MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — College readiness is a top priority for Casa Orgullo — the Rio Grande Valley’s only LGBTQIA+ youth drop-in center.
Created by the Valley AIDS, Council Casa Orgullo, launched last October on National Coming Out Day. It offers LGBTQIA+ youth HIV testing, mental health and wellbeing services and more.
Its first-ever virtual workshop held this week focused on college readiness — from applying to financial aid to identifying LGBTQ-friendly institutions.
A Casa Orgullo youth advocate says attending a school with strong LGBTQ support programs in place helps keep students encouraged and on track for success.
“I think the environment one has when you go to college is very important because obviously, you want to be surrounded by people that support you,” said Grecia Parra. “If you don’t have that support from people you can get easily unmotivated.”
With FAFSA’s priority deadline coming up Friday, they encourage any LGBTQ prospective college student unsure how to apply to reach out to them for help.
The youth center has also created a “College Resource Cheat Guide” to identify local colleges in the Valley and throughout Texas with programs supporting LGBTQ students and help them navigate the admission process.
Both the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and South Texas College have organizations providing a safe space to this student body.
However, if an LGBTQ member’s chosen school does not offer resources specifically for them, Parra says students in this community can still find strength in one another.
“Looking at a lot of looking at schools here in Texas and in the country, what we found is even if the school doesn’t support the community, that doesn’t mean the community doesn’t exist within the college,” she said. “They will still find a way to communicate and organize themselves to do something for the school community.”
The guide also features a list of LGBTQ student scholarships available.