Maricopa Community Colleges will host an inaugural pride festival on Oct. 11 at the Southern and Dobson campus of Mesa Community College (MCC) to help celebrate LGBTQ+ students. The event is organized through local LGBTQ+ clubs and will receive public funding from the City of Mesa through sponsorship.
The conference, dubbed the Pride of Maricopa, began in the wake of the Queering Arizona conference, which no longer operates, but still exists in the minds of those who used to attend.
“There used to be a conference called the Queering Arizona conference, and was a collaboration conference between all the universities and colleges in Arizona that brought all LGBT+ students together,” Erick Tanchez, co-president of Equality Maricopa, said. “It went away probably about four or five years ago… so we said, ‘why not just start one’.”
The Pride of Maricopa conference will help supplement MCC’s lack of LGBTQ+ visibility according to Tanchez, who believes that community colleges continue to struggle with allocating resources towards LGBTQ+ specific departments and problems.
Tanchez explained how four year colleges, “could have an LGBT office that offers support services for LGBT students. They could have a specialist who works with them. Maricopa Community Colleges does not.”
Along with food and fun activities the event will host a variety of LGBTQ+ workshops and speakers who will promote issues representative in the LGBT+ community. These workshops will specifically emphasize themes such as leisure, safety, education, networking and entertainment.
“There are a variety of things that our community goes through. We have conferences for veterans. We have conferences for leadership and things like that. We look at this as, ‘visibility matters for LGBT students’… A lot of youth today, they don’t have mentors to look up too. So this is a way for us to do that for our students,” Tanchez said.
Local LGBTQ+ club organizers include One-N-Ten, an organization that predominantly supports youth from the ages of 14 to 25 who struggle with homelessness and RipplePHX, a group that works to prevent HIV and other health problems among LGBTQ+ youth.
Event coverage and further information regarding the Pride of Maricopa can be found in the next issue of MCC’s Mesa Legend.