A Week to Remember
Last week at NAIT we, the students and members of the NAIT community, observed the first ever Pride Week. And by all rights, the week was all about the celebration of the diverse culture we experience here at NAIT.
Kristen Flath, Manager of Student Engagement and Academic Support Services and the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student club got together and made this week happen in all of its colourful glory. There were banners and posters all over campus, advertising a whole series of events taking place throughout the week. There were bake sales, workshops, special guest, fun events and specials at Food Services. Michael Phair, former City Councillor and progressive community activist made an appearance on March 6 and Pride Week ended with a walk across campus with NAIT president Dr. Feltham leading. The walk was open to both students and staff, and was a resounding success.
‘Chance to celebrate’
“I was expecting 20 people, not 200!” said Natalie Maheden, president of the GSA.
When I asked Flath what was the point of Pride Week, she said: “It is a chance to celebrate and really embrace the diverse community we have, to be proud of it, and to celebrate it. The open and diverse culture we have at NAIT is really the end goal.”
We at NAIT are very blessed to experience an open and accepting environment. We have a unique blend of cultures and values that are brought to the school by students from every walk of life, and fortunately for us this results in an environment of acceptance.
“It’s about creating a positive and welcoming space,” Flath said. The comments that have come in the support from the students and the staff have been overwhelmingly positive.”
The events held during the week were organized by both NAIT and the GSA. NAIT helped with the organization of the movie night, the two spirited talks, the glitter tattoos and the lunch feature at the blue plate, while the GSA organized events like the bake sale, bowling and the social at the Nest on Friday.
I also had a chance to meet up with Natalie Maheden, president of the GSA, and ask her about the Gay-Straight Alliance club. It was started in September as a runoff of Safe Spaces, which is a program that teaches instructors and NAIT staff the proper terminology and language to use in the classroom and how to deal with situations involving LGBTQ students. Natalie was asked to give feedback about this program and asked if she would be interested in forming a Gay-Straight Alliance, and that is how the club was formed. Since the founding for the club they have had speakers, bar nights, bowling, bake sales and she explained how they partnered with NAIT for Pride Week where they had a mix of events that were both fun and provided a chance to get information and have discussions.
Huge staff turnout
“NAIT staff has been a great support for everybody, and they are setting the example for students to be involved,” Maheden said. “We have had a huge staff turnout for all the events.”
Maheden also said that she hoped that the Pride Week and the walk would help the closeted students out there, and let them know that this is a safe community. She is hoping that the past week showed the closeted students, that NAIT is a comfortable and safe place to be yourself and that they will be welcomed in the GSA if they wish to join them.
I hope that the students here at NAIT had a good week and from the resounding success of the Pride Week I think that it is safe to say that NAIT does have an open and accepting environment. If you enjoyed the Pride Walk at NAIT, the GSA is getting together with Edmonton Pride Walk and you are invited to join in! If you are interested in joining the parade, which will be on June 6, as a NAIT student send an e-mail to Natalie Maheden at naitgsa@ gmail.com.
By SHEEBA LINDSETH