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Student leaders reflect on diversity at Belmont

For these students, diversity is more than just a buzzword — it’s a way of life, and one that they want to share with the entire Belmont community.

“You really aren’t challenged and you don’t really grow until you’re exposed to new things and people from different walks of life,” said Black Student Association President Andre Delaney. “It just benefits everyone.”

As 2019’s Diversity Week comes to a close, student leaders had a chance to reflect on what the word means to them, how Belmont treats diversity and what the campus community can do to improve.

For the students working toward a campus that honors differences, diversity isn’t just about the color of one’s skin or where they come from. Student leaders believe social markers like sexual orientation, gender and socio-economic status should equally be represented.

“It means everyone having a place at the table, a place to use their voice, space for everyone to be heard and actually listened to, and respecting all people,” said Cay Aldag, president of Belmont’s LGBT+ advocacy group Bridge Builders.

A visibly diverse community can help encourage students who may feel alone in their experiences. When trying to become more comfortable in their identities, both Aldag and Delaney mentioned the importance of active representation.

“We look for people like us, that inspire us, that we want to grow up to be like,” Aldag said. “When I was struggling with my identity, queer representation in the media was what made me realize that I wasn’t the only person to ever have felt the way I did.”

The support from people who share similar backgrounds can make a new environment feel more like home, which is what Hispanic Student Association President Nayib Escalona hopes other students feel.

“I think having a tight-knit group of hispanic students is very important because it gives students a lot of experience with our culture,” said Escalona. “That’s what we’re trying to do with HSA, just create a community where people can feel accepted — especially in a school where there aren’t a lot.”

For these tight-knit groups to create change, they hope to gather support cross-culturally, which is the case for Delaney.

“I also want to diversify BSA’s membership. When promoting diversity and inclusion, it means getting it past the black students to the rest of the student body. And so I would love to see more participation from non-persons of color at BSA events,” he said.

Ultimately, these campus leaders hope to make Belmont a place where people can feel comfortable in their own skin.

“I want the general day-to-day experience to be comfortable,” Delaney said. “I don’t want you to have to balance the line of ‘Do I want to be comfortable or do I want to be accepted?’”

This article written by Katie Knipper. Contributing reporting by Lauren Busch. Photos by Chloe Eberhardt.

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