Community college opens LGBTQ center

Community college opens LGBTQ center

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Community College of Philadelphia is unveiling its first LGBTQ center to provide a safe, affirming space for LGBTQ-identified students.

The initiative is part of the college’s larger mission to support LGBTQ students, said Gregory Murphy, vice president of institutional advancement at CCP, who was involved in creating the center.

“We’re providing accessible, high-quality education that will contribute to students’ success while helping them make it to graduation. The center is one of many steps the college is taking to spread the message that we’re inclusive to all students, especially those from marginalized groups.”

The MarcDavid LGBTQ Center is the newest addition to the Winnet Student Life Building on CCP’s main campus in the Fairmount neighborhood. The open-admission institution has close to 15,000 full-time students enrolled, with more than 30,000 students taking credit and noncredit courses.

Vincent Scarfo, the center’s newly appointed coordinator, went from holding meetings in secret locations at the University of Southern California a few years ago for a group of LGBTQ students who were part of Greek life to now welcoming LGBTQ students to his own office — one adorned with rainbow and transgender-pride flags.

Scarfo, who identifies as queer and genderqueer, wanted to work for gender- and sexuality-specific centers since moving to the city three years ago, but lacked professional experience. He landed at Temple University in the residential-life department, where he immersed himself in the city’s LGBTQ scene and cofounded Qunify, a social community dedicated to creating drug- and alcohol-free “queer-adjacent spaces where queer people feel safe, visible and respected,” he said.

Qunify in turn helped Scarfo land the job as the MarcDavid Center’s inaugural coordinator, where he intends to “remove any additional barriers LGBTQ folks have from getting an education.”

Scarfo greeted a reporter in a flower-printed skirt with fingernails painted metallic blue to complement the skirt’s blue hues. His carefully coordinated coral-painted toenails and coral lipstick perfectly matched the flowers printed across his skirt. His office and the center’s quaint lounge area are nestled between the Women’s Outreach and Advocacy Center and the Center for Male Engagement. Scarfo said he’s still deciding on décor for the lounge area, currently home to a handful of chairs and a table with LGBTQ-specific reading material. 

Shailynn Gabriel, a second-year CCP student, said she is excited about the new center.

“This is a major step that CCP is taking to be more inclusive towards queer students. I don’t know any other community college that has an LGBT center. There aren’t many spaces that are exclusively for us on campus, and the center’s existence makes me feel more visible. We finally have a space that we can call our own.”

Scarfo said his priority is to meet the needs of students.

“I want this to be a student-centered, student-focused office, and I want to be able to cater what we offer to the students’ needs,” Scarfo said. “I’m excited about the prospect of working at a community college because I wanted to work at an institution that’s devoted to equity, diversity and creating access for people.”

The center was funded by, and named after, the Marc David Foundation, an independent organization that recognizes academic success and advocacy in the LGBT community. CCP announced the creation of the center during its “Acting on Diversity: LGBTQ and Community Colleges” conference last October.

LGBTQ students at CCP now have access to educational and professional resources such as information on scholarships, job opportunities and sexual health. A work-study position may be available for students later in the school year, Scarfo said, once he  establishes the center’s responsibilities. For now, it’s open and ready to host students.

His first initiative as coordinator was getting the school’s LGBTQ+ Club reinstated. The group was inactive during the 2017-18 school year because of low attendance and lack of a student-executive board. Since taking the position in July, Scarfo has already recruited several students to hold board positions.

Other goals include assisting students on changing their names and gender markers within the college based on their preferred gender identity. Last year, CCP approved the chosen-name policy, which allows students to go by a name that differs from their legal name.

Scarfo said the name policy’s “implementation is still vague” and he’s working on “streamlining that process to make it easier for students to access.”

“My goal is to be a one-stop-shop for LGBTQ students. My goal is to be an ally to all the groups that are marginalized within our community and continue to educate myself to make sure that I can support those students any way that I can.” 

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