LGBTQ+ students ecstatic as UAA opens first Pride Center on campus

LGBTQ+ students ecstatic as UAA opens first Pride Center on campus
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 8:50 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tuesday was a momentous day for LGBTQ+ members of the University of Alaska community, as it was the official ribbon cutting for the new pride center on the university’s Anchorage campus.

“This is UAA’s first pride center, and the first collegiate pride center in Alaska, so it’s a really big occasion,” Jessi Saiki said.

Saiki is the Engagement and Belonging Coordinator with the UAA Pride Center. The center is meant to be a safe space for students to explore gender identity and sexual orientation in a non-judgmental atmosphere, with a plan to provide programs, services, and events for LGBTQ+ members in the UAA community.

“This space is a place for people to be themselves in a world that doesn’t accept us for who we are completely yet, so this is a place where people can sing and dance and make art and tell stories about themselves and know that, just from entering the door, they don’t have to be afraid to hide a part of themselves,” Saiki said.

Saiki, who grew up in Wasilla, says it’s a dream come true to see the pride center come to fruition. Others expressed similar feelings, especially with a huge turnout to celebrate the opening of the new space, and several students could hardly contain their excitement.

“I mean, I’ve met nobody in this room before today, and the absolute camaraderie that I’ve been met with is astonishing, so it’s like we’ve been friends for a long time, even family, so it’s really nice,” Ashley Archer said, a Fine Arts student at UAA.

“It promotes equality and diversity and it’s really cool to see and feel accepted,” Jay Badalich added. Badalich is a current student and is part of many inclusive clubs on campus.

Even the former acting mayor of Anchorage, Austin Quinn-Davidson, showed up to check out the new center and give a speech during the ceremony.

“I think it’s great to have a place where people can be themselves and feel safe and happy and be surrounded by others who have gone through similar struggles,” Quinn-Davidson said.

Kim Morton, who leads student engagement and inclusion programming at UAA, says this is another place for the university’s student body to be celebrated and accepted, as well as be able to meet others that may identify like them.

“Now, students will be able to say yes, please, there is a place for you to come to be comfortable, to be yourself and engage with others,” Morton said. “It’s really just tremendous.”

Many students expressed feeling more comfortable already.

“To see it as up front and center as it is here is really comforting, to know that I’m not alone out here,” Archer said.

The UAA Pride Center is located on campus in the University Hub, on the ground floor of the Student Union.