Founded in 2010, The Alphabet Center has been dedicated to providing resources and a safe space for diverse students at EKU.
The center is a support group for students who identify as LGBTQ. However, everyone is welcome at the Alphabet Center, whose motto is “because everyone has a letter.”
The Alphabet Center is located in Weaver 305, hosts weekly meetings every Thursday at 8 p.m and is considered a safe haven for a lot of LGBTQ students.
“A lot of students are still in the closet. They can be themselves there. They can make friends,” said Kevin Garland, former president of the Alphabet Center.
Recently, the Alphabet Center elected a new president, Timothy Grills. Hailing from Lily, Kentucky, Grills is a senior English major with a minor in women & gender studies. In between being a senior and being president of the Alphabet Center, he works at the Noel Studio on campus.
Grills also has a pet hedgehog named Jennifer.
“Tim is fantastic. He’s like my best friend, so I’m a pretty big fan,” Garland said.
Safety is a major focus for The Alphabet Center, which doesn’t allow photographs to be taken in order to protect the identity of the students there.
“It provides a safety net for students to fall back on,” Grills said.
As president, Grills is responsible for planning and managing weekly meetings, training people on leadership, planning events and coordinating with outside groups like the Madison County Health Department. One event in the pipeline is free HIV testing in partnership with AIDS Volunteers, or AVOL, in Lexington.
The Alphabet Center also hosts and sponsors multiple other events and programs throughout the year. Students can volunteer for a panelist program where they can speak to an audience about their experience as an LGBTQ individual and answer questions the audience may have.
Students can also volunteer for an LGBTQ mentoring program. Mentors provide friendship, support, guidance and socialization to younger LGBT students.
A newer service that opened in the fall of 2017, sponsored by the Alphabet Center, is the Closet TRANSform program. The Closet provides free clothing to students who are in need of outfits that match their gender identity. The organization is run by volunteers, and all the clothes are donations from community members. The Closet also provides laundering services to students who don’t feel comfortable washing and drying their gender-expressive clothes at home.
The center’s website also provides additional resources on coming out, domestic violence, counseling and mental health, LGBTQ-affirming places of worship, scholarships for diverse students, sexual assault and harassment.
Other events held throughout the year include game nights, Queeraoke & Open Mic Night, a Halloween party and Pride Prom. Pride Prom is a dance in late April where LGBTQ students can bring dates without fear of judgement or harassment.
“I’m looking forward to Pride Prom,” said Grills. “I feel like it helps a lot, especially with the surrounding area.”
Graduating in May, Grills is trying to leave behind a strong foundation for the Center.
“It’s given me the opportunity to grow as a leader, which I’m so thankful for,” Grills said. “I’m excited to see how the other officers pull together when I leave.”