A diverse group of students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg meet every Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the University Student Center to discuss and take on the controversial subject of gay rights.
Ranging from freshman to seniors, about 15 people came to the Gay-Straight Alliance meeting on Sept. 25, 2012. The President of the organization, Nicole Katsihtis, was also in attendance along with two other leaders Robert Collins, the vice president, and Nicole Cate, the secretary and CIO. Katsihitis said that the average attendance is 20-25 students. The meeting was called to order at 5:03 p.m. and the agenda items were addressed. In the beginning of the semester they get the minor things completed, such as voting on what color the t-shirts and bracelets should be and deciding on what movie should be shown at the movie night event. After those decisions are made, the organization likes to get involved by speaking to high schools and holding events. At the Sept. 25 meeting, they also discussed ideas for the community social-mixer event. An open mic night was proposed and set for planning after a 15-0 vote. A team building exercise was next in which everyone played a game to get to know everyone else. “This is a no-shame and no-judge zone everybody,” Collins said, the vice president of GSA and a sophomore at USFSP, during the exercise.
The atmosphere of the meeting overall was friendly and the leaders of the organization diligently worked to include everyone in the conversations, voting fairly on everything and asking everyone to discuss when there was a disagreement. Katsihtis, a sophomore majoring in International Relations said, “Not only do we want to provide a safe place and support for any student or person regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but we also want to have fun and give the opportunity for friendship and involvement.” The overriding desire of the members was for people to know that GSA is a very fun place that welcomes everyone. “Everyone here is very accepting, there is no judgement and we welcome everyone,” said Chelsie Britton, a freshman and Biology major at USFSP. Arlinda, another member, added, “Straight or gay, we welcome everyone.” Britton also said that she most enjoys the friendships she finds in the Gay-Straight Alliance, while Alicia Caruso, also a freshman at USFSP, said that she loves the energy the team gives and the message of the club.
For more information, you can attend their meetings every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Palm Room of USC. You can join the Gay-Straight Alliance through blackboard and email the president of the organization at email@example.com if you have more questions.