Elisabeth Eder set out to create a space for her community, clipboard in hand.
The 21-year-old sociology Santa Fe College second year began a petition to open an LGBTQ resource center last February. She started by convincing students to add their signature to the paper fastened to her clipboard. Eder noticed the need for an accepting circle of people bonded through their similarities, and found that more than 400 people agreed, she said.
The groups and clubs available to Santa Fe’s LGBTQ students at the time didn’t suffice, Eder said. People needed a physical space to curb feelings of isolation.
“I felt a bit alone,” she said.
The Santa Fe College LGBTQ+ Student Resource Center officially opened Monday afternoon to solve these problems. The center, located on Santa Fe’s Northwest Campus in room G-023, is decorated with pride flags, including a miniature one adorning a small succulent plant on the windowsill.
Inside the resource center, literature will be available for students to browse, and it will serve as a space for people to gather, read or study, Santa Fe’s LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Affinity Group Co-Founder Chelsea Carnes said. The center will hold small events, discussion groups, panels and film screenings in the future, she said.
Although Monday was the resource center’s grand opening, the space has been available to students since its soft opening Feb. 8, Carnes wrote in an email. The soft opening provided them with more time to decorate and find supplies while still offering services to students, Carnes wrote in an email.
The center will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., according to the website.
Santa Fe was missing a permanent space for the LGBTQ community that wasn’t run by students to provide resources, Eder said. With most students graduating within two years, maintaining existing groups was challenging.
“We had a pride club that was kinda getting off the ground, but I realized we needed so much more than that,” Eder said. “We needed resources and support and to be able to meet each other, make friends and have a community.”
Cheryl Calhoun, Santa Fe’s Dean of Access and Inclusion, stood in front of the small rainbow ribbon taped to the entryway of the center and addressed the nine-person crowd at the grand opening Monday.
When former Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser hired her three years ago, she said tackling an LGBTQ space was her biggest challenge.
“This was the space that scared me the most, because it touches who I am as an individual,” Calhoun said at the event, tearing up. “I thank all of you for making this easy, making it okay to be who we are, making it okay to be open about who we are.”
One of the reasons a space like this was so important, Calhoun said, is because gender identity and sexuality aren’t always apparent without an individual's disclosure.
“Having a space like this allows our students to come into a space and meet other people that have a bit of an understanding that they have walking through this world,” she said.
Using the petition, Eder wrote a resolution for the center that Santa Fe Student Government approved and the College Senate, which is run by Santa Fe faculty and staff, passed, according to Santa Fe’s website. From there, a small task force, including Eder and Santa Fe faculty, staff and students, developed the center, Carnes said.
Members of the LGBTQ+ Faculty and Staff Affinity Group, a social organization for Santa Fe faculty and staff to support one another and LGBTQ+ students on campus, will take turns operating the center, she said. Members refer to it as the Q+ Affinity Group.
The center plans to offer a work-study position, which will provide a student with the opportunity to work at the center part time as an administrative assistant, Carnes said. In addition, the college’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee members will help staff the center, she said.
Overall, Eder hopes the resource center will be an accepting place for LGBTQ students for years to come — and a place for them to make instant friends.
“I hope that any student can walk through these doors and feel comfortable talking to anyone in the room and just know they have such a supportive community of people who truly want what’s best for them and can relate and have been through similar experiences,” Eder said.
Contact Sofia Echeverry and Juliana Ferrie at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter @sofecheverry and @juliana_f616.
Sofia is a news assistant on The Alligator's university desk. This is her second semester at paper, where she previously worked as a translator for El Caimán.
Juliana Ferrie is a second-year UF journalism student. She is excited to be working for The Alligator as the Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.