Earlier today, I got an email from a faculty member on my campus. She reached out to me in my role as our de-facto LGBT Ally program coordinator in search of support for a student who, just this week, came out to her mother and rather than finding support, instead found herself and her two young children thrown out on the street. The faculty member was going above and beyond – she was taking the student and her daughters into her home and caring for them while they collectively figured out what to do next. She knew that this was (at best) a short term solution and she was searching for help.
I should say at our Ally program doesn’t belong anywhere. It began after I gave a presentation about similar programs in a graduate class and a colleague/classmate asked me who was in charge of our Ally program. I honestly answered “no one. We don’t have one.” When he responded that he would, as part of marketing department, support me if I wanted to start one, the program was born. There are now 50 allies across our campuses, we meet monthly, and I know that we have many advocates for equality on board.
But with all that, I’ll admit that I was nervous about this situation. Was anyone on our campus thinking about these issues enough to have resources for this student? And would we react in the same way about this emergency as we would if the student were homeless due to a fire or other disaster? I’ll admit that I felt a bit hopeless when I first read the note for the faculty member and not much more hopeful when I sent out my note to the community, asking for assistance.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within 2 hours, this student had resources, child care, and support. Not only that, but she believed that our community cared about her. At the end of the day, she told the faculty member, “this was so scary, but every time someone said the word ‘gay’ today without being angry, it got easier, and I knew it was going to be alright.”.
This is what Ally is all about on our campus and it is an essential part of student development, student success, and retention. This was collaboration at its finest – faculty, staff, and administrators, focused not on their role or their function at the college but on the best interests of the student. It is days like this that remind me to be proud of what we can do when we do what is fairly easy – just reaching out to those around us who we know care deeply about our students and their success.