YSUnity’s enchanted night

By Sydney Fairbanks
Jambar Contributor

For LGBTQ students at Youngstown State Univesity, it’s important to unite as a community. YSUnity, a club for LGBTQ students and allies, hosted an enchanted forest-themed Gayla on April 19 in The Cove of Kilcawley Center.

It may look like a spelling mistake, but the Gayla is YSUnity’s spin on a traditional gala. This year was the organization’s second time hosting the event.

Senior Jenna Knowles, YSUnity secretary and treasurer, said the event provides a safe space for LGBTQ students to celebrate or participate in a formal event.

“It’s just for us to get together, have an event that we can feel comfortable at and really express ourselves,” Knowles said.

The event was open to all students, whether they identify as part of the LGBTQ community or not. To achieve the enchanted-forest theme, YSUnity adorned The Cove with green table runners, balloons and leafy decor.

Attendees could enjoy refreshments and dance to music. Near the end of the night, a best dressed contest took place, and the top-two winners walked the red carpet.

Guests could also use The Cove’s air hockey and pool tables and play hopscotch to win goodie bags with stickers, pins, crocheted items and decorative rocks.

According to Knowles, YSUnity took inspiration from other similar events on campus, such as the International Student Organization’s annual prom and the YSU Enrichment Summer Scholastic Institute’s Gala.

“[On campus] you see a lot of different demographics coming together and having a dance just because it’s a way to let loose, have fun and not have to worry about judgment. That’s what the Gayla is,” Knowles said.

Unlike other traditional galas, the Gayla is much less formal and focuses on comfort rather than looks.

Knowles said it’s important for current and future students to know they’ll be accepted for who they are, and events like the Gayla help to display that message.

“It does a good thing to the YSU community for the community in general to know that there is an active gay organization on campus — even for prospective students,” Knowles said. “With everything going around, you don’t really know if you’re going to walk into a university and it’s going to be accepting of you, but when you have events like this, it shows that you are.”

Knowles added events such as the Gayla are important for uplifting LGBTQ voices.

Adrian Nelson, a senior social work major, has attended both Gaylas hosted by YSUnity. Nelson said YSUnity events are important for making new connections and helping students feel safe.

“We need a place where you feel comfortable and safe, and so this is some place where you can meet new people, feel comfortable, feel safe, talk to people and maybe get ideas,” Nelson said.

The YSUnity will also host a Lavender Graduation from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 26. The event will celebrate graduating LGBTQ students.