SJCC staff plan to create more LGBTQ safe zones on campus

Many colleges have a GSA club where all students, regardless of orientation and gender, can meet and talk about issues in a safe place.
Carlos Garcia, a business major and the LGBTQ student representative, is starting a Gay Straight Alliance and is working to schedule some events this year.
Garcia is working with staff to achieve that with Juan Garcia, the Program Coordinator of Student Development and Activities.
“My job is to get a foundation in so we can build up a program from there,” Juan Garcia said. “There is no program as of now, but we are starting to get everything rolling.”
He said that he wants to create an LGBTQ center in the future.
“We want a zone where people know that they can go to when they have a problem,” Juan Garcia said.
For the time being, there is a “virtual center,” as Blake Balajadia, director of Student Development and Activities, described it.
“We want people to come in and out of the office and meet with Carlos and meet with Juan — feel like this a safe space,” Balajadia said.
Carlos Garcia has a desk in the Student Center where students can come talk with him to voice complaints or seek resources.
One service offered is to accompany students and help them when explaining their preferred name and pronouns to instructors if they differ from the name and gender in the system.
Teresa Paiz, the director of Admissions and Records and the coordinator of the Safe Zone Program, said the goal of Safe Zone is to create safe spaces on campus where students can go if they need information, advocacy or just to talk.
“If there are students that have any questions or any concerns or they just need someone to talk to and listen, they come to me,” Paiz said. “This is a safe space. This is a safe zone.”
Safe Zone also provides training to staff to teach them how to better help and be more sensitive to LGBTQ students and LGBTQ issues on campus.
While there is not currently an abundance of LGBTQ resources on campus, there are plans in motion to change that.
“It’s all in pieces,” Balajadia said. “It’s not a formal identity; but hopefully, that’s something we’re turning around this semester.”
Teresa Paiz can be contacted by email at [email protected] for more information about the Safe Zone Program.