Change U returns to train community on social justice

Courtesy Photo /

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo /

Kendal Pektas

Change U, a social justice training program run through the LGBT Resource Center, is returning to Grand Valley State University.

Change U 1.0 took place at GVSU last winter. The program is funded by a two-year grant through the Arcus Foundation in Kalamazoo, which was renewed in October.

The focus of the grant is on “building community, empowering the movement,” and one of the fundamentals is Change U: Training for Social Justice.

“Change U will focus on building a strong interconnected movement for justice throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, and participants will work together to build a vision for a transformed society,” said Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center.

Starting winter semester, the training series will be held every other Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. Current students who wish to be involved with Change U for course credit can also enroll in US 380, “Social Justice Engagement.”

To gain full course credit, attendees must be present at all Change U trainings, as well as meeting with their class once a week during the semester.

By analyzing racial, gender and economic issues, Change U aims to discover how all of these matters are interconnected.

“The first version of Change U was populated by more than 100 members, with over 50 people on a waiting list,” said Brett Colley, associate professor of art and design. “I have every reason to believe that interest will be even greater for Change U 2.0.”

The program has provided staff, students and the rest of the community with opportunities to realize and discuss various types of social justice problems.

For Jessica Gray, the atmosphere of Change U was the highlight of it all.

“I transferred to Grand Valley during the fall of last year, and stumbled upon Change U,” Gray said. “Change U brings so many different perspectives and skills and lays them out on the table for everyone to share. It is rare to have so many radical and passionate people in one space, but when it happens, great things are accomplished and amazing people emerge.”

Most individuals who are engaged with Change U acquire some knowledge pertaining to social justice. However, years of advocacy are not required, although passion is essential.

“As a queer woman and LGBT activist, I felt that this training would be a great asset to broaden my views on other social justice issues,” Gray said. “I felt a disconnect with the Grand Rapids community at first. But after participating in Change U and meeting so many fantastic people, I had so many more opportunities and connections that really immersed me in Grand Rapids.”

The training dates for Change U are available at

Anyone can apply to join the program, and applications can be submitted through Dec. 2.

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