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Kristen Cyr
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Gender Equity Initiative hosts SafeZone training starting this month

Feb. 15, 2016

SafeZone training logo A sign and sticker indicate Associate Dean of Student Life Christine Jenkins' office is a safe space for LGBTQ students.

At the Community College of Rhode Island, providing a safe space for all students is a priority. In that spirit, the Gender Equity Initiative will conduct SafeZone training, a nationally recognized program for equipping LGBTQ allies with the tools to provide these safe spaces for students.

Trainings are scheduled from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 Room 1134 at the Knight Campus in Warwick; from 2 to 4:30 p.m. March 22 in the rear of the faculty dining area at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln; and from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 5 in Room 1134 at the Liston Campus in Providence. Any member of the CCRI community who wishes to attend can do so, said Nancy Forsstrom, program coordinator for the initiative.

The Gender Equity Initiative, established at CCRI last year, is a broad group that aims to be a resource hub for issues surrounding sexuality, gender and more. Forsstrom said that providing these SafeZone trainings is an integral step to achieving that aim. Students who identify as LGBTQ face unique concerns both in and outside of the college environment, and the more faculty, staff and students who are SafeZone trained, the wider the network becomes to help address those concerns.

Forsstrom said students can easily identify those who have completed the SafeZone training because they will have stickers near their office or designated area. At baseline, that takes away the guesswork; students seeking help, comfort or information will know right away whom they identify as an ally. “It takes away that level of wondering and instills trust,” Forsstrom said.

The issues that LGBTQ students are complex and highly individual. A student in the beginning of the coming out process might need to confide in someone who is confidently out. A transgender student whose family isn’t supportive may need help finding safe and appropriate health care. Someone who is being bullied might need the intervention of an administrator. Or a student may simply be looking for outside resources in the community, or suggested reading or viewing, to help him or her feel less alone. No matter the need, Forsstrom said, the SafeZone volunteers are there to help.

“We know that our students don’t live here, but in some cases, this is the only community they have,” she said. “We want them to be aware that we are a resource.” 

A handful of staff and faculty members already have completed the SafeZone training, including Associate Dean of Student Life Christine Jenkins.

“I have a lot of contact with our students; my office is now right in the student union,” at the Knight Campus, she explained. “I wanted to make sure I was on top of the latest research and information so that when people came to me, I felt I had enough to help them through some of their problems, or that I could move them on to an appropriate person to help them better.”

Jenkins said after the training, she made sure to affix the SafeZone signs in visible places outside of and in her office. “That sign is recognizable. When students see it, they can know you are already at least aware of some of the issues,” she said. “And, hopefully, if they can talk to me about an issue and I can help, they can tell others. That’s why we’re doing this – to help the students and make a difference.”

Jenkins said she has been able to address issues ranging from bullying to relationships to family friction. “Personally, I just try to listen and not judge,” she said.

To sign up for the SafeZone training or to learn more, call Forsstrom at 825-2024 or email her.

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Last Updated: 8/25/16