Southwestern College plans expansion of LGBTQIA+ program

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNS) – After recently completing the second semester of a learning community dedicated to LGBTQIA+ students, Southwestern College Monday announced plans to expand the program and create an on-campus space for it.

The program, CHEL, is named for the Mayan and Aztec word for rainbow and will cater to students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual.

CHEL is the first Southwestern College learning community “that specifically addresses the unique experiences of LGBTQIA+ students on campus,” according to program organizers.

The goal is “to provide an inclusive space that provides enrolled students with services such as specialized classes, career planning and a space to discuss LGBTQIA+ issues and experiences with their peers,” college officials said.

CHEL is also part of Southwestern College’s goal to expand its mission to advance equity inside and outside the classroom, organizers said.

“My hope is that our CHEL students gain the confidence in our classes to be open about who they are,” said Kimi Rodriguez-McSwain, Southwestern College counselor and CHEL program coordinator.

McSwain added that she hopes the program builds “a strong foundation for other LGBTQIA+ students on campus and that our students are seen and heard on campus.”

Giana Alexa Vizcocho, a first-year Southwestern College student, said being a part of CHEL “really helped me gain a sense of belonging at Southwestern College.

Vizcocho added that “CHEL is very important to me and the well-being of my fellow students is very important to me.”

CHEL will join other student learning communities including Bayan, which supports Filipino-Americans; the PUENTE Project, for Mexican-Americans and Latinos; and Umoja, for African-Americans.

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