Georgian student Sarah Ortiz has moved around the GTA since she relocated to Toronto from Ostia, Italy at four years of age. She chose to attend the Barrie Campus for General Arts and Science in 2019. Ortiz says Simcoe County is her home-away-from-home and more importantly, a safe space.
The Georgian alumna is now studying in the Honours Bachelor of Counselling Psychology program and was recently elected VP of Equity and Inclusion on the Georgian College Students’ Association (GCSA) Orillia executive.
She was inspired to champion the LGBTQ2S+ community at the college and join the GCSA after coming out a couple of years ago. Ortiz says she received tremendous support from her new Georgian family and was overjoyed to see that inclusion is key to the college’s work, school and culture.
See why Ortiz says Georgian isn’t just another postsecondary institution, but a friendly and non-judgmental place to learn and grow.
What drew you to Georgian College? Georgian has such a broad range of programs and a welcoming community. Every interaction I’ve had here (and before I started my postsecondary journey) drew me closer to the college and confirmed I made the right choice. Diversity is embraced here, and I can’t fathom how many people have, and continue to be, persecuted for their sexual orientation in other parts of the world. I’m so lucky to live in Canada and be part of such an inviting and welcoming community.
How have Georgian services helped you excel in your studies? Georgian services have helped me feel safe in my place of study and work. I don’t have to worry about being removed from my program or terminated from my place of employment based on my sexual orientation. I can speak freely about my experiences and my life and know that I’m in a safe space. This kind of security, stability and respect allows me to concentrate on my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and ways to give back to the community without living in fear. I would not have had the educational experience I’ve had thus far if it wasn’t for the importance the college places on inclusion.
What have your experiences been like as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community at Georgian? The first program I took at Georgian College was General Arts and Science. I met my partner less than a year before and came out of the closet to my friends and family around the same time. When I arrived on campus, I immediately spotted Georgian Pride logos, buttons and shirts all around the building. The club booth was frequently set up near the library or cafeteria, and there was Pride information in all our student planners. Then I learned that Georgian offers workshops, professional development opportunities and work training to employees to ensure everyone is using proper LGBTQ2S+ terminology and learning about the community. It’s been such an amazing experience and I am beyond grateful.
What is your role as the VP of Equity and Inclusion? My role as VP is multi-fold and includes developing partnerships with community stakeholders to create and deliver educational workshops and events that help raise awareness of social justice, equity and diversity here at Georgian College and in the Orillia community. I’m very passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), which is why I’ve been working in collaboration with student executive council members in Barrie and Owen Sound to create a student-led EDI committee. We’re planning to host panels and events for students to learn more about what EDI is and highlight all the great resources Georgian offers, including a workshop on creating safer spaces.
What is the safer spaces workshop about? The safer spaces workshop provides incredibly valuable information on how we can be allies and ensure our workplaces are safe for everyone. It covers LGBTQ2S+ workplace statistics, barriers and how to dismantle cycles of discrimination. The workshop also discusses language and inclusivity signage, provides activities and take-away information, and challenges participants to reflect on how they speak and behave in an effort to become as aware, welcoming and inclusive as possible.
What are your long-term goals and plans? I’m inspired by my own experiences as a Georgian student and want to help others (the way they helped me) promote kindness and spark positive change in the world. I see myself pursuing a master’s in psychotherapy and having my own holistic practice one day. I’m also considering becoming a professor and maybe even an author.
How you can celebrate Pride Month
Pride Month is observed throughout June. Here are some ways to celebrate and engage: