LGBT peer mentoring program receives grant

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center received a $1,000 grant to fund its peer mentoring program, which aims to help students develop a positive LGBT identity while successfully adapting to life at USC.

The grant was written by Christina Law, a doctoral student studying occupational therapy and the former mentor program coordinator, and Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center.  It will go toward the LGBT peer mentor program’s assessment efforts.

“A lot of schools do not have a LGBT center or a LGBT mentor program. It takes a lot of effort to have a mentor program, and this grant will hopefully help us provide additional staff and personnel for the program,” Vigil said.

Vigil said peer mentors support mentees in a safe and caring one-on-one relationship as well as help them explore their personal interests, take advantage of campus resources and find their own sense of community.

“The peer mentoring program presents an opportunity for LGBT students to have a mentor on campus who has been through similar life experiences,” Vigil said. “The mentor and mentee are able to talk, share and learn from each other and build a strong relationship with one another.”

Andrea Elzy, mentor program coordinator, said that with the recent string of suicides by teenagers bullied because of their sexuality, programs like these are vital now more than ever.

“We are trying to provide an outlet and a community for students who are struggling with challenges regarding their identity so they feel like they are part of a larger community,” Elzy said. “With everything going on in the country with LGBT bullying and suicides, it is increasingly important to provide support for students who are seeking help and resources from the LGBT community.”

Peer mentors represent a wide variety of majors and personal backgrounds, Elzy said.

“Students from various participation levels and different backgrounds make the program unique,” Elzy said.  “It is nice to know that there is somebody in the program that has been through similar obstacles and can mentor students with anything they might be going through during their college experience.”

The peer mentoring program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students. This year, there are about 30 mentees and 30 mentors involved, Vigil said.

“The mentoring program is ongoing. We always try to have more mentors available than mentees,” Vigil said. “This program shows the person struggling that they are not alone and can talk to a trustworthy mentor about their sexuality or gender identity.”