A parade from city hall kicks off Annual Jersey Gay Pride Festival in Asbury Park on June 2, 2019. Dixie State University has begun offering LGBT students poetry workshops through local group, Encircle. Photo courtesy of TNS.
A collaboration between Encircle St. George and the Dixie State University English department has led to poetry workshops for LGBTQ+ students to speak their truths through writing.
The workshops are modeled after a program offered by Encircle called Blue Sky. The Blue Sky evening program is where LGBTQ youth and young adults ages 12-25, allies and parents gather and create a safe space where they can share their experiences with their whole hearts and minds.
“The conversation for these workshops came about originally when Encircle anticipated opening here in St. George in early February,” said Encircle Program Manager Julie Benson.
Benson said Cindy King, assistant professor of creative writing, wanted to help get the program off the ground.
“Because of construction delays, King decided to facilitate some evening creative writing workshops at DSU as our Encircle facility is not yet open,” Benson said.
The workshops are conducted by students in King’s English 3141 Poetry Writing course.
“First and foremost, the workshop is a safe place where LGBTQ students and allies can find one another,” King said. “The workshops also provide a space for creative self-expression and ongoing support.”
Previously, the students have been given a generative writing assignment that asks participants to complete an ekphrasis exercise, in which they chose a work of visual art to use as inspiration for their poems. Participants then have time to complete it, followed by additional sharing of poems generated from the exercise.
DSU LGBTQ Coordinator Elizabeth Aguirre said: “King worked closely with Encircle to bring these workshops to life and I think they are a wonderful thing to have available to my LGBTQ students who are interested in expressing themselves through written word.”
The program is funded by a grant awarded by DSU’s Office of Community Engaged Learning.
“Personally, I really feel like it is helping DSU and the resource center in that it provides a safe space for students to be among accepting peers and peers who are like them,” Aguirre said. “I’m very excited to see what Encircle brings to St. George and what further collaborations they would like to work on once their house opens in April.”
King said these workshops have increased visibility and awareness of the LGBTQ community on campus.
“[The workshops] have given my students active, hands-on learning experience where they can apply knowledge learned in class,” King said. “By conducting the workshops with LGBTQ peers, they also have experience working with diverse populations and an increased understanding and empathy with the participants.”
King said the workshops introduce people to Encircle and the free services and support it provides to LGBTQ youth and their families.
The next workshops will be held on March 11 and March 25 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons building room 471 and 476.
The official ribbon-cutting and grand opening for Encircle St. George will be on April 18 at 11 a.m. located at 190 S. 100 E., St. George, Utah 84770. Once Encircle begins offering programming, the Blue Sky writing workshop will be held on Tuesday’s at 6:30 p.m.
Encircle is currently in need of volunteers to either be a co-host or co-facilitator for their programs. A co-host helps organize, suggest activity topics and engages with program guest speakers. A co-facilitator guides discussion in a friendship circle format. All volunteers will be trained prior to being assigned a position with training anticipated to happen a week before the ribbon cutting.
To apply to be a program volunteer, visit encircletogether.bamboohr.com/jobs/. For regular drop-in volunteer opportunities to help with the day-to-day needs of running Encircle or to help at special events, visit encircletogether.org/volunteer.
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