UNL students work for a change for LGBT youth

Many people wish for a change, but few actively do something about it. That’s not the case for The Change, a small student organization at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

The Change works to further minorities at UNL, specifically LGBT youth, through volunteering. Not many students are aware of the group, which has only been on campus since 2014. The lack of awareness and size has advantages and disadvantages.

“The structure is very non-hierarchical,” said Cassandra Pyle, co-founder and president. “It’s very collaborative just because it is smaller. But I think that’s good for us.”

Cassandra Pyle, co-founder of The Change, laughs as she and other members talk about the group’s past year.

Their small size — the group has 13 members — allows for each member to ensure that their voice is heard, Pyle said. Although it sometimes hinders what they’re able to do, for now, it’s effective. New groups, she said, have to start somewhere.

As a freshman, Pyle said, she realized there was only one LGBT group on campus — Spectrum. She thought that not only should there be more but they should be more than strictly social. Luckily, Pat Tetreault, director of UNL’s LGBTQA+ Resource Center, already had an idea for this in mind.

“It was originally intended to be a sort of support organization, but also a way to give students a way to be involved at the center,” Tetreault said.

The Change is a recognized student organization in connection with the LGBTQA+ Resource Center. Because of this, Pyle and Tetreault said, most students get involved with the group by first being active at the resource center.

The Change will take over the responsibilities of the center’s volunteer coordinator position, which will no longer be offered after this year, Pyle said. That move hopefully will increase membership.

Adding extra duties for members to do is especially important considering Pyle graduates in May. She said she was concerned that The Change might not continue had that opportunity not been offered.

Although they’ve only been around for a few years, The Change has helped put on several events in collaboration with others. Through such collaborations, Pyle and Tetreault said, the group is hoping to bring awareness to intersectionality.

“I really like working with the intersections of identity,” Tetreault said. “A lot of the collaborations The Change does are great for bringing awareness to this.”

One such event was a partnership with UNL’s Student Veteran Organization. The two worked together to display a project showing the amount of suicides in the veteran community. 

Although much of what The Change does differs each year, it hosts two annual events — the “queer art show” and clothing exchange. Both make a big impact on the LGBT community, Pyle said.

People can participate in those events and be in a place where they know they’re safe and accepted. This security is increasingly important in today’s culture, Pyle and Tetreault said. Because of this, The Change is able to provide support, give students a place to be themselves and work as a force of hope.

“We don’t just want a change,” Pyle said. “We are the change.”

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