Inclusion Matters — empowering the SAIT community to lead a better future
For second-year student Jonathan Vivas, leaving his home country to study in Canada was not only a step toward new career opportunities. It was also a necessary step toward living more openly without putting his own life and livelihood at risk.
Vivas is in a same-sex marriage. While living in Venezuela, he was an activist for 2SLGBTQ+ rights, including the recognition of same-sex marriages. When the opportunity presented itself, Vivas moved to Canada during the pandemic to study environmental technology at SAIT.
“Moving to Canada has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. It’s an amazing country to live in with a lot of opportunities and a chance to really be myself without discrimination,” says Vivas. “I moved to Canada last year in September 2020, while my husband arrived almost two months after me.”
Vivas is among the growing number of SAIT students and staff who self-identify as 2SLGBTQ+. There is also an increasing number of individuals who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or a Person of Colour, and a person with a disability or mental health challenge. As these numbers have increased, so has the need for student assistance.
In response, the Inclusion Matters priority fund was created. The fund supports the implementation of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to ensure the SAIT campus is a place where everyone feels welcomed, supported, included and empowered to succeed. These initiatives vary from training and education for staff and students, policy and procedure review, and learning experiences like Orange Shirt Day.
One such initiative is the SAIT Pride Award, which incentivizes the student community to participate in inclusion initiatives, specifically when it comes to 2SLGBTQ+. Through the SAIT Pride Award, students that are already doing work with the 2SLGBTQ+ community would have an opportunity to be recognized for their efforts.
Vivas is the most recent recipient of the SAIT Pride Award and was recognized for his activism and work to educate others about the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Before studying at SAIT, Vivas worked with a non-profit in Venezuela to create and record an educational video about his marriage, life experiences and 2SLGBTQ+ rights.
“Education is key,” says Vivas. “By helping people understand same-sex relationships and 2SLGBTQ+ rights, we can correct assumptions or stereotypes that people have about the community.”
“Having a community that supports you and encourages you to be yourself is important for mental health and integration into society,” shares Vivas. “Receiving the SAIT Pride Award means that I belong to a community that supports me and values the activism that I have done.”
Generous gifts to the Inclusion Matters priority fund will help continue to reward students like Jonathan Vivas, who move the needle forward on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion and encourage others to get involved in EDI initiatives and programs at SAIT. Your gift will empower our SAIT community to lead a better future.