Garden, according to Heather Chambers, club co-sponsor of Sexualities and Gender Alliance (SAGA). As a freshman, Garden realized the need for a gender neutral bathroom at South, so he created a petition that received over 800 signatures from students and staff. After the petition was proposed to Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel and administrators, the bathroom was implemented over the summer of 2016.

“In front of the principal and other administrators, I talked about my personal experience about being uncomfortable in the bathroom and I also talked about the health concerns and the safety concerns,” Garden said. “That’s something I’m really proud of because I was just a freshman.” 

According to Garden, transgender people are more likely to get harassed in bathrooms. Additionally, Garden believes that due to the fear of being harassed, some don’t even go to the bathroom.

As the President of SAGA, board member of Amnesty International and a member of Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR), Garden plays an active role in human rights clubs.

While involved in SAGA, Garden has emphasized days like Transgender Day of Remembrance and LGBT History Month. For Amnesty International, Garden has created various petitions about global human rights issues. With SOAR, Garden and other students work together to fight against racial slurs at South.

“Kaleb as a person is loyal, strong, determined and incredibly sweet and caring and kind to everyone around,” Chambers said. “Kaleb is what I consider a true leader. He will stand up for what is right, even to me. I’m just inspired to be more of who I am when I’m around Kaleb.”

According to Chambers, Garden started the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is a ceremony at South where students honor transgender people who have been killed.

“Kaleb really focuses on the transgender issues that impact the community,” Chambers said. “Kaleb personally has made sure that I take a moment on multiple days to do the right thing and be gender inclusive.”

According to Chambers, there was a dance held by Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) (now referred to as SAGA) last year that took place for South and other students from local high schools. According to Chambers, Garden led the way with fundraising for the dance, picking the theme with the SAGA club members and reaching out to local schools.

“The dance was wonderful. It warmed my heart to see our students and teens from local high schools get together and have fun in a safe space,” Chambers said.

According to Matthew Bertke, SAGA co-sponsor, Garden is more focused on activism and being more inclusive compared to a similar club at his old school. Bertke says Garden has played a crucial role in planning this year’s “Shut Out Slurs, Shout Out Love” campaign hosted by SAGA, which will be replacing last year’s “Day of Silence”.

According to Bertke, instead of staying silent as they did last year, SAGA will talk about gender and sexuality slurs in the hallway and how it needs to stop. Garden says this new campaign will provide a more adequate response to bullying.

According to Dejah Carr, sophomore member of SAGA, Garden makes an effort to get to know everyone and connect to other members of the clubs he is a part of.

“I remember last year, my first ever year being here, I was in the [homecoming] parade and Kaleb brought rainbow face paint [for everyone to use] and it was the best thing ever,” Carr said.

According to Chambers, Garden is not only inspirational to her but also to younger generations.

“I think Kaleb makes a difference by truly being himself,” Chambers said. “I think he’s inspiring to younger students to embrace who they are.”

While fighting for human rights at South, Garden says he wants to expand his passion into a career, and is looking into social work. For the future, Garden says he wants to make a difference within others in a positive way and to help other humans.

“When I die and leave this world, I want to have a good impact,” Garden said. “Even if it’s a small impact, knowing that I at least helped one person’s life be better.”