A new association for LGBT college students in the Philadelphia area will premiere later this month.
The Collegiate Meet and Greet will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., and will bring together LGBT student groups from regional colleges to collaborate on initiatives and discuss issues impacting LGBT college students.
University of the Arts student Jason Beckmann spearheaded the initiative to foster a better sense of community among local LGBT students and student groups.
Beckmann, who is also a member of the newly established LGBT student group OUT@UArts, said the group wanted to promote an environment where LGBT students from all different schools could come together for support.
“We felt there was separation between different colleges and their LGBT groups and we all felt like, since this is our first year, it would be cool to see other groups and collaborate,” he said. “We all face different challenges and problems. We wanted to get together and form meaningful partnerships.”
Beckmann said OUT@UArts members looked at other cities and saw a disparity in LGBT youth collaboration in the Philly area.
“There never seemed to be a collaborative LGBT youth force,” he said. “It was always here or there and I think, personally, when you see a bunch of other people working in similar environments as you, it is inspiring.”
At the event, each representative from a collegiate group will give a five-minute talk about what his or her organization does and its future goals and projects. Openly gay UArts president Sean Buffington will speak at the inaugural event.
“We tried to keep it a loose structure,” Beckmann said. “Rather than [OUT@UArts] define what we are all doing, we will define what it is we all want to work on. The problem is if we define the alliance, then we are not taking in other ideas or initiatives of other groups.”
Beckmann said students and groups from all schools in the Philadelphia region are invited to attend the inaugural meeting and participate in future events and collaborations. In addition to other joint projects, he expects the Collegiate Meet and Greet to take place annually.
“It is not to say there won’t be other events — there can be different things we can set up throughout the year — but our idea was once a year we would all meet in the same place and reconnect,” he said.
Beckmann said he anticipates the meeting, and the expected partnerships it will produce, can empower students and bring needed visibility to their work on their respective campuses.
“Sometimes it feels a little separated, especially when there is a group that isn’t talked about, but by seeing different groups of people that have something you share in one room, there is something special about that.”