The LGBTQA+ Resource Center was an important piece of JD McCown's college experience. Without it, the now assistant director of the resource center doesn't know if graduation would have been possible.
Now, McCown is making it a point to help students who are in a similar position.
"I started coming to the center seven years ago and it really changed my college experience," McCown said. "It helped me build the community I have today and I want to make sure other students have that opportunity as well."
The LGBTQA+ Resource Center, inside the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Union, offers a variety of different resources to students. McCown said the main resources the center offers are LGBTQA+ themed events, the resource library, peer mentor program and the new Lavender Closet.
The Lavender Closet, which exists to provide students free identity affirming clothing, opened last month and is packed to the brim with donations, McCown said.
"It was something we thought was important to include at the center especially with the amount of students in the LGBTQA+ community on campus," McCown said.
According to McCown, the needs of students are ever changing and it is something the LGBTQA+ Resource Center tries to keep up with. One of the ways McCown said the center does this is with peer mentors.
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In the peer mentor program, students are paired with a mentor from the LGBTQA+ center to help them acclimate to and become comfortable on campus.
"The peer mentor program is great because it leaves more of an individual impact on students and helps because it is a very consistent program," McCown said.
Jake Piccini, the peer mentor program coordinator, has been involved with the center since his freshman year at UNL. Starting as a mentee, he worked his way up to becoming a mentor as a sophomore and has been the program coordinator as a junior and senior.
"I came out the summer after I graduated from high school and that's what made me want to get involved in the center," Piccini said. "I immediately saw the presence of the LGBTQA+ community on campus and knew I wanted to be a part of that."
As a peer mentor and now as the coordinator, Piccini thought it was important that he share his experiences with others.
"I always want to help students that might be in a similar place like I was when I came to college," Piccini said. "It's nice to be able to go to the center after a long day and talk to someone who cares. I'm glad I get to be one of those people now."
Both Piccini and McCown agreed the center helped them to be more effective with helping students in the LGBTQA+ community.
"Having a welcoming and inclusive space was extremely beneficial to me as a student," McCown said. "That's something that all students will always need."
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