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The high school's Students Demand Action club will host an auction that features art from local vendors and professional artists from around the state. 

Students at Lakeridge High School invite the community to support LGBTQ+ youth through an art auction taking place during suicide prevention month.

On Friday, Sept. 23, Lakeridge's chapter of Students Demand Action will host its first event of the year. The art auction will raise money for the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center SMYRC, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides shelter and counseling services for LGBTQ+ youth. The students have set a goal of $2,000 or more to be raised during the event.

Juniors and Students Demand Action co-leaders Cara Chen and Sevens Baertsch Kovalchic spearheaded the charity event after the former leaders of the group planted the idea in their heads during the past school year. Since May, the students said they contacted over 500 artists across Oregon and asked them to donate items for the auction.

"Last year, our two leaders were graduating and wanted to do something that would help the (youth LGBTQ+) community and we were like, 'We haven't done an art auction before and that sounds really cool.' But because they graduated, we (took it on) and are raising money as a fundraiser for SMYRC, which combats youth houselessness through an equity-based approach," Chen said.

The event will showcase over 50 art pieces from around 20 artists. The group will also highlight work by LGBTQ+ artists.

During the event, community members can browse through paintings, sculptures and jewelry pieces. They can then place a bid on a sheet of paper included with each piece. At the end of the night, the highest bidder will have a new piece to add to their personal collection. Light refreshments will also be provided.

"We will have a base asking price and then they keep increasing by increments until nobody else can bid and the piece is yours," Baertsch Kovalchic said.

Although the student-led group spends most of its year advocating and hosting events to urge politicians to tighten gun control and safety laws, Chen and Baertsch Kovalchic said that they hope to make these events annual.

The students added that although they might not host an art auction next year, they hope to continue raising funds for youth-based nonprofits and bring the Lake Oswego community together.

The art auction comes at an opportune time, as September marks Suicide Prevention Month. The student leaders reminded community members that LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately impacted by behavioral health issues.

"As it is suicide prevention month, it's very important to show support to people whose mental health is most impacted, which is someone in the queer community. So, by giving money and just coming together as a community, we are showing support for the queer community and donating money to a place that provides vital services to queer kids," Baertsch Kovalchic said.

According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young aged 10 to 24 — and LGBTQ+ youth are at significantly increased risk. LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

"SMYRC is obviously doing the best they can, but they can only provide so much housing, meals, accommodations and aid to people — and more money would be fundamentally useful and beneficial to everyone that they touch. We just want to make sure that they can reach as many people as possible by giving them more money," Baertsch Kovalchic said.

The student-led group also hopes to educate community members on another issue impacting LGBTQ+ youth: homelessness.

"People don't like talking about it, but homelessness has a really big impact on a person's mental health, and that is obviously going to affect them experiencing suicidal ideation," Chen said.

Up to 4.2 million children who identify as LGBTQ+ are currently experiencing housing instability nationwide, according to the Trevor Project. Oregon mirrors the national trends: About 40% of homeless youth in the Portland metro area are part of the LGBTQ+ community, according to research by students at Portland State University.

With the donations raised during the auction, youth who access SMYRC's services will have the opportunity for housing, meals, support groups, case management, counseling, education and activities like art classes.

The students also aim to make the auction an educational event. During the auction, attendees can read statistics about the intersection of LGBTQ+ communities and mental health via informational sheets tacked to the wall.

"I feel like the community (of Lake Oswego) needs to know more about these issues and be more aware of how they can help, which is what we are hoping to do with the auction," Chen said.

The event will take place in Lakeridge High School's auditorium from 6-8p.m.


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