A vivid rainbow ring with a mariposa butterfly spreads its wings to display the dotted pattern. This is the first thing visitors see when they visit this all-inclusive center. The rainbow colors represent alliance with the LGBTQ community and the butterfly fitted on top portrays the beauty in migration. Combining these two symbols signifies acceptance and activism, especially in a diverse community in PCC.
The PCC Queer and Undocumented Empowerment Support to Thrive (QUEST) center, which opened this fall in R-422, is a safe space for LGBTQ and undocumented students as a place to study and receive services. Some resources include educational counseling, health referrals and a place to destress. The center offers a lounge area, study spaces, laptops and printing for students to utilize.
Desiree Hernandez, the coordinator for the QUEST center, describes it as a safe space for students and a home away from home. She joined as a QUEST advisor in December and worked to build it from the ground up with the assistance of the Queer Alliance club, United Without Boundaries club and the support of the school.
“Many PCC students, staff and faculty advocated for a resource center like this one to be here for students who are LGBTQ, undocumentied or allies,” Hernandez said. “We serve not only the LGBTQ and undocumented students, [we also] serve the LGBTQ questioning students, students who have mixed status families… and also student allies. We are a center that is open to everyone who is here for the cause.”
In addition to these services, they offer specific resources targeted to their queer and undocumented students. The center provides support, consultations and resource referrals.
“We connect with the campus clubs and organizations for our students,” said Hernandez. “A student will come in and express that there’s an area they need support in. And in talking to our students, we find other ways to support them, and we refer them to those services.”
Hernandez’s goal is to build partnerships with on-campus and off-campus facilities to help students. One of their off-campus partnerships is with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The QUEST Center can refer students to the Center for Transyouth Health and Development, where those students are offered services like binding tips and gender reassignment surgery, which usually ranges from $10,000 to $50,000.
Another tool that QUEST provides is legal name changes for students on campus. While the QUEST center cannot change names on official documents like transcripts and financial aid correspondents, they can provide name changes for Lancerpoint, student IDs, counseling appointments and attendance sheets. Hernandez is currently working with a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance and hopes to work with them in getting fee waivers for legal name changes, which is usually upward of $400. She hopes in the near future that an in-person clinic can be present on campus to make the process faster and easier for students.
PCC will soon partner with the California Department of Social Services, which has granted $10 million to provide funding for immigration services to 65 community colleges, PCC being one of them. Representatives will come on campus or meet on Zoom, collaborate with students and work through an array of services, from DACA removals and inquiries for greencards.
Desiree Recarte, a recent undergraduate and professional expert who hosts workshops, is a resource provider at QUEST.
“When this opportunity came though, I was like why not try it?” she said. “I am part of the LGBT community, so I thought it would be awesome to share my experience and what I’ve been through and how I feel about the community. I’ve never worked professionally with these groups or students in general. However,I feel that it was something that would let me learn a lot more and be more socially aware of these groups and how to help. I feel like I can make a difference”
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