Wheaton’s Safe Zone program began in 2004 through the Office of Student Life when Area Coordinator Paul Hughes brought the idea of a lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) training to Wheaton. Senior Resident Assistant Shakira Cruz ’06 adapted the training from New York University with a small committee of staff, faculty and students whom gathered to help implement it.
The Safe Zone Committee continued to meet and in the spring of 2007, re-created and re-implemented a new training, Ally 101, which focused on providing resources and information to participants to become better allies to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer/questioning (LGBQ) at Wheaton.
It was also during this time that the Safe Zone Committee began to develop a student advocacy group, Safe Zone Student Ambassadors. The committee which already included students Heather Lobitz ’08, Adrienne Burton ‘08, and Lindsay Van Clief ’09 were able to identify key LGBTQ and ally students and trained them to facilitate Ally 101 trainings. The following students were selected and trained: Jennifer Salazar ’10, Chelsey Taylor ’10, Christina Lambert ’10, Ryan Sermon ’11, Zachary Haney ’11, and Nora Rasanen ‘11.
With greater student involvement and commitment the Safe Zone Committee was able to step back and support the Safe Zone Student Ambassadors who were able to implement campus events and create new workshops. And in the spring 2008, the Ambassadors were able to introduce the first Transgender 101 training.
The following academic year, the Safe Zone program comprised of Ryan Sermon ’11, Griffin Patria ’12, Keith Enos ’12, Chiara BoisAubin ’12, Kerry Kennely ’13, Heather Gordon ’13, and Kyle Perrapato ’13. In the fall of 2010, Ryan Sermon ’11 brought the idea for a “No Place for H8” banner which was supported by the Ambassadors. The Safe Zone Student Ambassadors continued to evolve; bringing new programs, providing trainings to campus, and modeling advocacy.
In the spring of 2011, to formally institutionalize the Safe Zone program’s partnership with students, a paid student internship position was created.
Currently, the Safe Zone program is managed by Mike Pratt, who serves as the LGBTQ+ Engagement Coordinator out of The Center for Social Justice and Community Impact. Pratt, alongside a group of dedicated student and staff advocates has formally trained hundreds of Wheaton community members through open workshops and requested trainings.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in getting Safe Zone trained (or trained as a facilitator), please contact Mike Pratt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.