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Meet the American high school athlete who’s all about creating safe sporting spaces

Meet the American high school athlete who’s all about creating safe sporting spaces

At the professional level, we have Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and wrestler Matt Cage – both of whom we are very proud of, for their coming out.

And at the college level, we have Mason Darrow, a soccer player at Princeton University who became the first openly gay player for a major collegiate sports team.

But Darrow isn’t the only one these days.

Meet 18-year-old Jonathan Peters – a senior at Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis, Massachusetts, who wants to make the world of high school athletics a safe playing field for LGBTI students.

‘I have a passion for human rights and social justice,’ said Peters, who founded the Youth OUTreach Program.

Peters will also host a conference next week, with the help of his school, for local high schools and athletic programs to touch on topics concerning gay bullying and promoting acceptance of diversity in high school athletics.

According to Peters, he came up with the idea for the program while attending a student leadership conference last year at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

But the road for Peters wasn’t easy – he was called names by homophobes during his child and teenage years, which affected his performance as a junior basketball player.

‘You’ll hear something under someone’s breath,’ said Peters

He added: ‘People say comments, but they don’t realize they’re saying that to an actual gay man.’

But Peters, who came out three years ago, believes in starting the diversity dialogue early.

‘You have to really dig deep and accept yourself,’ said Peters, who also shared that he sometimes wishes he could have come out earlier.

Peters now coaches the varsity team he used to be in, and credits his school for helping to create a diverse and accepting culture.

His two-hour conference next week will feature keynote speakers who are athletes like him – such as Cyd Zeigler, a high school graduate who co-founded, and Braeden Lange, a 13-year-old lacrosse player from Pennsylvania featured in ESPN SportsCenter’s ‘The Courage Game’.

According to his school’s community outreach coordinator Marion Weeks, the response so far has been ‘very positive’. Paul Marble, head of school for the east campus of Peters’ school, called the conference ‘a remarkable testament’ to Peters’ vision.

‘It’s great to see so many schools come together for something so important,’ said Marble.