Staff member Alison Ryder was honoured with a Canada 150 Award by Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey for her leadership of youth in Niagara, both on- and off-campus – particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit (LGBTQ2).
Ryder, who is an academic advisor for the School of Community Services and a part-time facilitator who runs Virtual Dementia Training for Allied Health, was acknowledged at a ceremony held in Port Colborne Sports Complex on February 18. The event recognized 75 community leaders from various sectors of Niagara Centre – including Niagara College – who have contributed to making the region and the country what it is today.
Ryder noted that the award was personally meaningful to her as an acknowledgement of her efforts to support LGBTQ2 youth. At NC, she, along with Jen White (coordinator for Child and Youth Care), encouraged and supported students to form a NCSAC social club for LGBTQIA students and allies, called Rainbow Knights. Its purpose: to create a safe and inclusive school environment for all students, promoting tolerance and education, beyond the textbook. She noted that since the club began, she has been contacted by countless students and faculty who have also offered their support.
“Ultimately, we want students to feel welcomed and a sense of belonging on campus, as so many LGBTQ2 youth are not afforded that luxury at home,” said Ryder. “Along with utilizing our counselling services, LGBTQ2 students know me and often reach out, as I have empathy for their struggles and know first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate everyday life as a member of the LGBTQ2 population.”
President of the Rainbow Knights Sharaya McCollum-Brown congratulated Ryder for her accomplishment. “This has been such a journey and she has been such a support and a huge mentor for the LGBTQ+ groups at the College,” said McCollum-Brown. “She is a wonderful support, a fearless advocate and a mentor to myself and others. She is more than deserving.”
Ryder applauded the efforts of MvCollum-Brown who she called the “driving force behind the creation and maintenance of the SAC club, and truly deserves acknowledgement for her efforts.”
“Sharaya will be completing her diploma this term, and we will be hard-pressed to find a more passionate, caring and involved student to take on this role in the future,” said Ryder. “This award belongs to Sharaya as much as it does me, and I look forward to continuing to work with her after graduation, with our community initiatives.”
Ryder and the Rainbow Knights were invited to meet with MP Badawey to offer input on the federal government apology to the LGBTQ2 in late 2017. From the discussions resulting during that meeting, Ryder was enlisted to create an LGBTQ2 advisory council within the Niagara region, to give the LGBTQ2 community a voice in Parliament. She has since been asked to join the Board of Directors for OUTNiagara, working with other community volunteers (including Jen White and Michelle MacIntosh from Student Health Services), to create and organize the future of LGBTQ2 supports and services in Niagara.
Beyond the recognition, Ryder hoped that the Canada 150 Award will help to expand further supports for the LGBTQ2 population in Niagara.
“I believe Niagara College has yet another opportunity to lead the way for progressive changes in our community, and I am very excited to be a part of it,” she said.
Niagara College also received a Canada 150 Award from MP Vance Badawey at the same ceremony. View article here..