Coffee and Conversation
Cameron’s Office of Student Development, along with Cameron P.R.I.D.E, co-hosted the first-ever Coffee and Conversation at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 28.
Students gathered in the Buddy Green Room of the MCC to share their ideas and thoughts over coffee and assorted breakfast pastries.
Jennifer Castricone, Admissions Counselor and third year P.R.I.D.E faculty advisor, sat at a round table surrounded by students joking about their overconsumption of Sweet-N-Low.
Coordinator of Diversity Affairs, Taylor Thompson, welcomed the group before turning the floor over to Castricone.
Castricone reminded those in attendance that P.R.I.D.E meets in Room 211 of the MCC every Friday at 6:03 p.m., or in Castricone’s words “gay standard time, because my children are always late.”
“Generally, at the beginning of each meeting, we talk about business and events that we have coming up, and then we may have a topic of conversation,” Castricone said.
P.R.I.D.E’s Facebook group has roughly 70 members, not all active, of which around 15 to 20 attend their weekly meetings.
“Everyone is welcome. We are a safe space,” Castricone said, explaining that she, herself, is not “gay-identified,” but “straight-allied.”
“We have a rule: what happens in our room stays in our room. That is very important to me, and I think you guys have noticed,” turning to Mitchell Dufrin, a freshman Radiology major and P.R.I.D.E President, “that what you guys talk about is strictly between you all and the personal stuff can stay there. It’s a very open and embracing group. There’s no one that is going to feel left out or shunned.”
After briefly covering upcoming events for P.R.I.D.E, including a donation drive for World Aid’s Day, Castricone asked the group: “Would you like to meet my children?”
Not having, or desiring she clarified, any biological children of her own, Castricone explained she calls members of P.R.I.D.E her children.
Besides Dufrin, P.R.I.D.E. had other officers in attendance: Vice President Matthew Buck, Secretary Kati Crews and SGA Representative Danielle Best, better known as “Elmo.”
Castricone opened the floor for questions, and over the next hour, students discussed everything from P.R.I.D.E flyers being torn down around campus, to suggestions for a Unisex or “family” bathroom being made available to students, to common misconceptions of what Cameron P.R.I.D.E is as an organization.
“Even though we’ve got rainbow flags, we’ve got an AIDS quilt panel and rainbow candy, [Parents] will come up to the table [at an Organization fair,] and be like, ‘Cameron P.R.I.D.E… Is that like a booster club for Cameron?’” Castricone joked. “And we say, ‘No, we’re the gay/straight alliance,’ and I get dinner plate eyes, and I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, you won’t catch it.’”
Despite the usual stigma, Castricone said she was appreciative of how supportive Cameron’s administration has been.
Regarding the turnout for Coffee and Conversation, Dufrin said he was pleased.
“I thought it turned out pretty well to be honest,” Dufrin shared.
Castricone agreed, saying: “I’m not going to lie; I had a very nervous fear that it would just be my regular P.R.I.D.E members sitting around staring at each other. So I’m glad that a few other organizations were represented and a couple of other students kind of wandered in and offered their support.”
Castricone explained the point of such events was to help raise awareness about P.R.I.D.E.
She said: “I would like to see more membership; I would like more people who know that P.R.I.D.E exists, who know what we’re about, who know what we do, even if they don’t necessarily agree, which I hate that word, or they’re not supportive; at least they can be accepting.”