Pride Center provides safe space for LGBTQ+ students amid pandemic

by Isabel Smith, Staff Writer

Since its opening in 2014, the Pride Center at San Diego State University has provided a safe space for students of all sexual and gender identities to grow and learn. The Pride Center is SDSU’s LGBTQ+ resource center providing support to students in their process of sexual and gender self-identity development as well as helping those who are struggling with discrimination, alienation, or harassment as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Through campus events, support groups, and more the Pride Center helps to facilitate campus-wide education, awareness, and dialogue on issues related to sexuality and gender.

Chrystian Smith, a fourth-year political science and history major, works as a Peer Educator at the Pride Center helping to host and plan different events meant to empower and educate fellow students. Smith said that the Pride Center has provided a home away from home for many students during their college careers. 

“The Pride Center is the backbone of the SDSU LGBTQ community. The center allows us to have a space to be unconstrained by societal norms and standards,” Chrystian Smith said. “It serves as a second home away from home for many of our students who need a loving community while on campus.”

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic affected communities around the world including the LGBTQ community. Here at SDSU, campus acess was restricted and students were forced to transition to online learning. Despite this, the Pride Center continued to provide support and resources to students virtually. 

Diego Smith, a fourth-year sociology major, serves as the center’s office and media lead. Diego Smith says despite the challenges of transitioning online, the Pride Center has continued its success with the queer community at SDSU.

“We’ve been able to adapt most of our events to online formats, mostly Zoom, but also Instagram lives and reels,” Diego Smith said. “We’re just as busy as we were in person and still welcoming students to our events and support groups!” 

Along with Zoom and social media events, the Pride Center also hosts a virtual front desk Monday through Wednesday and Friday. Students are encouraged to visit the virtual front desk to chat with Pride Center employees, ask questions, or just chat. 

Working with the SDSU Pride Center, Pride House is a peer mentorship program designed to help LGBTQ+ students become successful and engaged members of the SDSU community. Students in this program are paired with an upperclassmen mentor who is invested in supporting the LGBTQ+ community and passionate about helping students reach their academic and personal goals.  

Currently, students meet with their mentors every other week on Zoom. 

Allison Newlee, a first-year graduate student in the MS Counseling program, is one of the mentors in the program and says Pride House is an important resource for students.

“Pride House is important to SDSU because LBGTQ+ students experience marginalization in our society and are more likely to graduate when they are connected to the LGBTQ+ community and resources that are supportive of them,” Newlee said. 

The Pride Center at SDSU has become an important space on campus for students within the community to find help and resources. No matter what students are going through, Diego Smith says the Pride Center has continued to provide a place to grow authentically and receive additional support during life as a student.

“The Pride Center is a bastion of safety for queer students on campus,” Diego Smith said. “We lead with acceptance and compassion in everything we do, and I think that’s really important for students who are coming into their LGBTQ+ identities.” 

The Pride Center holds programs and events covering important topics throughout the semester. More information can be found on their website or on their Instagram.