New group promoting inclusion forms on campus
Meet the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) Squad.
Although UH is the second-most diverse campus in the country, six students — through the group — seek to celebrate diversity in a new way.
“College is the first time some people discover who they are,” said accounting junior Oscar Alvarez, a squad member. “We want people to know this campus is a safe space even if the outside feels marginalized.”
The SAGA Squad, one of the few inclusive LGBTQ groups on campus, is primarly based in the LGBTQ Resource Center. Members can be seen studying, sharing meals and conversing in the common area.
As to why members chose to call themselves a “squad” instead of board members, the founders said they picked a different name because difference is what they stand for.
“Our goal is to create a safe space and encourage inclusion on campus,” said Jamie Gonzales, the program coordinator of both the LGBTQ Resource Center and SAGA Squad. “Students learn to create outreach and educate others on topics of this community.”
Gonzalez said a vision for the leadership team always exists at the Resource Center, which has only been on campus for six years. This year, that vision was finally realized through the hiring of a program coordinator.
Gonzalez has overseen and encouraged the team’s launch.
“Our goal is to create a safe space and encourage inclusion on campus,” Gonzales said. “Students learn to create outreach and educate others on topics of this community.”
The SAGA Squad’s membership ranges in diversity from freshmen to seniors with a common goal of improving the UH experience through fostering inclusion on campus. When applications for membership positions opened in October, students displayed a high level of interest.
Around 25 applicants were interviewed. Six were chosen at the end of the process.
“One of the reasons I joined is to spread inclusion to many parts of campus, including my fraternity,” said geology freshman Austin Hodges, who is also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
The squad members view their job as ambassadors whose goal is to spread awareness of the center and the resources it provides. After selections in September, the squad began creating outreach possibilites and events on campus.
They also offer weekly counseling for students and lead monthly discussions groups based on topics such as politics, the experience of coming out and family issues.
“The fact that we have resource centers for women and for LGBTQ is a really big deal,” said Rashad Moody, a liberal studies senior and SAGA Squad member. “The center reflects the diversity of the school.”