KINGSTON, R.I. – Oct. 3, 2013 – High school students from throughout the state are gathering at an event hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ Center to talk about how to make the college experience a success for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as students supportive of the LGBTQ community.
The conference, also sponsored by Youth Pride Rhode Island, is among the events for “Coming Out Week” on URI’s Kingston campus, from Sunday, Oct. 6 through Friday, Oct. 11. All events are free and open to the public.
“Our collaboration with Youth Pride RI, Inc., on the youth conference is the first of what we hope will become an annual event,” says Annie Russell, director of the LGBTQ Center. “We are excited to collaborate with them and our URI Admission Office to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally youth new training and enlightenment.”
The celebration of activities, talks, movies and meals will kick off Sunday, Oct. 6, with a fun day: jumping on trampolines from 4 to 7 p.m. at Launch Rhode Island in Warwick.
A community breakfast will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 7 at the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. The event will offer everyone a chance to come together for a free breakfast and get to know each other.
Later that day, from 3 to 5 p.m. in Hardge Forum at the Multicultural Center, details about the URI Visibility Project will be disclosed. The project is an initiative to encourage faculty, students and staff to be out on campus.
The LGBTQ Center will give people who want to participate the opportunity to create a profile – a photo and biography – that will be available to the URI community. Other campuses throughout the country are doing similar projects to increase awareness about LGBTQ people, Russell says.
“We hope that LGBTQ people at URI will join us to learn how to be a part of U R OUT at URI,” says Russell. “By being out, people at URI can be role models and begin to transform our campus community into an inclusive place of affirmation and excellence.”
On Monday evening, Oct. 7, Russell will give a talk called “Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, Sexuality and Gender.” The talk will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium of Swan Hall, on Upper College Road.
On Tuesday morning, Oct. 8, people will have a chance to visit the LGBTQ Center at 111 Adams Hall. From 5 to 7 p.m. there will be an eat-and-greet dinner and pumpkin decorating, also at the LGBTQ Center.
From 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Oct. 9, there will be a Safe Zone Facilitator Workshop, an extensive training session on how to facilitate the URI Safe Zone workshops. The workshop will be in Room 203 at the Multicultural Center. (Please note: This is Safe Zone facilitator training; attendees must attend Safe Zone ahead of time.)
Later that night, the center will sponsor a screening of “Laramie Inside Out,” an award-winning documentary about Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student who was brutally beaten and left to die in a 1998 murder that sparked national outrage. The movie will be shown at 8 p.m. at the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium.
Also on Wednesday, from 3 to 5 p.m., free and confidential HIV testing will be offered in Health Services, 6 Butterfield Road. The testing is sponsored by AIDS Project Rhode Island.
To cap off the day, students can attend a variety show from 8 to 10 p.m. on the second floor of the Memorial Union.
Thursday’s events include two Safe Zone workshops in the Multicultural Center – “Race and Ethnicity” from 9 to 11 a.m. and Trans* 101 from noon to 2 p.m. (These are also advanced Safe Zone workshops; attendees must attend Safe Zone ahead of time.)
Later that night, a fundraiser for the new LGBTQ Center will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. at Orange Leaf, 99 Fortin Road, at the URI Emporium.
Friday is packed with new initiatives.
The University’s LGBTQ Center is partnering with Youth Pride Rhode Island to bring the first LGBTQA Youth Conference to the URI campus. The conference will educate and prepare high school students and other young people for leadership roles and the transition to college. The conference will be from 4 to 7 p.m. in Hardge Forum at the Multicultural Center. To sign up, visit the LGBTQ Center’s website at http://www.uri.edu/glbt
“The conference will give youth a chance to connect and know that they can be valued for their authentic selves,” Russell says. “It’s going to be informative in nature, but a very collaborative experience as well.” Dinner will be provided for those who participate.
For the first time, the LGBTQ Center is teaming up with URI’s Department of Athletics for a Pride Night event. The women’s soccer team will host the event at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the URI Soccer Complex behind the Thomas M. Ryan Center, 1 Lincoln Almond Plaza.
“Please join us and a wealth of regional organizations as we cheer on our Rhody Ram’s women’s soccer team in the first ever URI Pride Night,” says Russell. “We celebrate and honor our LGBTQ history by hosting this event on National Coming Out Day.”
Suzanna Lossio, of Boston, a 20-year-old political science major, says the soccer event is open to everyone. “The ‘ally’ part of what we do is critical,” she says. “One of our big themes is inclusion. We also want to appeal to people who might be straight, but want to get involved.”
Ianna Leshin Szewczok, of East Greenwich, a 20-year-old junior, says “Coming Out Week” is a great way to let more people know about the diversity on campus. “I think we have a good climate here for the LGBTQ community,” she says. “I’ve been here three years and I’ve never seen any bullying or hate incidents. The biggest problem is that people are focused on their own social groups and don’t think about how many different types of people we have on campus. The more large scale events we have, the more we can increase awareness and diversity.”
Jennifer Barrientos, of North Ridge, Calif., a 22-year-old senior, says she is thrilled to be part of the event. She’s a center midfielder on the URI women’s soccer team.
“These events are important because I know how hard it is for some people to come out,” she says. “I feel like we’re role models for many students. Especially, as athletes, it’s difficult to be yourself sometimes. Coming out gives you great inspiration to be yourself.”
For more details about “Coming Out Week” call the LGBTQ Center at 401-874-2894 or email Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit the center’s website at http://www.uri.edu/glbt for the full calendar of events.
“Coming Out Week” is sponsored by the University’s LGBTQ Center, Youth Pride RI, Inc., the URI Athletics Department, AIDS Project RI, the URI Gay-Straight Alliance and Orange Leaf.
Pictured above: Jennifer Barrientos, a center midfielder on the URI women’s soccer team, helped organize a soccer game Oct. 11 as part of “Coming Out Week” at the University. Barrientos is a 20-year-old junior from North Ridge, Calif.
Photo courtesy of URI Athletics.