Sophomore Reagan Ayala never set out to become president of the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at Indiana University South Bend. It simply happened, she says. “I went to a virtual call-out meeting, and I was the only one who showed up. I loved the advisor, so I stuck around. As more people came, we needed a president. And I took on that role.”
It’s a decision she has never regretted. The QSA provides a space where Ayala can be herself and interact with individuals like her. “I’m a business major, and there are very few Hispanic students in my class,” Ayala says. “It’s a little alienating, so it’s great to have a place where I can be me and not have to worry about looking a certain way.”As a South Bend native, Ayala initially wanted to leave her hometown but stayed local on her mother’s advice for her freshman year.
“Once Zoom was over, and we got to go back to campus, I fell in love with IU South Bend,” she says. “The freedom to decide my classes and make my schedule, combined with the fact I’m not confined to one building all day, is amazing.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic put many activities on hold, the QSA was revitalized this past spring semester under Ayala’s leadership. It has since successfully rebuilt its membership with an engaged group of core individuals who are ready to make an impact.
“One of my goals as president is to create a safe space on campus for people who are just a little different,” explains Ayala. “We are open to everyone. We even have a member who found us while in high school.”
Ayala and members of the QSA are looking forward to expanding the group’s outreach this year. The club is working to put together a clothing giveaway where anyone can access free items, especially those who may not have the opportunity to buy clothing that accurately reflects their gender identity.
“I like to stay busy. The QSA may be small now, but I believe it’s a club that can and will keep growing for years to come,” Ayala says.