HRC Blog

Students Take a Tour of LGBT History

Last summer I welcomed a surprise visitor to the HRC building – Anne Phibbs, the Director of GLBTA Programs Office at the University of Minnesota. She stopped by to tell me about a new initiative at the school that would be an integrated, year-long learning experience for undergrads with hands-on education for developing their skills as student leaders in order to affect social and political change. The program would incorporate specific courses in the fall and spring semesters along with a chance to study activism and organizing on a national level with a bus trip to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. I told Anne on the spot that we’d love to welcome the students when they took their road trip. Welcoming student groups (high school & college) to HRC is one of my favorite things to do. It didn’t hurt that the program sounded amazing plus the U of MN has an outstanding reputation when it comes to LGBT campus issues (they were the first sanctioned office to include the “T” in their mission/name) And to my knowledge there is no other program out there like this, so it would be an honor to be part of it its maiden voyage. (if you know of other similar college programs please let us know campus@hrc.org). This week, the inaugural class of University of Minnesota’s GLBTA Leadership Year students came to Washington, DC and visited the Human Rights Campaign. They had already experienced amazing stops on their road-trip, including: visits to Chicago’s Center on Halstead and Leather Archives & Museum, NYC’s Pauline Park gave them a walking tour of queer Queens and they visited to the Stonewall Inn, Philly’s Transgender Health Conference and lunch with the YES Coalition and in DC they visited with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. And that’s just a small example of the many places they visited in those cities. I really appreciated that one thing they were getting a huge dose of was LGBT history- something that I know too many young queer & allied activists lack. The morning of their visit to HRC they got a tour of the building with stops in the Public Education & Outreach Department to learn about our Religion & Faith, Workplace and Family projects. Not only is Youth & Campus Outreach a proud part of Public Education & Outreach but I thought it was important for them to learn about programs and initiatives that they might not be as familiar with as say, our political work. We returned to the Equality Forum and they got to hear from Sarah Warbelow, our state legislative director. I always learn so much when I hear her present – there are so many nuances to legal issues and she really explains well issues like DOMA & DADT. We were then joined by the summer crop of HRC interns for lunch and a panel discussion featuring Gregory Varnum, Executive Director of National Youth Advocacy Coalition and Kate Karasmeighan, Chief of Staff for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce plus myself. The students (and I!) found out great information about how NYAC & NGLCC work on their particular issues as well as together in coalition on certain issues. Each of us also shared our personal stories of the paths that led us to activism plus our ideas for what leadership means. We wrapped up their visit and I told Anne that for sure we would be happy to welcome the 2nd ever GLBTA Leadership Year. The students had a few more days in DC including a breakfast with MN Senator Al Franken. As you read this they are likely back on the bus where their long, strange trip will (maybe?) end back in the Twin Cities. Happy trails!

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