A new weekly LGBTQ safe space on campus, aimed toward helping Middle College High School and Gateway to College students, is being hosted by experienced an counselor on Thursdays in GE-204.
The group aims to help individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves. Talking vulnerably about sexuality and gender orientations can be intimidating when speaking with anyone. Having a group of open-minded individuals all sit together in one room helps break down some of the barriers around those conversations.
“We wanted to fill a need, mainly for Middle College and Gateway students,” Wright Institute graduate student Candice Bain said. While having older students share their experiences may certainly help create mentor like relationships, the aim is for more relatable peers to bond together, she said.
This group creates a place where students know they can come and speak without judgment.
Working under the supervision of licensed clinician Dr. Daniella Kantorova, Joshua Chow and Bain — graduate students from the Wright Institute — are creating a comfortable room for students to share their LGBTQ experiences.
The Wright Institute provides multiple counseling services to Contra Costa College.
All the programs are completely free of charge for students who have the option to choose from one-on-one counseling, peer mediation or community circles, Kantorova said. The service options are designed to help students deal with stressful events in their lives and offer a place for them to vent and find answers.
This is Kantorovas’ third year supervising the program, which has been around for about six years. As every student enters Gateway and Middle College, they are assigned a cohort, aimed at ensuring students develop a community.
“LGBTQ students, in particular, are at risk and are lacking in supportive communities,” Kantorova said. As they build supportive relationships, these students are more likely to be successful in their professional lives, she said. There have been groups on the campus before that were geared toward helping LGBTQ students, but previous leaders have graduated or transferred.
“We saw a mental health need to be filled,” Chow said
The goal of holding the group time together is to have students feel comfortable, honestly sharing and connecting. But creating a safe space takes time, he said. The program hopes to attract younger students who could greatly benefit from speaking to others, sharing their experiences.
Currently, all of the spaces used for student gatherings on campus are open to the public which makes finding a safe space for personal reflection a benefit.