On a white backdrop, is a yellow, circular looking wreath that surrounds the words “Pasadena City College”. A maroon ribbon beneath the wreath, says, “PCC Safe Zone Coalition”. This logo, printed on a square sticker, is posted on a thin, rectangular window that looks into the Academic Senate office on the second floor of the C building.
This sticker means more than just its minuscule looking shape, it’s a representation of allyship for the LGBTQIA and undocumented students on campus.
Amidst the political rhetoric many marginalized communities across the United States have found offensive, minority groups at universities and community colleges have created “safe spaces” on their campuses.
However, for PCC, the safe spaces a student can find on campus through faculty or staff, has been established since 2011, way before President Trump took office.
“It took about a year to pretty much put everything together,” said Juan Pablo Carreon, one of the founders of the PCC Safe Zone Coalition.
This idea originated among a couple of staff after having found, through research and focus studies, that most of the students part of the LGBTQIA or undocumented community on campus felt like they didn’t belong at PCC and weren’t getting the support they needed to succeed. This sparked the beginning of what is now the Safe Zones Coalition, but it certainly is a movement on campus that is slowly, through bits and pieces, gaining momentum.
“The challenge has been [not having] a designated location,” said Carreon.
Throughout the last six years, if a student wanted to locate a safe zone, it wouldn’t necessarily be in one area of the campus, but rather by staff and faculty and the safe space they would bring to the student. Over 600 faculty and staff are trained allies that work from different areas around campus such as the counseling department or the career center.
“It’s not necessarily places that are the safe zones,” said Jeffrey Hupp, one of the advisors of the Queer Alliance club and another founding member of the Safe Zone Coalition. “… but the allies who occupy the space that can be considered a safe zone to come to for support.”
The mission for the Safe Zone Coalition is to demonstrate to students that are part of the LGBTQIA and undocumented community, that, whether it be in counseling offices or a bench outside on campus, if they’re struggling with any issue regarding their identity or undocumented status, they can reach out to faculty and staff and find a safe space to be heard.
“I feel like [safe zones] is a vital thing that we should have at colleges,” said Diego Sevilla, a second year student at PCC.
As part of the LGBTQIA community, Sevilla feels that people of color in the LGBTQIA community aren’t being represented equally. On campus, fighting for more representation is a priority for the Safe Zone Coalition, and a big reason why they formed safe zones in the first place.
“The percentage of students we have that are of color to the percentages of the number of faculty that are of color is a huge imbalance,” said Yajaira De La Paz, who oversees the Job Development and Employer Relations in the Careers Center. “That alone has created a sense of some students not being able to identify.”
These kind of discussions they have at trainings are difficult but deemed necessary by the Safe Zone Coalition, because they believe it not only pushes towards more understanding but continues the efforts of fostering a space for minorities.
The Safe Zones Coalition has grown to over 600 faculty and staff being allies, and their persistence has led to finally being able to open up a safe zones center for students on campus.
“The last five years, it’s been our own offices, wherever we can find a place to provide support for students,” said Carreon. “We will be opening here on campus at the end of this fall a safe zones center.”
With a designated center solidified and ready to be opened, the Safe Zones Coalition plans to continue to build a lens of equity for students on campus and those yet to come.
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