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Crowd turns out for LGBT college fair; 35 schools send reps

Alex Sennello 16 center  visits table with her mom AlisHolloway sister SarSennello 15 Saturday September 24 2011 during GLBT

Alex Sennello, 16, center, visits a table with her mom, Alison Holloway, and sister Sara Sennello, 15, Saturday, September 24, 2011, during a GLBT college fair at The Center on Halsted in Chicago. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 1, 2011 5:27AM

Alex Sennello is a transgender high school student undergoing a medical process to become a girl. Alex also is in the process of choosing a college. Neither is easy.

But a college fair in Lake View on Saturday — geared for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students — provided a unique and comfortable environment to ask questions to find out whether any of the schools would fit Alex’s needs.

Accompanied by mom Alison Holloway, the 16-year-old wanted to know whether campus health clinics have hormone therapy plans and how roommates are selected, asking, “Are they going to be outing me all the time?”

Alex was among about 75 students attending the fair organized by the Campus Pride organization. Thirty-five colleges were represented, ranging from Big Ten universities to small liberal arts schools. Marquette University was the only Catholic school represented.

“To even set up a booth at this type of college fair, you’re making a very unique statement to the world,” said Chuck Erickson, who was representing his alma mater, Lawrence University.

Bernie Blasch, a teacher at Curie High School and a sponsor of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, came to explore what the fair had to offer.

“These students are full of questions like, ‘Do you really feel safe on campus?’ or ‘Do you offer a floor in the dorms especially for LGBT students?’. . . It seems like most don’t have a special floor,” Blasch said. “But I’m very encouraged by what I’m seeing. The main thing is will they have support from the administration, or are they going to be harassed?”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison touted its LGBT Campus Center, and many colleges, such as UW-Stevens Point, sent students active in campus gay-straight alliances to the fair to answer questions.

“It makes you feel like you’re much more welcome,” said Albert Regalado, a Curie senior.

Connor McPhillips, a senior at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, isn’t worried about attending a school without a formal gay support group.

“I’ve been asking mostly about the majors. Coming out wasn’t that hard for me,” McPhillips said.

He added that he would consider creating a gay-straight alliance if the school he chooses doesn’t have one.

“I know there is danger out there, but I haven’t found it yet,” he said.

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