Organization to connect LGBTQ mentors with students

An LGBTQ organization plans to create friendships between graduates and students during the spring semester.

Marshall University’s LGBTQ Alumni and Ally Mentorship Program intends to connect 20 students with 20 mentors to learn about various obstacles surrounding the coming out process.

“This program is really about being able to make a connection with someone who has already been through this experience,” Tim Melvin, assessment coordinator for Academic Affairs, said. “Our one goal is to really help students identify with their selves.”

Melvin, who is overseeing the formation of MU LAMP, said the organization is a result of a diversity and equity grant, which is being split between the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Women and Gender Center and the LGBTQ Office. He said each office has been using funding from the $12,000 grant to organize events that center around gender and sexual identity.

“This is really a threefold effort to push out resources while also establishing the sense that there is a need for LGBTQ resources on campus,” Melvin said.

In order for the program to get started, Melvin said he is seeking 20 students and 20 mentors who could participate in the fellowship to foster friendships.

“The spring semester will focus on the coming out process and discuss how students can work with their families and friends to help them feel comfortable,” Melvin said.

In addition to providing a service to students who may be struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, Melvin said he asked Shaunte Polk, sponsored program coordinator with the LGBTQ Office, to reach out to LGBTQ alumni to see if they would be willing to get involved.

“If you think of the history from where the [LGBTQ Office] was to where it’s came to be, we’ve lost a lot of our alumni,” Polk said. “We have many who are in the area and have done great works in their community but don’t interact with our office because they don’t have a connection to Marshall. Marshall hasn’t always been accepting, and we need to be honest with ourselves so we can encourage them to come back.”

Aside from LGBTQ alumni, Melvin said allies may also apply to be a mentor, but they must have a connection to the LGBTQ community.

“We pushed the need for LGBTQ alumni and allies so individuals who are not necessarily LGBTQ but have experiences with the community can also mentor students,” Melvin said. “With the allies, we’re really looking for individuals who have family members who have come out so we can get a legitimate experience component from each person.”

MU LAMP is currently set to sponsor four confidential programs for students and mentors during the 2019 spring semester. Although the organization has just begun, Melvin said he is excited to see what will happen for MU LAMP in the future.

“If this is a success, we’re hoping to find funding that will expand the program to make it an academic year long thing,” Melvin said. “We’re very lucky to have an administration who helps fundraise with us to help start these initiates. They’re very supportive.”

For now, Polk said the main goal is to find enough people to help make MU LAMP a successful organization on campus.

If you’re interested or know someone who is interested, they should definitely apply because it’s going to be a great program,” Polk said. “Knowing the people who have created this [program] and knowing that they will possibly be mentors, I know the program will be a success.”

Applications to apply for MU LAMP can be found on the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s website. The application deadline is Dec. 12, and decisions will be delivered Dec. 18.

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected]