Elmhurst College Student Earns the LGBT College Student Award for Being a Positive Role Model
Elmhurst College senior Ally Vertigan had planned to work as a volunteer at the Human Rights Campaign of Chicago’s annual black-tie gala, to be held at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago. But she will play a starring role instead.
Vertigan will be honored with the LGBT College Student Award at the gala dinner, on Saturday, Nov. 12, for being a positive role model for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and for promoting acceptance of LGBT individuals.
“I’m flattered that other people think of me as a role model,” said Vertigan, a religion and Spanish major from the Rochester, N.Y., area. “I try to represent my community the best I can, and to be positive and inclusive so others can learn from me. Other people feel more comfortable about the LGBT community once they know someone who is gay. If I can be that person for someone, I’m happy to do that.”
Vertigan is the first Elmhurst student to be recognized for the award, which has been given since 2006. Previous recipients were from Northwestern University, DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Lake Forest College. HRC Chicago is part of the national Human Rights Campaign, which promotes civil rights and equality for LGBT Americans.
An active member of Elmhurst Queers and Allies (EQUAL), the College’s LGBT organization, Vertigan also was a leader in developing and organizing the Big Gay Gathering, an event for high school students that was held at the Elmhurst campus. She worked with the Admission Office to publicize the event to students at more than 600 high schools, and to highlight Elmhurst as a safe and inclusive environment.
The Human Rights Campaign award “speaks volumes about the impact she has had on our campus and on LGBT awareness and inclusivity in general,” said Dean of Students Eileen Sullivan, who nominated Vertigan for the honor. “Ally’s recognition is an indicator that those outside of the College recognize both her good work and the culture of appreciation here, which we hope will become synonymous with Elmhurst College.”
Vertigan said she was attracted to Elmhurst by its many volunteer opportunities and social justice outreach programs, and she gives the College high marks for its inclusive policies and for promoting acceptance of LGBT students and members of other underrepresented groups.
“It’s a welcoming place to be. That doesn’t mean everyone has to like you, and there is always room for improvement, but in my experience it’s only been positive,” she said.
A person of strong faith, Vertigan credits the United Church of Christ, with which Elmhurst College is affiliated, with being “affirming and supportive of LGBT individuals and their beliefs. I’ve never felt any conflict between my faith and who I am.”