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West Jordan High Counselor Wins Human Rights Award

Jan 28, 2016 02:14PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Aimee L. Cook | aimee@mycityjournals.com

West Jordan - The Utah School Counselor Association (USCA) selected West Jordan High School counselor Holly Bell as the 2015 recipient of the Human Rights Award. The award is given to a person who has been involved in sponsoring outstanding human rights projects or activities. Bell works with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community at the school, helping them feel safe and supported as well as advising and advocating for them. Bell did not set out with the intention of working with the LGBT community, it came to her.

“Students started talking to me about their challenges and experiences,” Bell said. “I did research and attended workshops that revealed some startling realities. There is a lot of work to be done. The statistics show that LGBT students are bullied more than other students. I feel like students in our school are very accepting and inclusive, and I don’t feel like there are many students who feel unsafe or bullied. In the big picture the reality is that 41 percent of LGBT students have attempted suicide. That is a crisis that cannot be ignored and we all have to make an effort to bring about major changes.”

And change is exactly what she is making. Doing her job has allowed Bell to face her own fears as well. She has had to overcome the fear of speaking out about a controversial subject and has helped other students do the same. She has dedicated her time to helping students feel accepted and loved for who they are. In turn, the students have been an inspiration to her as well and winning the Human Rights Award was a thrill.

“It is one of the greatest achievements and acknowledgments that I have ever received,” Bell said. “Every person has a right to be happy, and my definition of happiness involves being validated by others and allowed to be who you are without ridicule or judgment. The reasons behind the award validate the courage it has taken for me to speak out for a misunderstood and marginalized group of individuals. I didn’t need to have the award in order to continue to do what I am doing, but it is nice to be validated by my peers that this work is important.”

Working with the LGBT community has its challenges and Bell faces them head on. Often people make assumptions about her personally, and the very topic itself tends to make people uncomfortable. But Bell feels that the challenges she faces is nothing in comparison to what the LGBT students face everyday, especially the students with little or no support outside of school.

“We have long known how talented and caring Holly is, and it brings us joy to see her publicly recognized for what she does,” Eve O’Neill, head counselor at West Jordan High School, said. “We are so proud to have a Human Rights Award recipient on our team, taking care of our students.” 

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