This year that slogan is being put into practice by 11 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, and Alliance students as they become involved in the new Out Racers: Take Your Place program.
D. Andrew Porter, junior from Scottsville, Ky., is the student coordinator for Out Racers.
He describes the new organization as a mentoring program, in which LGBT students learn the tools and skills necessary to make major changes within their campus and surrounding communities.
“Out Racers is a grassroots leadership development program specific to LGBT and Alliance,” Porter said. “We want to cater the program to individuals that want the opportunity to attack important LGBT community issues.”
Porter went on to describe the three primary components of the Out Racers program.
The first part focuses on the leadership development, as the 11 cohort members will work on their own particular style of leadership, as well as motivational self-awareness.
“It’s all about self, and recognition of self. You have to understand yourself, at least to a certain degree, before you can really get out there in your community and make a statement,” Porter said.
The second part of the program is providing the students with the tools to be strong advocates for the LGBT community, whether that is funding for programs, mentoring or bringing speakers to Murray State to hold workshops for Out Racers participants.
The final step in the program is the community-based project. Each of the 11 students will be given a budget to implement an education and advocacy program within their surrounding community.
Some of the proposed projects include developing regional campus alliance groups, bullying initiatives and working with LGBT people of all ethnicities.
Nine of the 11 students participating in the cohort attend Murray State.
One student, sophomore Darren Scott, attends Hopkinsville Community College, and Madisonville Community College is represented by sophomore CeNedra Rodriguez.
Murray State’s LGBT program coordinator, Jody Cofer, is coordinating the Out Racers program, with co-coordinator Peggy Pittman-Munke.
Cofer was inspired to start Out Racers because he said LGBT and Ally students do not have good leadership or organizing experience.
Cofer said sending students to professional conferences for leadership training can cost thousands of dollars, so he decided to bring the training to the students.
During the course of the year, there will be anywhere from eight to 10 workshops held to give students the skills and experience they need to implement their own developing projects.
The workshops vary in content and presentation; everything from Leadership Camp to the Conversation and Dessert with Jeff Graham on HIV/AIDS and activism.
Cofer’s hope for this program extends beyond these 11 students.
He wants more students to get interested, get involved and get to work.
“Our best investment for tomorrow is the development and growth of dynamic individuals who can carry this work forward,” Cofer said.
With that idea in mind, Cofer succeeded in building a program that will be developed and carried out by students, for students.
Said Cofer, “I can evaluate what I think students want or need, but how much better is it that now we will have students planning these programs from a student’s perspective?”
Story by Kate Russell, Staff Writer