Pride Center hosts Welcoming Project Ally Training

By Kalli Wolf, Staff Writer

The Welcoming Project Ally Training is a workshop put on by the Pride Center at EWU every quarter that is open to all students, faculty and staff.

According to Pride Center manager Nick Franco, the training essentially provides 101-type information about LGBT communities, how to support them and strategies for responding to situations, such as when someone comes out or tells a person they have been experiencing bullying. The goal is to provide all students, specifically LGBT, with visible people in areas and offices throughout campus that they know they can talk to if they are experiencing bullying or just need some support.

Franco began his role as Pride Center manager three months ago. He said Welcoming Project Ally trainings have been around for about three years with at least one per quarter.

Student employee at the Pride Center senior Bethany Mies said some people on campus might want to support the LGBT community, or make sure all students are as comfortable and safe as possible, but not know how.

“They might feel uncomfortable in situations with homophobia and not know how to helpfully proceed. Welcoming Project Ally Training aspires to meet people where they are at and give them the skills and tools to recognize and respond to these situations,” she said. “The more people who want to help and know how to help, the safer and more comfortable EWU will be for everyone.”

According to Franco, the last training was planned to take place during gender awareness week but was cancelled due to poor attendance. He said a lot of people cancelled over the weekend and there is a need for at least five participants due to the activities planned. However, 15-plus people have already RSVP’d for the next one, which is scheduled for Jan. 27 and will take place from 3-6 p.m. in Monroe Hall 205.
“I have done, on a smaller scale, Welcoming Project Ally trainings for individual groups,” Franco said, despite being fairly new to the role of Pride Center manager. He said there are also Welcoming Project Ally trainings that take place when different departments or programs on campus are interested in participating in the workshops during staff meetings and contact the Pride Center directly.

The training consists of LGBT terminology, which Franco says people usually like to take the longest on because there are typically new terms or concepts every year, such as the difference between sexual orientation and romantic orientation or transgender and transsexual.
The training also reviews current statistics of LGBT youth, such as their representation as homeless youth across the nation. “Part of this is because when they come out to their parents they are kicked out of their homes,” Franco said.

According to Franco, there is at least one interactive activity during the workshop aimed to allow participants to reflect on who they are as a person. One particular activity is called “Step-In and Step-Out.” Franco said the activity starts out with easy questions, in the nature of if you identify as a woman or straight, and gets progressively harder, such as if you have ever been bullied due to your sexual orientation or know of someone who has committed suicide as a result of that. When asked these questions, attendees step inside the circle for yes and outside the circle for no. “It really helps open up the group to trust each other,” Franco said.

Typically, Welcoming Project Ally trainings held on campus are aimed particularly for those affiliated with Eastern, but occasionally Franco will make exceptions for those who attend other schools in the Spokane area and are interested in attending. However, in terms of time and resources, Franco said it is generally just EWU participants.

“I hope other students, faculty and staff who participate gain a good sense of balance in terms of speaking out about issues. We need allies to stand behind us and support us and to feel comfortable using ally skills and tools to do so skillfully,” said Mies. “It is vitally important.”

The Pride Center is open to all students and is not designed explicitly for people who identify as LGBT. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Franco said he or a student employee is always there. “We see students just reading a book, some students take naps, some students are doing their homework or just engaged in conversation,” Franco said.

Students wanting to get involved are always welcome at the Pride Center, as long as they are supportive of the LGBT community. Franco said the Eagle Pride student group also has meetings every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. at the Pride Center. All students are welcome and do not have to sign up as members.

“We have a lot of different programs that we are going to be offering this quarter and in spring that I think are going to be really fun. Even if you don’t know anything about the community or anything like that, I think that you would still find a meaning or still have a good time,” said Franco, and added he really hopes more students go through the Welcoming Project Ally Training.
Students can visit the Pride Center located in Showalter Hall 103 for more information on how to get involved.