Center Project starts group for LGBTQ professionals

The Center Project, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning organization based in Columbia, has begun a new project to put together an LGBTQ professionals group with the first meeting scheduled for Aug. 6.

According to The Center Project's website, the group will provide networking for students, full- and part-time employees and job seekers, as well as for other activities and events as decided by the group.

Jenny Baker, PrideFest Committee Chair and member of The Center Project said the group will help members of the LGBTQ community socialize and network to find jobs.

“It’s mainly just a social network for young professionals of the queer community to network,” she said. “It's a nice way to meet people out of a specific bar scene.”

MU LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Ryan Black said groups like these are important for connecting people and helping them answer important career questions before job-hunting.

"Sometimes, there are different issues involved," Black said. "How out you are on your resume, do you have to be out? I'm sure there's going to be discussions like that."

Black said he thinks the group will also help with discussions like who's who in the community and how the job search is going.

"It’s one more way to connect as individuals- it's not always an easy thing to do,” Black said.

The Center Project is located on Ash Street and serves all of central Missouri. It provides various resources for the LGBTQ community and is host to many similar groups, including Co-Dependents Anonymous and LGBT Parents Group.

Gateway Business Guild is a similar professionals group based in St. Louis. GBG president Jan Schamis said he thinks the Columbia group Is necessary to help its members overcome negative perceptions. He said more groups like this should be created.

"I think it strengthens the community,” Schamis said. “It's not all about bars and other such stereotypes. It's all about professionals and businesses; and also consumers. I think it really does strengthen the community.”

Baker said recruiting for the group has been going well so far.

"So far, everyone I've talked to is excited about having something else to do in the community,” she said.

The group, Baker said has been recruiting by word of mouth and publishing through various sources. The idea for the group started with Michael Hill, who is on The Center Project’s board of directors.

Schamis said the group allows people to share common experience and strategies for overcoming bad preconceptions, which is its most important function.

"The group shows a side of us that is not so stereotypical,” he said. “We are professionals as well."

The group’s first meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Room 38 Restaurant and Lounge in Columbia.

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