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Interview: GYT Campus Ambassador Hayden

Between triple majoring, working at a theme park, and playing the guitar and piano, Campus Ambassador Hayden makes time in a busy schedule to rock the GYT lifestyle. Inspired by Hayden spreading the word about GYT at the College of Central Florida? Become a Campus Ambassador yourself!

Hi Hayden! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hey there, I’m Hayden Seth Rackel, the campus ambassador for the College of Central Florida. I’m currently attempting a triple major in theatre education, English (specifically journalism), and radiologic technology. Crazy, I know. I’m a very artsy person, and a huge activist for multiple campaigns, including GYT! When I’m not at school, or out campaigning, you can find me working at one of the world’s most popular theme parks. It’s definitely not your typical day job—and that suits my quirky personality just fine.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?

According to my Zen (my equivalent of an iPod) it’s “Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance. I’m going to disagree with technology, though, because what I listen to really depends on my mood. Currently, I’m on a Bake Sale and Ellen Winter kick.

When you’re not out spreading the word about GYT, what do you like to do in your free time?

Music, music, music… and did I mention music? My guitar and piano are practically attached to me. I also love theater—acting, teching—doesn’t matter! If I could find a good place around here to go hiking, I’d definitely do that too.

What’s your all time favorite MTV show?

I am a huge MADE fan. Second to that is True Life.

What inspired you to be a GYT ambassador?

I went to a high school that was, for a long time, of the “if we don’t speak of it, it doesn’t exist” mindset. There were a lot of students contracting STDs and getting pregnant at such early ages that it really upset me that the school would not allow us (the journalism staff) to cover stories in our publications. The sex education “courses” were like a day or two long, with mostly videos and vague descriptions. Knowledge is power, and it was really upsetting that those of us trying to advocate for awareness were getting stamped out. Also, as a member of the queer community, I’ve noticed so many individuals that think they’re immune to STDs other than HIV/AIDS. That’s not true. Everyone should practice safe sex and get tested. It’s just that simple.

How do you live GYT?

I live GYT by spreading the word about getting tested—often. My friends may not be comfortable with the fact that I encourage them to get tested, but it’s in their best interest. I try to spread the word by blogging, and simply talking to people that I meet. When I attended the University of Central Florida, I worked with the student organization S.A.F.E. to let people know when free HIV testing was available on campus. I make sure people are aware of things like National HIV Testing Day/Month and AIDS Awareness Day. I’m hoping to get even more active as my ties in social circles expand.

Have you hosted any GYT events at your school or in your community? What did you do and how did it go?

The semester has not started yet for me, but I’m totally psyched to kick it off by campaigning for GYT. I already have a student organization planned, and can’t wait to get a few more people so it can become an official part of my campus. I also intend to go back to my high school to reach the kids going there, and if all goes well, I want to head to the two neighboring high schools. It will be a very busy semester for me, but I’m ready to get the word out there.

What’s been the response on your campus to GYT?

The people I’ve contacted about joining the student organization I have planned have been really supportive. I’ll have to drum up more interest, but with the response I’ve gotten so far, I don’t think that will be a problem.

How can people in your area get involved with GYT?

If they’re on my campus, join the student org! If not, they can certainly go online to sign petitions, get materials, and spread awareness. I’d encourage everyone to visit GYT’s page and get informed, then pass on what you know. Talk to friends, neighbors, co-workers—just get the word out there. For students, definitely check to see if your campus has some sort of sexual health organization so you can join and get active.

The important thing is to live the lifestyle you’re promoting. If you’re going to be a part of the campaign, you’ve got to do more than just pass out leaflets and buttons. Use yourself and your own story as an example. It will give you more credit with the people you’re trying to reach, and is just the healthier way for you to go.

Of course, the most important thing is to get out there and get tested. Do it regularly, and make sure you know which STDs you’re being tested for. Cover all of your bases, and know your status. If you’re positive, seek treatment, and tell your partners. If you’re not, continue to practice safe sex. Get tested, get tested, get tested.

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