The University of Idaho Safe Zone Program is one of the many diverse resources the university supplies to students.
The program, which is designed to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQA students, faculty and staff, helps develop and maintain a network of informed individuals willing to be visibly supportive of LGBTQA people on campus, according to the University of Idaho information website.
Julia Keheler, program coordinator for the LGBTQA Office, said a safe zone is a place where any LGBTQA students, faculty or staff can talk and feel welcome absent of discrimination or judgment.
“We want to promote a healthy atmosphere for our LGBTQA community members,” Keheler said.
Safe Zone allies receive hands-on training with listening skills and educational workshops, which are designed to help them support LGBTQA students who may seek for help.
“We do trainings a couple times every semester, we encourage anybody who is interested to train with us,” Keheler said.
Although the first Safe Zone training has passed, Keheler said there will be one more training this semester, however the date has not yet been determined.
“We often get a large amount of people training in our workshop each year,” Keheler said.
Allies are a key component to making safe zone a successful program on campus.
“I am a proud ally,” UI freshman Alexandra Kennedy said. “I heard about safe zone training from one of the faculty who has been through the training themselves, I think building a supportive community here on campus is really important and I am proud to participate”.
Not only is the Safe Zone Program important on UI’s campus, it is also a nationwide priority. According to the Safe Zone Project’s official website, more than 50 percent of universities and community colleges in the U.S. now have some kind of safe zone or safe space project aimed towards nondiscrimination, education and acceptance for their LGBTQA students.
“The University of Idaho has almost one faculty member per office in support of the Safe Zone Project,” Keheler said. “If anyone is looking for a safe zone they can be found almost anywhere on campus.”
Kennedy said acceptance has come a long way and it will continue to thrive with more support for the LGBTQA community.
“Safe zone is a wonderful concept,” Kennedy said. “I hope one day there won’t have to be a safe zone. I hope soon now that acceptance is thriving, we can all cherish and love one another for who we are … but for now I applaud every university that has a program like safe zone in place, the fact that University of Idaho has this program makes me very proud to be a Vandal.”
Kilty Ellis can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kilty_Ellis