June marks Pride Month and the City University of New York (CUNY) is celebrating it with initiatives to help LGBTQ+ students.

CUNY recently launched the CUNY LGBTQ+ Advocacy Academy and the CUNY LGBTQ+ Summer Internship Program, which trains close to 20 students from the CUNY system to become future advocates and leaders within the LGBTQ+ community. This includes hosting virtual events that show the university’s commitment to the cause and engaging students over career opportunities and the leadership development necessary to function in a post-pandemic world.

Students in the program were selected by former New York City Council Member Jimmy Vacca, who teaches a non-credit certification course in the Urban Studies department (and is an alum) at Queens College. Candidates were interviewed by Vacca. The former council member noted that the program will focus on various issues including community engagement, legislation and the role of lobbying, and an overview of LGBTQI+ history.

“This class is all about developing the leaders of tomorrow,” stated Vacca. “I’m all about mentoring. I’m all about giving students somewhere to go and someone to go to, who has experiences that they can benefit from.”

The initiative also included a June 3 virtual pride celebration in lieu of the annual Queens Pride Day Parade in Jackson Heights hosted by groups from Queens College, York College, Queensborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College and CUNY Law School.

For those who missed that event, Bronx Community College is hosting a university-wide Pride Film Festival from June 21-25 that will feature several LGBTQI+ related films including: the 1995 documentary “The Celluloid Closet,” which discusses the history of how Hollywood portrayed LGBTQ characters in film. On the 24th LaGuardia Community College will open the exhibit called “A Seat at the Table: LGBTQ Representation in New York Politics.” It will be an oral, visual and photographic exhibit about the experiences of LGBTQ+ elected officials in the city. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick will participate.

One of the Advocacy Academy’s recipients is Queens College student Ummaromana Sama. The 21-year-old said that she was appreciative of the opportunity to find out what life is like in “the real world” for aspiring members of the LGBTQ+ community. “It demonstrates that people from the outside world care about CUNY and care about our education,” Sama said. “I’ve gotten more insight into the professions that I want to pursue.”

The Academy and the internship are both the result of philanthropic efforts by Concordia Philanthropic Fund Founder and President Mitch Draizin. The fund also helps with CUNY’s LGBTQI+ Advocacy Academy.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said that the university’s effort during Pride Month shows how committed it is to the LGBTQ+ cause.

“These important new programs are vital to opening up doors and breaking down barriers so that LGBTQI+ students can gain the leadership and advocacy skills needed for public life as well as create important connections for their careers, all the while helping to ensure a more diverse and equitable post-COVID economy, one in which all groups are equally valued,” stated Matos Rodríguez.