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Jaden Bell: Coming Out — and Into Their Own at BAA

October 27, 2022 | Jeffrey Good

Jaden Bell: Coming Out — and Into Their Own at BAA image


While Jaden Bell spent the first decade of childhood being raised as a girl, Jaden says, “I just felt that wasn’t right.”

Rather than wearing dresses, Jaden pulled on pants. Instead of frilly blouses, Jaden donned t-shirts. The term at the time was “tomboy,” but at age 11 or 12, Jaden began learning about the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer (LBGTQ) community and thought, “Oh, that sounds like me.”

When Jaden (who uses they/them pronouns) was 13, they walked into the living room where their parents were playing the World of Warcraft role-playing game online and shared their realization. Shortly after that, they dropped their birth name, Kaili, and adopted their gender-neutral middle name, Jaden.

Jaden’s parents had a mixed reaction, with dad more comfortable with the news than mom. Heading into high school, Jaden found a similar range of reactions — and even some hostility from classmates.

“There was so much drama. A lot of different people were harmful,” Jaden recalls. “I didn’t feel safe in school.”

In February 2021, during their junior year, Jaden transferred to Bethel Acceleration Academies. There, the educators welcomed Jaden exactly as they are. To Jaden’s relief, so did classmates, many of whom had faced poisonous social pressures in their former high schools.

“It’s been so much better. The coaches here are a lot more helpful, a lot more accepting. I feel much safer here than I did,” says Jaden. And the students — called “graduation candidates” to remind them of their goals — are “definitely much different. I wasn’t used to such an accepting community … It’s easy to make friends here.”

It’s not just the social dynamic that has improved, Jaden says. While they had fallen behind academically, Jaden has picked up momentum at BAA. One important factor is the way BAA’s academic, life coaches and GC advocates have made it easy for Jaden to ask for help.

At their old school, Jaden says, “I thought ‘I have to do it myself, I can’t ask for help,’  I knew it was their job to help me, but my brain was like, ‘You’re bothering them.’ ” In the quieter, more personalized learning environment of BAA, Jaden felt that tension melt away. They credit BAA educators, particularly coaches Stacy Nikolaisen and Kevin Torres.

“He’s very helpful in getting you back on track. He’ll give you an explanation you can understand,” Jaden says of Torres, who also serves as assistant academy director. She adds, “Ms. Stacy has also been very helpful. Her energy kind of bounces off of you.”

After earning their diploma, Jaden plans to move to Michigan and study nursing. They can’t say enough good things about the safe haven provided at Bethel Acceleration Academies.

“It’s very validating to know you’re not alone.”

BAA Faculty

Jaden Bell said LAA educators embraced them as exactly who they are.

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