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Georgia Tech Student Activists Connect with Equality Advocates at HRC Atlanta Dinner

As a college alum you know you are going to get fundraising appeals from the school – it’s a rite of passage into the real world! Sometimes, however, there are even better ways that you can give back to your alma mater. In the case of Georgia Tech alums, it means making it possible for current students to attend the HRC Atlanta dinner. Georgia Tech Pride Alumni wanted current LGBTQ and allied students at Tech to experience the community and pride at the HRC Atlanta dinner. It turns out that not only did they have a fabulous evening but the students were able to start putting together their plan of action for the fall. The students wrote up a great summary of their evening to share with the alums and were kind enough to allow us to share it with you: Dear Pride Alumni, Thank you so much for your support to send ten students to the Atlanta HRC Dinner and Gala last night. The entire experience was unlike anything we have ever seen before. Because of your generosity, we were able to meet many wonderful people from the LGBTQA community who are excited to come help us with events at Tech in the next school year. Furthermore, the evening brought together the current student leadership to unite us and excite us about LGBTQA programming and activities at the Institute in the immediate future and beyond. This group included students involved with The Straight Talk, a new LGBT ally recruitment initiative on campus, Pride Alliance executive members, as well as our new SGA Student Body President. The evening started with a silent auction. While all of us have been committed to developing the LGBTQA community presence at Georgia Tech, some of us had not met each other yet! We were able to get acquainted and build a sense of “team” among the 10 of us for the coming year. After meeting a few new people at the auction, we progressed to the dinner in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency. After we were seated at our table, the program began. During the program, we first heard from Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. He spoke about the progress that HRC has made in the past year, and HRC’s goals for the next year and time beyond that. We also heard from Vandy Beth Glenn, recipient of the Leon Allen and Winston Johnson Community Service Award, and heard about her experience being fired because of her transition from male to female. David Cicilline, Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, also spoke to share about his experience as an openly-gay elected official. Simone Bell also shared about her new position as the first openly-lesbian African-American representative in the Georgia General Assembly. These stories of fearless leadership were very moving and inspiring. NeNe Leaks from The Real Housewives of Atlanta introduced the recipient of the HRC Visibility Award, Andy Cohen. Andy spoke about his position as a VP for Bravo, a leading network in its portrayal and promotion of LGBTQA people. He shared about his experience as an openly gay professional for his entire career starting at the first news station he worked for coming out of college. His encouraging words spoke volumes about the value of living openly to boldly represent our community as we want it to be represented. During dinner, there were several opportunities to visit with the others attending. We met Alex Wan, Georgia Tech graduate, and openly gay Atlanta City Council member. He expressed interest in coming to campus to help us this fall with both LGBTQA programming and general GT/Atlanta relations. We also met two transwomen who regularly lecture at college campuses about transexual and gender identity issues. They were very excited about coming to Tech in the fall to share their stories. We also met Congressman John Lewis briefly, and other big-name allies who were thrilled to see Georgia Tech students at the HRC dinner. Last night set the tone for LGBTQA programming and leadership for the next year at Georgia Tech. We made over a dozen fabulous contacts to help with developing new programs and resources for Tech Students. However, perhaps the most important outcome of the evening was aligning Tech’s LGBT and Ally student leadership. All ten of us are thrilled to be a part of bringing equality to campus this coming year. Thank you so much for sponsoring this remarkable evening full of inspiration and encouragement. Your commitment and generosity are critical to the fight for equality on Tech’s campus and beyond. Please let us know if you have any ideas to share, or would like to be involved in the LGBTQ and ally programming for this year. We look forward to hearing from you! The students also offered some individual perspectives on the evening's events. Georgia Tech Pride Alliance President Austin Joyner commented:

I just want to say that the HRC Gala was one of the most inspiring events I have ever attended. Being on Georgia Tech's campus I feel there are many who do not support gay rights. But being able to come together with a group of like-minded people in Atlanta all working towards change has motivated me to be an even stronger advocate and has made me realize I am on the front lines of a fight for equality. This is perhaps one of the most timely events in bolstering Pride Alliance and motivating its officers. I do not think I can thank you enough for giving us this opportunity.

 

Straight Talk Committee Member Ryan Epp remarked:

Last night's HRC dinner was absolutely phenomenal. It was easily one of the most motivational experiences I've had since coming to Tech. While at the event, I was fortunate enough to meet some new and wonderful people from all around Atlanta, many of whom seemed inspired by what we do on campus and our presence at the event. Many of these individuals, such as Melissa Carter from the Q100 morning show, seemed extremely interested in helping us out where ever possible and asked us to please make sure to reach out the LGBT community outside of Tech.

 

Corey T. Boone, who was recently elected Student Body President at Georgia Tech, had this to say:

For me the HRC Gala was life changing. It reaffirmed my commitment to for an increasingly diverse Georgia Tech. One of the most poignant takeaways from the evening is found in the simple quote, "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu." In the coming year, I am committed now more than ever to ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table. In 2010, there is no reason for a culture of exclusivity at Georgia Tech. As Student Body President, I will strive to break down the barriers that divide us so that we can become a true Yellow Jacket Community. Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend the 2010 HRC Dinner.
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