University Students, Community Members Collaborate for Anti-Bullying Conference
The second annual Life Gets Better Together conference for LGBTQ youth advocacy will take place on Saturday, April 13, at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Founded in 2012 by Syracuse University students, the conference seeks to educate the Syracuse and Central New York community about the positive impact they can have on the lives of youth struggling with sexual identity or gender expression.
The one-day conference, which includes workshops and a panel discussion, will begin with a free breakfast at 10 a.m. before the 11 a.m. workshops. The keynote panel on LGBTQ Youth in Schools will take place at 2 p.m., and the day will conclude with “AcaEquality,” an a cappella concert to benefit the Trevor Project, a national nonprofit organization.
The Life Gets Better Together Conference for LGBTQ youth advocacy was founded by SU students in 2012. It aims to bring Syracuse University students together with community members and local leaders to spark an honest dialogue about the changes each person can make in the lives of America’s youth, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. In 2012, it was awarded the Syracuse University LGBT Resource Center’s Foundation Award for Outstanding University Department or Organization for its work in the inaugural conference. The 2013 conference is funded jointly by the Syracuse University co-curricular fund, the LGBT studies department and the LGBT Resource Center.
Participants can register for free at www.lifegetsbettertogether.wordpress.com. The workshops and panel are free and open to the public, and donations of $5 toward the Trevor Project are encouraged at the door of the evening concert.
“LGBTQ youth face a variety of struggles today,” says Tyler Sliker, program coordinator at the Q Center, a function of AIDS Community Resources in Syracuse. “As a community, we need to come together to make a change by understanding this population and then taking action. I’m confident that this year’s Life Gets Better Together conference will begin this process, which is why I’m very excited to be presenting and to be a part of this change.” Sliker will present a workshop on best practices for accommodating transgender youth in schools, and will also speak on the keynote panel about LGBTQ youth in schools.
Workshops will cover such topics as religion and LGBTQ support, LGBTQ relationship violence, suicide prevention, the connection between bullying and HIV risk and best practices for accommodating transgender youth in schools. The keynote panel at 2 p.m. will feature a discussion of LGBTQ Youth in Schools moderated by Brenda Wrigley, public relations professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Panelists will be Sliker; Jason Cianciotto, director of public policy at GMHC, the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy and co-author of “LGBT Youth in America’s Schools”; and Cindy Squillace, student assistance counselor for the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central High School. A local student from the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central High School will also speak on the panel.
The 7:30 p.m. “AcaEquality” concert to benefit the Trevor Project will feature six a cappella groups from SU. Groovestand, Otto Tunes, Orange Appeal, The Mandarins, Main Squeeze and new group Volta will each perform a three-song set individually, and all six will come together for a final collaborative rendition of “Let the Sunshine In,” from the musical, “Hair.” The concert will take place in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium at the Newhouse School.
Buffalo-based sound production company A Cappella Productions (ACP) will donate its services to produce the concert with sound and lighting. Mike Jankowski, owner and lead engineer, said he is looking forward to being part of the event for the second year in a row. “ACP is thrilled to be a part of such a meaningful cause in our world today,” he said. “Through events like this, the arts can be used to make a change not only in the lives of LGBTQ youth, but make life better for us all.”