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Fulbright alumni develop program for LGBTQ youth

Dr. Ailsa Craig is the lead applicant on the Make it Better on the Rock program.

By Janet Harron

The benefits to winning a scholarship can be limitless. Just ask Dr. Ailsa Craig of the Faculty of Arts’ sociology department. In 2000-01 she was awarded a Canadian Fulbright scholarship and spent a year studying at New York University.

Now, 11 years later, she has been awarded a Community Leadership Program Award from Fulbright Canada and will be leading an outreach and education initiative for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) youth entitled Make it Better on the Rock.

The Fulbright Foundation manages a decades-old academic exchange between Canada and the United States, designed to enhance mutual understanding between the two countries. The Community Leadership Program expands the relevance of Fulbright beyond the academy and into the community.

“It’s a way in which Fulbright can continue to support their alumni and to contribute to the communities we end up in,” explained Dr. Craig, who is working with the province’s three other Fulbright alumni on the project – Memorial’s Dr. Jennifer Selby and Dr. Yolanda Wiersma (both on the St. John’s campus) and Dr. Angela V. Carter of Grenfell Campus.

Partially inspired by the recent YouTube campaign It Gets Better, which addresses suicide among LGBTQ youth, Dr. Craig and her team are partnering with a San Francisco-based project that gives LGBTQ youth tools to make their present lives better.

Make it Better on the Rock will consist of advocacy training, an online video presence through Facebook and and a postering/pamphleting campaign and is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2011. Partners include Planned Parenthood of Newfoundland and Labrador at the local level, the national association EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere), and the San Francisco Make It Better group.

The advocacy training workshops (to be held in St. John’s and Corner Brook) will provide resources to make the videos, and the postering and pamphleting campaign will focus on visibility.

“The issue is not the visibility of this person or that person because people make choices as to how visible they want to be. It’s about the visibility of resources and how to identify supportive individuals and places where youth can go to talk openly about gender and sexuality,” said Dr. Craig, whose research centres on equality and culture.