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West Jordan Journal

Class of 2023 What I’ve Learned: ‘There’s so much more to me’

Jun 06, 2023 12:52PM ● By Jet Burnham

“Pieces of Me,” a mixed medium piece created by Dylan Crofts, which was selected for the Copper Hills High art show. (Photo courtesy of Dylan Crofts)

What did the graduates of the Class of 2023 learn from their high school experience? Copper Hills High School graduate Dylan Crofts, a transgender 18-year-old, learned a lot about himself and others from his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a member of the debate class learning and discussing different viewpoints, a member of the WISE (Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment) Club, and as a member of a society that is sometimes critical and intolerant of who he is.

“I’ve been through hell and back 100 times and I have been able to push through everything the world has thrown at me, and I’m a stronger person for it, and I definitely have been able to feel more comfortable in my own skin because of it, because I know that the world can throw whatever it wants at me and I can push through anything,” he said.

Dylan’s mixed media self-portrait “Pieces of Me” uses various mediums on different pieces of paper that overlap to create a complex and colorful picture of who he is.

“It shows that between my LGBT identity and my McKinney-Vento and my debate and everything that I am, there’s just so much behind it and there’s just so much more that you don’t really get to see,” he said “You just see bits and pieces of the person that I really am.”

One piece of Dylan is that he is transgender. He served as president of CHHS’s Gay Straight Alliance Club and is a supporter of other LGBTQ+ students. His bubbly, friendly and kind personality draws others to him.

“He is kind and inclusive to everyone and just a light in our classroom, truly,” Kalin Organ said, one of Dylan’s teachers.

Dylan doesn’t always receive the same treatment from others.

“They don’t understand LGBT identities and they don’t really understand the LGBT people, and so there’s kind of a lot of intolerance towards us,” Dylan said. “It definitely is hard when these kids know my old name, and they’ll use it just because they think it’s funny. I wish that they just knew that I’m like them— I come to school, I work hard and I just want to be accepted. I don’t really want to be looked at differently. No matter how different we all seem, there’s something that we can find that will connect us to each other.”

Dylan tries to take everything in perspective, as reflected in his advice to his LGBTQ+ peers: “Remember that high school is a phase of life all its own, and that it gets easier. All of these kids right now, who are super worried about how you identify, it isn’t going to matter in the future. Just be yourself and just try and have a positive outlook on things the most that you can.”

Dylan exemplifies a positive attitude, maintaining his happy personality despite the difficult circumstances he has dealt with the past few years.

Dylan moved out of his turbulent and unsupportive home environment when he turned 18 earlier this year.

“I’ve been doing all of this for the last little bit all by myself, and it’s been amazing, and I really have enjoyed it,” he said. “I feel in all aspects of the world more confident, more comfortable, more assured—all the good things.”

Once he changed his home environment, Dylan’s grades improved significantly and he made the honor roll. “I had a lot on my shoulders at home and so I didn’t have time to be a student or time to be anything,” he said. “So moving out has definitely made my better grades possible and this is definitely the most accurate show of my abilities.”

Dylan graduated high school with a CTE honor cord, a JATC medallion and a certificate in medical assisting.

Having supportive friends and teachers helped him get through his challenges.

Organ, who has three queer siblings and many friends that are trans, said it’s the simple things, such as wearing a rainbow pin and using a student’s preferred pronouns, that show LGBTQ+ students that you care.

“I think that kind of thing just shows students that you are willing to respect them and honor who they are,” she said.

When Dylan was overwhelmed by schoolwork and family responsibilities while two family members were hospitalized, he broke down in tears while talking to a teacher whose class he was failing. It was the phase of the pandemic when no one was touching anyone else, but the teacher asked if she could give him a hug. He was deeply appreciative of her compassion.

“She just held me while I cried,” he said. “I needed it—it meant so much to me. I always tell people that I think that that action legitimately saved my life.”

Those who know him can’t help but be impressed with and proud of Dylan.

“He’s been through some really hard traumatic things this year with his family life, and I’ve been really impressed how he’s been so resilient and been able to continue with this study,” said Organ, who teaches medical assisting classes at JATC. “This program is super demanding and he’s just totally excelled.”

Milonie Taylor, the CHHS McKinney-Vento liaison who works with students who are homeless or displaced like Dylan, is impressed with his positivity, independence and grit.

“It’s hard enough to be a teenager without all the extra obstacles to get past, and Dylan just climbs right over the obstacles,” she said.

Dylan is looking forward to attending Weber State University this fall, where he has been assigned transgender roommates. He is majoring in microbiology and plans to become a cardiologist. λ