Equality Ohio regularly offers volunteer opportunities, all of which are geared towards helping the LGBTQ population in Ohio. Despite, my passion for the cause, I had often dismissed these opportunities by telling myself that I was too busy to participate, despite having a bit more time in my schedule than I was willing to admit. Sometimes, to appease my conscience, I’d tell myself that I would definitely volunteer next month, but “next month” would inevitably get pushed back to the month after.
Well, once I began working as the Communications Associate for Equality Ohio in February, I realized that I was really running out of excuses.
On March 11th, I finally bit the bullet and decided to head over to the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland and participate in Equality Ohio’s Volunteer Data Party led by Katherine Carpenter. Although I knew the Volunteer Data Party would include researching public school policies in the state of Ohio and their LGBTQ protections, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this experience. Although I have quite a few volunteer experiences under my belt, this was completely new territory for me.
I was the first volunteer to arrive to the LGBT Center. Katherine greeted me enthusiastically and immediately offered fresh fruit and cookies. (I’m glad to report the cookies were absolutely delicious.) While we waited for others to arrive, Katherine chatted with me about the lack of LGBTQ protections in many school districts in Ohio and how vitally important it was that we research and record this information.
The lack of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protections deprives LGBTQ students of equal educational opportunities. These students are nearly twice as likely to experience victimization, harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence in comparison to their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. Studies show that discrimination at school contributes to higher rates of substance abuse, self-harm, absenteeism, academic underachievement and even suicide amongst LGBTQ youth.
Equality Ohio’s Volunteer Data Parties are the beginning steps of changing the current legislation in Ohio and increasing protections for LGBTQ students.
I’ll be honest, the work was a little bit tricky for me to grasp at first. I was completely unfamiliar with researching school policies, as were many of the people I volunteered with. However, Katherine patiently guided us through the process. By the end of the night, I had made a few new friends, been stuffed to the brim with baked goods, and had helped shine light on an incredibly important issue in Ohio.
How to Get Involved
If you are interested in learning more about Equality Ohio and our LGBTQ advocacy and education efforts, please join us for our two upcoming volunteer orientations.
They are physically in Cleveland, but if you have access to a computer, you can attend anywhere via Zoom video call.