Spoon River College faculty completed Safe Zone Training during an orientation held August 17 at the Canton Campus. It was presented by Cassie Lucchesi of Peoria Proud, Becca Mathis of Central Illinois Friends, and Marshall Seidel, also of Peoria Proud.

Lucchesi, who serves as president of Peoria Proud, said the Safe Zone Training brings awareness to the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people. “Through the training, businesses and organizations gain context and knowledge about real scenarios LGBTQ+ people face, learn complex concepts surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, challenge personal and systemic biases, and gain awareness of and respect for others.”

The three-hour long training provided information about LGBTQ+ identities, gender and sexuality, and examined prejudice, assumptions, and privilege. Goals of the training included creating environments that are inclusive to all, helping people become more comfortable with the language, and learning best practices for interacting with LGBTQ+ people in professional spaces, including in the classrooms.

Holly Norton, vice president of educational and student services at Spoon River College, said it is important to create a welcoming environment and foster an atmosphere where all individuals could thrive, regardless of their backgrounds or identities. “Spoon River College promotes inclusivity, understanding, and respect, which ultimately enhances the educational experience and ensures that our college remains a place where every person’s voice is valued and heard. This type of training empowers our faculty to be allies for our diverse student body.”

Math faculty member Sarah Dalpiaz said she found the training to be worthwhile and enjoyed the energetic interactive method used by the presenters.

“The presenters were also encouraging and receptive to questions, which created an environment that made us feel comfortable to ask anything,” said Dalpiaz. “Providing a safe space for my students is important to me, and this training has prepared me to make my classroom an even safer space than before.”

Lucchesi noted that the faculty came to the training with an open mind and ready to engage, and that the questions they asked guided the discussion and allowed the training to be tailored to their needs. “Safe Zone Training allows employees, staff, and consumers the ability to create spaces where LGBTQ+ folks are seen and celebrated for their authentic selves. Spoon River College is making the effort to be inclusive of their LGBTQ+ population.”

For more information about Safe Zone Training, visit https://peoriaproud.org/  or email admin@peoriaproud.org.