On Saturday, Jan. 12 the University of Utah’s LGBT Resource Center will hold its third annual LGBTQ High School Conference to teach prospective gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, questioning students (and their straight allies) how to navigate such complex things as financial aid, student admissions and dealing with campus life as a queer individual.
For a number of reasons, last year’s conference did not bring in any students. According to Resource Center staff last year, Jordan School district (one of the largest public school districts in the state) told one of its guidance counselors not to disseminate information about the day or even to mention it to students.
To avoid a repeat no-show, the Resource Center’s staff planned this year’s conference differently. Along with sending packets about the day to schools, the Resource Center also collaborated with the university’s high school recruitment office to get the word out to high school students.
“We took a lot less things for granted this year, basically,” said Bonnie Owens, a Resource Center intern and a senior in the University of Utah’s gender studies program. “We used our university connections to add credibility to the conference so it would be respected and received.”
Instead of hanging dozens of posters, Owens said the Resource Center put ads about the day in local papers and on popular online networking sites like Craigslist. They also worked more closely with local gay groups to spread the word and moved the conference to a Saturday so interested students wouldn’t have to miss school.
“We visited the Utah Pride Center and met nine students there,” said Owens.
But one thing the Resource Center has not changed is the conference’s programming. Like last year, university students will lead workshops on such topics as campus living and being queer, dating on campus and transgender issues. The campus group Queer Students of Color will also lead a workshop called “Exploring Identity,” about racial and sexual identity in relation to privilege and oppression.
As with all high school recruitment days, the LGBTQ High School Conference will also feature an extensive presentation from the offices of admissions and financial aid on such topics as the application process, choosing courses, and applying for scholarships and financial assistance.
A number of different university departments (including the Women’s Resource Center, the Department of Student Affairs, and several ASUU diversity groups will be on hand to give students information about diversity resources on campus.
Although only a few students have signed up for the day so far, Owens and LGBT Resource Center director Cathy Martinez say they are hopeful for this year’s conference.
“What we have mostly now are inquiries and people saying they’re interested, but we’re hoping to get several students up that day,” said Owens.
The one problem they have faced, according to Owens, is not resistance from school administration, but difficulty finding high school gay-straight alliances to invite.
“The problem this year is there aren’t as many GSAs as there were last year,” said Owens, who added that she contacted 12 such clubs last year. This year, she said she could only find three active GSAs – at Hunter, Highland and Logan High Schools.
“I talked to two of them, Highland and Logan, and they were very excited about the conference,” she said.
Despite the lack of GSAs, Martinez said she is excited for the day as well.
The 3rd Annual LGBTQ High School Conference will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12 at the University of Utah Student Union Building from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Breakfast and lunch services will be provided.
To register online (and to download the essential parental permission slip), visit the LGBT Resource Center’s Web site at www.sa.utah.edu/lgbt/. Interested students can also register on site at 9:30 a.m.