By Cindy Claros | Contributing Writer
When Erica Freidman took on the position of Associate Director of the Pride Center in 2019, they didn’t hesitate to move from New York to Miami to begin their dream job of supporting and offering resources to other queer Panthers.
The Pride Center at both Biscayne Bay Campus and Modesto Maidique Campus offers scholarships, mentorship programs and opportunities for all LGBTQIA+ students to explore.
“I came down here from New York and this was my dream job to take up here. There were not a lot of full-time positions supporting specifically LGBT students on campus,” said Freidman.
The Pride Center’s objective is to provide resources, advocate, educate, and create an inclusive environment of empowerment for all students.
For the last 20 years the center has offered a mentorship program that runs from August to April. Students are matched with an FIU faculty or staff members, or a strong ally they have chosen who is eager to support students in various ways.
“It’s really cool as we let the students interview the mentors. It’s like speed dating, but the students are not rotating, it’s actually the staff,” said Freidman. “We feel this is an important decision for the students to choose who they feel brave with.”
The Pride Center offers several different scholarships to aid LGBTQIA+ students with financial burdens: the Out and Proud, Turner Pride Scholarship and the Javon A. Stovall Memorial Scholarship.
Friedman’s favorite event is the annual fashion show, Gender Chill, where they bring in panthers, community members and guest speakers to spotlight intersectionality and give people space to feel uplifted despite breaking the status quo.
“In the fashion world or every day in life, we have certain ideas about how a person should look on the binary of gender, in terms of their skin tones, their ability and how they are presenting themselves. We [The Pride Center] say we shouldn’t be putting that type of expectations on people,” said Friedman.
Friedman admits that the event was intentionally held two days prior to Transgender Day in an effort to highlight anti-trans violence. The Pride Center wanted to show how violence could come out of traditional gender norm expectations. They also hosted it on Nov. 18 for the vigil on Transgender Day, which was the Sunday of that week.
The department also hosts their Lavender Graduation twice a year for graduating seniors or graduates, where they throw ceremonies and receive a gold medal.
“I’m really proud of our students,” said Freidman. “They face a lot and shouldn’t have to be as resilient as they are and it shouldn’t be happening to impact them in the way that it does. But they are extremely strong.”