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New Ally program to support LGBTQ students

News Editor

Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 21:10

Marist Diversity Council’s LGBTQ subcommittee has recently begun training for its new Ally program. The program, headed by the Associate Director of Alumni & Donor Programs, Bobbi Sue Tellitocci, and the Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life, Jeffrey Kaine, is aimed at providing a welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning persons by establishing a network of people who can provide support, information and a safe place for LGBTQ persons on campus.

According to Tellitocci, the LGTBQ subcommittee has been working on the Ally program for almost three years. It is an initiative that is supported by the board of trustees and the president of student affairs.

“The initiative came from the diversity council as part of its strategic plan,” Tellitocci said. “Me and Jeffrey were appointed to the committee and found out that we were both very passionate about it.”

Tellitocci and Kaine worked with members of SUNY Fredonia’s Safe Zone Committee, another LGBTQ program, to develop the Ally training program that would be used here at Marist. The program is aimed at helping people who identify as LGTBQ in their coming out process. While Marist does have a Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance club on campus, Kaine said that for people who are struggling with coming out, those meetings can be very intimidating.

“Going to those meetings can be a big step for someone who is not yet comfortable with coming out,” Kaine said.

The Ally program is focused on training individuals to serve as support systems for people who are unsure about coming out. Each Ally goes through a series of training sessions and after doing so becomes part of the “Ally Network.” An Ally can be identified by the Ally Network symbol that they wear. This symbol serves as a message to all LGBTQ persons that the individual displaying the symbol promises to be understanding, supportive, confidential and trustworthy if a LGBTQ person needs help, advice or just someone to talk to. Those people who have gone through the training and wear the Ally symbol indicate that they do not tolerate bigotry or discrimination of any kind.

“An Ally is someone who wants to be a visible person who is supportive of all people,” Tellitocci said. “The LGBTQ committee is open and accepting of all kinds of diversity.”

The first Ally training session was held on Oct. 11, which was also National Coming Out Day. Michael Brosseau, a junior, is one of the students that took part in that session.

“I chose to become an Ally simply because I felt it was something I had to do,” Brosseau said. “Recently, I wrote a blog post for Athlete Ally, and ever since then I kind of realized that I can use my experiences as a gay man here on campus to help others the way that others have helped me. Coming into your own is never easy and if I can help just one person come into their own then I have helped make a difference in the community.”

The next training sessions will be held on Nov. 7 and Nov. 20. However, Tellitocci said that training is not a one-time thing. Allies are encouraged to continue to educate themselves after the training sessions and participate in periodic assessments that will gauge the effectiveness and impact of the program.

“This program is very important to me,” Tellitocci said. “Everyone should have the chance to be in love and no one should be denied of that experience. People should be proud to love anyone they want.”

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