College of Education Graduate Named 2016 Student LGBT Ally Award Winner

Jenna Lyons, a graduating masters degree student in the College of Education and Human Development's College Student Personnel program, was named the 2016 Amber Carrier Student LGBT Ally Award winner during the university's Student Life Awards April 19.

Lyons completed an internship in the LGBT Center as part of her degree during the summer and fall 2015 semesters, where she organized a service project and assisted with Pride Week planning.  Her service project focused on serving homeless LGBT youth in both Louisville and Atlanta and coincided the university's participation in the Chick-fil-A Pre-Season Football Game in Atlanta September 5, 2015.  Lyons worked with campus and community partners to collect donated items and create survival kits that shelters could give to homeless LGBT youth.  She worked with center staff to organize a trip to Atlanta to visit Lost-N-Found Youth Shelter and to both deliver the donated items and also provide a meal to youth living in the shelter.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 20% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and that family difficulty and systemic oppression account for their increased risk for becoming homeless.

"While planning this event, I knew that one of the benefits would be directly serving the youth and, for a brief moment, improving their quality of life and creating a space where they felt loved and appreciated.  I had no idea the effect it would have on me.  Seeing the need for support and understanding, and the appreciation when it was given, was life-changing," said Lyons.  "My experience working with the LGBT Center and staff, along with Lost-N-Found Youth has made me a more informed and passionate advocate.  I'm thankful and honored to have been part of the team."

Beyond her service project, Lyons assisted with the university's Pride Week celebration and spent time in the center learning how university allies make a difference for LGBT students.  As a graduate assistant in Fraternity & Sorority Life, she also explored trends nationwide among fraternities and sororities to create more inclusive policies and practices for LGBT students who want to participate.

"Jenna was an amazing student ally this year, and her efforts made a difference for LGBT youth all across the South, more than she may ever know.  I loved seeing Jenna grow into her identity as an ally and I feel certain that students throughout her student affairs career will gravitate to her as a safe, welcoming presence," said Assistant Director Lisa Gunterman.

The Amber Carrier Student LGBT Ally Award was established in 2011 and honors students who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to supporting LGBT efforts on campus.  It honors the work of namesake Amber Carrier, who rallied in 2010 to create a graduate assistantship for the LGBT Center and to raise awareness of the needs of LGBT students.  Past winners include Jessica Bellamy, Student Orientation Staff, and Sagar Patagundi.

In January, Lyons accepted an appointment at the University of Kentucky where she is serving as the Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.  She completes her Masters Degree at the University of Louisville in May.

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