Allies spread awareness of LGBT issues through classroom discussion panels

College can be an adventurous time to try new things, meet new people and figure out who one is as a person. Clarion University’s Allies Club can be the support system a student needs when making these steps.

By educating, advocating and promoting equality, this gay/straight alliance organization creates a safe environment for anyone and everyone, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender or other.

Best known for its annual drag show, frequent discussion panels, the hosting of various speakers and movie nights, and distinctive colorful rainbow club decorations, Allies seeks to spread awareness of the LGBT community around campus and the Clarion community.

To start off the spring semester, Allies’ most recent event included holding discussion panels with students during class.

Allies President Katie Ellinger said, “[Our main goal] is to bring up awareness and different perspectives while giving the opportunity for open discussion.”

Allies member Corey Negley said, “We also work with a bunch of different organizations, [including] the Student Secular Alliance, the Young Dems, Building Bridges, and the Presidential Commission on LGBT Concerns.”

Allies uses its experience and involvement in these various organizations to teach and introduce students in the classroom panels to better understand and be aware of diversity and equality on campus. Depending on how active the students are, the panels can last anywhere between 30 minutes to the whole class time.

“It kind of depends on the class. If the professor wants the students to get something out of it, then they’ll kind of direct the questions and we have to go along those lines,” said Ellinger.

Naomi Bell O’Neil of the communication department has held these discussion panels in her advertising and copyrighting classes in the past.

“I was trying to focus, because I’m in advertising, on steering the conversation not so much to the personal side, but how it is that advertising can be influential to the gay community,” she said.

Although the students don’t have a required assignment regarding the discussion, O’Neil said she finds that they can apply what they’ve learned from the panel to other projects and the promotion field in the future.

The discussion panels aren’t the only event that the Allies are planning to hold this semester. They will continue to spread awareness by hosting an “Allies Week” from April 13 through the 18.

This event will include musicians, speakers, movies, and finally a Meet and Greet with the drag queens April 17 from 6-7 p.m. prior to the drag show at 8 p.m. in the Gemmell Multi-Purpose Room.

Anyone looking to meet some fun, new people in a comfortable, safe, and friendly environment can come to the Allies’ meetings, held every Monday at 6 p.m. in Harvey 121.

Whether it’s arranging events around campus or interacting with fellow students and making new friends, the Allies members bring knowledge and an appreciation for the LGBT community everywhere they go.

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