Awards ceremony celebrates sexual orientation


Social worker Kimberly Cecil accepts her Ally Award on Tuesday afternoon in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center in recognition for her service to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community.

By Newell Miao

Students showed support for the LGBT community at the ninth annual Ally Awards ceremony held Tuesday in Holmes Student Center Regency Room.

The awards are sponsored by the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the LGBT Resource Center and the LGBT Studies Program. Students like Ryan Mishler, senior community leadership and civic engagement major, received awards for completing two training sessions.

“To be officially recognized by the Resource Center as an ally you have to go through two training sessions,” Mishler said. “[An] everyday thing you can do to be an ally: You can interfere when someone is using inappropriate language. You can say, ‘Hey, that’s not nice, you shouldn’t say that’ or ‘Hey, I have a friend who’s gay, trans or lesbian…’ you know, stop it when it happens.”

Josiah Accola, freshman political science and french major and Ally Award recipient, said the training increases awareness of LGBT issues among the students.

“It’s important to increasing awareness on campus for the LGBT community,” Accola said. “Even if you’re not a member of the community you should learn how to incorporate them into activities, use of language, basically how to be a more warm and welcoming environment.”

Kayla Rusterholtz, graduate sports management student, helped organize LGBT training sessions for the entire gymnastics team.

“Molly [Holmes, director of LGBT Resource Center] coordinated with athletics to come over and do a two-hour LGBT training with the entire Athletics Department, just like coaching staff and staff members,” Rusterholtz said. “After that the softball team did one, and I worked with Molly to coordinate a time and place for the entire gymnastics team to do the training.”

Holmes is on the committee that reads the nominations and chooses those who are to be awarded. She said the nomination process leaves the door open for a wide range of actions to result in an award nomination.

“For today, for example, it can be something as simple as a student who has voiced their support and stood up for LGBT rights in the classroom setting,” Holmes said. “They could say ‘I believe that people should have equal rights and that LGBT people are deserving of those rights,’ to recognizing a group in the community that has established a gay-straight alliance for middle school students at Clinton Rosette Middle School. So it can really range. Other things, another group that we’re going to recognize today is a group of staff from NIU Athletics because they started a training program with athletic and many athletic arenas to be more LGBT inclusive. So it really ranges, but that’s kind of the beauty of it….”

The purpose of these awards is to recognize individuals, departments and groups that have accomplished something positive for the LGBT community.

The training also teaches students how to include the LGBT community into the community on campus.

Charles E. Schumann Jr., chair of the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, was the opening speaker for the ceremony.

“I think it’s important for everyone to come,” Schumann said. “It shows the diversity of the community, and it also shows that we accept everyone and that everyone is valuable, not to mention their opinions but also their actions…. Sometimes they need to realize that what might seem a very small action can have a very positive effect across the entire community.”

The event also marked the 10th anniversary of the LGBT Resource Center.