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Second Chance Prom Offers Do Over For Bullied

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 13, 2012
Jamez Dahl is a 21 year old philosophy student at Sierra College. He's standing in the school's cafeteria…which is where the Second Chance Prom will be held.
"Well, right now it looks just like a standard cafeteria - you've got tables, food and kids studying. Come Saturday these tables are going to be gone, we're going to have a stage with the deejay and we're all going to be having fun." 
Dahl has short dark hair, little hoop earrings in each ear and wears a rainbow colored band around his right wrist. He says high school dances can be a stressful time for gay students like him but the Second Chance Prom will be different.
"This is a prom that's not going to be like any high school prom. If they have a boyfriend, and they're a boy too, they get to take that boyfriend and no one's going to take a second glance."
Dahl says he got a lot of second glances during his teen years at Whitney High School in Rocklin after he came out to a small group of friends and the news spread around campus.
"I got stares. I know people were talking about me. The hardest thing was, if someone else was rumored to be gay. The story that everyone would tell is 'oh, he did things with Jamez.' You know, 'did things' being sexual activities and they'd spread rumors. So people would not want to associate themselves with me in fear that people would accuse them of being gay."  
Female voice: "My name is Shannon Bradley. I'm one of the organizers with the prom."
Bradley is also a student at Sierra College who grew up in Rocklin. She stresses the dance is not just for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender or LGBT people.
"It's the opportunity for everyone to get together, regardless of your age, your gender, your sexual orientation. Whoever you may be in this world, we can all get together and have fun and dance. I'd love to see a community where we didn't need a Second Chance Prom because everybody grew up accepted."
Bradley admits having an all inclusive event open to the LGBT community may raise eyebrows in Rocklin, which is inside one of Northern California's most conservative regions - Placer County.
"Up until last semester I identified as a straight female. So it took me 28 years to be honest about my sexuality being other than the heterosexual norm of Placer County because I was shamed to believe that if you're not that norm, then you're not okay."
At least a few hundred people are expected to show up for tomorrow night's prom.
"There's probably 1,200 people that have been invited on Facebook. Of those 1,200 we've had almost 200 say that yes they are going…"
…Including student Jamez Dahl who says he can't wait to redo his high school experience.
"I always got jealous of the girls who were all giddy that so-and-so asked them and I'm like 'I wish I could be a giddy girl' and have someone ask me all cute-like with balloons and flowers."
Dahl wanted to go to his high school senior prom with a guy he had a crush on…but they each went on separate dates with girls. 
"And that whole night I waited for him to share a slow dance with me either in the gym or outside in the waiting area, or anywhere, I just wanted that slow dance with him and he never came and found me. And I cried, because I really wanted to share that moment with someone. It could've been any song at that time…maybe something by Josh Groban."  
Female voice: "Hi I'm Stephanie Coday and I'm one of our full-time instructors here in our Psychology Department. We have a pretty open, embracing, supportive faculty just in general to our lesbian, gay, transgender and queer students."
Coday says tomorrow's dance can be almost like a healing process for people like Jamez Dahl who felt ostracized in high school.
"When we look at individuals who are isolated and kind of pushed to the fringe we definitely can see feelings of depression go up, feelings of anxiety. When there's an opportunity to be 100% who you are in the face of people that you care about, I think that can be incredibly therapeutic."
Beyond the benevolent reasons to hold a Second Chance Prom, there's also the objective of graduating students. Coday says the more students feel harassed or the less support they have on campus, the more likely they are to miss classes and drop out of school.
The dance is Saturday from 6-10 PM at the Sierra College cafeteria.
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