Saginaw Valley State University students volunteer with Campus Pride for Winter Alternative Break

By: Xavier Carroll and Cecelia Hopkins

It all started at Saginaw Valley State University, after packing up the car and making our way to downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. We started our first day of service and education on Monday where we talked about LGBTQ+ in higher education. We were able to relate our personal experiences with the LGBTQ+ community and gain more understanding of what we were going to be doing for the rest of the week. Initially, we meet the Campus Pride Executive Director and Intern where we discussed Campus Pride’s website, resources and what they do in their community. Then we later met more people that help out with Campus Pride and their experiences living in the LGBTQ+ community.

Our first learning experience was on Tuesday where our discussion was about being LGBTQ+ individuals in Corporate America. During this time we gained insight on policies and protection in the workplace, and how we can be resources for people looking for jobs or positive support systems for our future co-workers facing oppression. We also got to see a real-life experience by having a professional that identifies within the LGBTQ+ community where she told her story about coming out of the closet to her friends, family, and co-workers and how its been since she came out at her workplace. Seeing her be open in the LGBTQ+ community and how her workplace welcomed her with open arms really opened all of our eyes that not all of corporate America discriminates against the community. Also during this discussion, the panelists open the floor to the allies in the room which our Alternative Break Group thought was very powerful and interesting because we felt like that was never done before, and it demonstrated inclusion for the allies. 

On Wednesday we talked about substance abuse and mental health and its effect on the LGBTQ+ community. A topic that was very impactful for quite a few of us. We had the opportunity to receive insight on the topic from a licensed queer-identifying therapist, who was very knowledgeable and open to our eyes to many questions and personal stories! This gave us the opportunity to move in a positive direction regardless of our past in a healthy and proactive way. Most of us have not had the opportunity to experience such a safe environment. Therefore moving forward we aspire to be better advocates on campus at SVSU, for such topics regarding substance abuse and mental health. We understand it is an important aspect of college life but also for our lives beyond graduation. On Thursday which was the last day of service and learning, we talked about Trans Violence. The part of this conversation that made it powerful was when we each had to research different transgender women and how they got “killed.” This research sparked a conversation on how the articles never really said that these women were murdered but that they were killed when in the circumstances they were murdered.  

When doing service this week we did a lot of indirect services. We started by making calls to donors for telling them to thank you for donating in the past and would they be able to donate this year. We also called people to see if they would be interested in volunteering for the Wig-out fundraiser that Campus Pride is having. And we also did promotional videos, for Campus Pride to post on facebook through the next year. While the service done this week was a lot of indirect services it really helped everyone on the trip learn how nonprofits work and where how they receive enough money to help out the community in the best possible way. It also gave everyone in the group a chance to be a young voice for Campus Pride and hear different experiences through the phone from donors and how Campus Pride has helped them in the past. This service also added a more professional side of doing service which showed us the importance of different kinds of service and made us think about the impact we were making.

Overall, this week was very impactful for each of us in our endeavors to become more knowledgeable and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community! The most important thing that we learned this week is to recognize the language we are using when referring to those apart of the community. Along with educating ourselves on topics such as substance abuse, violence, and mental health, so that we can be resources in a healthy way for our peers in whatever situations arise. We would like to thank Campus Pride for hosting us this week and providing the resources for us to create a brighter future for our community!

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