October 24, 2020

Conestoga College focuses on building a friendly environment for every student on campus, irrespective of their gender, class and colour. 

The campus is extremely supportive and accepting at Conestoga, said Elias Haughey, a first-year student of Business Administration.

Student Engagement and Conestoga Students Inc. hosted the LGBTQ2+ Welcome Night for students as a part of winter orientation activities in the Venue at Doon campus on Tuesday, Jan. 28. 

“Attending such events is an extremely positive experience for everybody as it brings together the entire sexuality spectrum that includes people with different genders along with the LGBTQ tribe,” Bachelors of Community and Criminal Justice student Tyler McNeill, said in an interview with Spoke.  

“It helps me expand my group of friends and people who would understand me more,” McNeill said.

Such events encourage students to come together and make new connections.

“The thing that drives me the most to attend such events is – community. I do have a support group for people who are like me, but it is nice to meet more people because it feels like a rarity,” said Haughey.

According to Jennifer Durst, Student Engagement at Conestoga College, “LGBTQ2+ people may experience different types of discrimination within different spaces in our society which may be compounded by multiple aspects of identity.

This could lead people to feel isolated, and that is why students must have the opportunity to come together, build connections, and find out about resources in a fun and relaxed environment.”

Student Engagement started organizing LGBTQ2+ Welcome Nights in 2012, focusing on “inclusion and community building,” said Durst.

Conestoga says it promotes a healthy and friendly environment for all its members, including LGBTQ2 students and other straight allies.

McNeill said he did have “issues before with a couple of people out in public,” but he feels accepted within the Conestoga community. 

“I haven’t had any problems at Conestoga personally. But there will always be some people who will never agree with the idea of being from the LGBTQ community. 

“We are definitely a lot better than decades ago, and we are changing,” he said. 

It is essential to have safe spaces to explore your identity, connect with like-minded individuals, and to feel fully accepted, he said.

“Building community supports safe spaces and reduces isolation by fostering connections and friendships,” said Durst. 

It is necessary for everybody to build a community on campus, especially for students who belong to a marginalized group. 

“Welcome Nights gives us the opportunity to share our stories with each other no matter what our gender is as long as we have a good time together,” said Kim Hoang, a second-year student of Bachelors of Public Relations. 

Students were also given a chance to participate in Karaoke entertainment performances to sing their hearts out at the event in which more than a dozen students performed.

Student Success Services is starting a brand new LGBTQ2+ drop-in on Fridays beginning from Feb. 7 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Durst added.

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