On the back of a pamphlet handed out during Welcome Week, a quotation from Harvey Milk is printed declaring that “all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
Up until the Fall 2011 semester, no such environment existed on TJC campus for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
According to Student Senate President Brianne Palmer, these students were “tired of feeling unwelcomed.” So a proposal was brought forward to the Student Senate asking for the creation of a recognized LGBT organization on campus, adequately named S.A.G.E.-Straights and Gays for Equality.
An organization has to meet the three promises of Tyler Junior College in order to become a recognized student organization: A Quality Education, Vibrant Student Life, and Community Service.
Professor of Developmental Reading/Co-Sponsor of S.A.G.E. Melanie Ward said that S.A.G.E. fulfills these three promises by:
Promise 1: Educating students on civil rights issues, sexual health and about the LGBT community as a whole. Ward says that, personally, she has learned a lot about the community and finds it important to offer further education as a part of every meeting.
Promise 2: Making a safe place for all students to congregate and explore/educate themselves on problems they or their peers might be facing. S.A.G.E. ensures that “everybody has a place to go to…freely express themselves.” The organization also participated in Welcome Week festivities with a booth handing out flags, stickers, and lollipops to promote equality, as well as their organization. S.A.G.E. also plans to partner with Tyler AIDS Services to distribute condoms on Valentine’s Day and to offer free AIDS testing to students during AIDS awareness month.
Promise 3: S.A.G.E. meets this requirement by working with Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays) and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) on highway cleanups. Further community service is being planned to work with Tyler AIDS Services on different volunteer projects.
On Nov. 8, S.A.G.E. was officially recognized as a student organization. Ward and Professor Karen Beck stepped forward as co-sponsors, and helped hold the first meeting on Jan. 19, 2012, with 17 students attending.
One of these students was Anjelica Thompson, who was featured in a Feb. 15, 2010 article in the Apache Pow Wow, explaining students’ concerns about the lack of LGBT organizations on campus.
Since the article, Thompson said that after the article came out, her head was “raised just a little higher.” After the first S.A.G.E. meeting, Thompson said that she was “amazed at the amounts of straight people at the meeting… and there wasn’t near as much backlash as I thought there would be.”
S.A.G.E. President Tony Ellis said that, “This has been part of my life dreams and goals. I have great plans for S.A.G.E.”
Meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday in Jenkins room 1108. The meetings are open to anyone who would like to attend. To contact someone from S.A.G.E., email Melanie Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org, Karen Beck at email@example.com, or visit the TJC S.A.G.E. Facebook group.