For 20 years, Paramount High's Unity Club has helped build safe space for LGBTQ+ students

PARAMOUNT, Calif. (KABC) -- When students step onto campus at Paramount High school, there's a place for everyone to feel safe and accepted.

Counselor Ariana Bates is the adviser for the school's Unity Club, a gay/straight alliance created here more than two decades ago.

"Many LGBTQ+ youth, they get fearful that their friends will reject them or what if their own family rejects them? It can be a really stressful, difficult time for teenagers," said Bates.

Tenth-grader Ruby Cheriet is among the Unity Club members.

"I've identified as pansexual for the last five years. Some people don't like labels and that's fine. But for me it made it easier - who I am, what I'm attracted to and such," said Cheriet.

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Head wrestling coach and LGBTQ+ ally Daniel Abarca is also involved with the group.

"Just because you're an ally, it doesn't make you any less of a straight person," said Abarca. "I'm a teacher. My job is to create an environment for students to be able to grow and be as comfortable as they can be in their own skin."

During the regular school year, they meet once a week during lunch. Assistant Principal Jill Hammond says it's an outlet that wasn't available generations ago.

"Kids were not comfortable being able to come out. I think a lot of kids hid it," said Hammond.

This Unity Club is helping to change that.

"You won't be judged, won't be criticized, no harm will come to you if you come here," said Cheriet.

"If you come to it with intention of breaking down stereotypes, breaking down prejudice, it's all coming from a place of caring and love, and that's what we need a little more of these days,' said Abarca.

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