The Future is Queerer

Reflections & Q’onnections

Two years ago I sat in the bullpen of John Jay’s student council. I exhaustedly slaved over project after LGBTQ+ support project. I wanted so badly to change something. The Student council president Amber Rivero nodded and held my chicken scratch notes: “No these are good Sam, yea you can do this keep fighting you and others deserve a seat at the table here.” I felt vindicated in my work, I craved more I wanted more. “Yea man nothing is stopping you just do it start it up.” Said my cohort leader Jon Salamak. I want to thank Student Academic Success programs Jay Chopra for helping me come up with a training program for my mentees.

Developing the program wasn’t easy, oftentimes I felt frustrated trying to figure out the path that the program NEEDED to take rather than where I wanted it to go. A lot of LGBTQ+ folx face a lot of interpersonal violence, mental strain, or this feeling they have to overachieve to be competitive in higher education. These are the types of things they don’t talk about when developing LGBTQ+ programs and how varied your obstacles are going to be. I wanted to tear my hair out sometimes I felt like I couldn’t get my mentors to get things done but that’s not on them. About 2 of my mentors went homeless and 4 got hospitalized for different reasons. It was frustrating, I’d be waking up at 8 am on Sundays trying my best to figure out last-minute changes. Most of my Sunday was just rallying everyone together to be ready for the morning and afternoon sessions. It was good having two sessions it let you understand when things needed to change or sometimes the energy difference meant you had to change up your facilitation style.

In the end, it paid off. All of the mentees created these really great projects! I mean I couldn’t imagine anyone failing them or these projects not getting these huge spotlights. These were topics I myself didn’t even think of! It blew me away.

We had this great graduation ceremony in and everyone had a great time. We were huddled together and like a real community and the smiles and feels were so genuine through the screen. The mentors loved their mentees and even though I personally felt I wasn’t rallying them enough in the end I found that that personal connection was still happening. These mentors called and stood by their mentees sides 24/7 and when mentees stopped showing up they were disappointed and hurt. That’s a realness you don’t get just anywhere.

In the end, Q’onections caught everyone on campus eyes they loved that grassroots action we took. The Center for Student involvement and Leadership fought to fund our mentors. I handed off the program to my club coordinator Jon and now it’s his forever. It’s a mainstay in John Jay and fully funded by a stipend. It actually pays to be queer now. What a world.

I think my favorite thing to come out of Q’onnections is all the feedback from students. One mentee named Eashan told me constantly about how he told his friends to join and wanted loved the program. When he finished he said:

“Q’onections has given me a sense of community and belonging. The program has allowed me to expand my knowledge on what it means to be apart of the LGBTQ+ community. Being a part of something with people who have dealt with the same or similar situations has allowed me to feel more seen. To future mentees, if you want to be an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community this is the place to be. You’re understood and seen by folx just like yourself and its truly a beautiful experience.” – Eashan [Queer Mentee]

The future is bright for mentees

Q’onnections Morgan Q’onnections project was on athletics inclusive, she went on to present her project to President Mason and is now head of the Student Pride Network at John Jay.

Why do you feel it’s essential that John Jay have a queer mentorship program like Q’onnections?
Going to college is hard. Queer individuals in general face additional difficulties that are hard to understand for those who haven’t experienced it. Q’onnections goes above and beyond your typical mentorship program. The program creates a space where mentees can receive guidance and learn more about their unique identities. It goes beyond academics and specifically addresses issues faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. In our current virtual world, and with the current political environment, queer students are feeling emotionally exhausted. Q’onnections offers students a safe space where they can be their authentic self, be supported and can learn and grow without any fear. Q’onnections is about love, support, and acceptance.

“Q’onnections is about love, support, and acceptance.” —Morgan DeGlopper

For students who are considering booking a meeting with a mentor, what do you want them to know?
It’s not as scary as you think it is. I know before joining Q’onnections, I was afraid I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about LGBTQ+ issues to relate. I was scared that the mentors would look down on me, but that wasn’t the case at all. The mentors are great at meeting you where you are and making you feel comfortable. They have a wealth of knowledge and have been training hard to make sure they can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

After the success of Q’onnections and their mentees went on to advocate for an LGBTQ+ center and policy reforms.

Here we see the presentation our students made for an LGBTQ+ center and the other project proposed by the team. As of currently 2/27/2021 nearly 80% of these projects are nearing their completion.

The Future

Honestly, I don’t know where Q’onnections or the new LGBTQ+ center are going to end up. I suppose I have mixed feelings about writing a page in John Jay history, you know I get to say that now. I created a milestone, I am in the history books for that one in a way. I don’t know where those particular projects will end up, they are officially apart of the community, and where they end up depends on the dedication they have to the projects themselves. What matters is our voice is heard. This isn’t the end for my projects, I’ve taken up a chair seat on a committee in USS now, of course, I had to! Our projects are CUNY-wide pronouns, databases, and a how-to guide for students who want to bring an LGBTQ+ center to their campuses. That’s big you know! We all have a stake in that one. I want to thank Dr.McSpadden from Bronx Community College for taking me under their wing as a mentee this past month. We are working on a dissertation for the argument of an LGBTQ+ major at John Jay, we think the campus is primed for it. I also want to thank Mitch Draizin for creating the CUNY LGBTQ+ advocacy academy, with my current acceptance into the program, Draizin asked that I bring my experience with Q’onnections to the advocacy program itself and help define the curriculum. I will help in the first cohort of LGBTQ+ advocates for CUNY and the chance to develop with fellow peers is both a dream and anxiety-inducing. I am hoping these kinds of projects gain traction nationally and internationally, I hadn’t considered the international audience here, but if we’re talking about equity for education I want to see more. I’d like Q’onnections to help bolster a LGBTQ+ college pipeline for NYC and international students. I can’t say what future I am looking forward too with my project because I am not sure where it really lies anymore. I think in a way I am my own project now and I need to hone that.

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