Photo of CCC student

As City Colleges of Chicago celebrates Pride Month, hear from Brock Pfaender, a recent graduate from Harold Washington College, in his own words about his experience as president of Harold Washington’s Pride Alliance.

After working as a flight attendant for 10 years, the desire within me to do something different—to live a more personally fulfilling life—started to grow. I had been traveling to so many different countries across the world, and I saw a jarring disparity in the way people lived. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it seemed like the ideal time to make a change, to make a difference. I decided to enroll at Harold Washington College to study political science with the goal of one day working in policy.

I enjoyed my experience as a first-year student. Harold Washington was affordable, easy to get to, and I had great professors—but I wasn’t super involved on campus. One of my professors encouraged our class to build a community here, noting that it would be important to our success as students, and I began to start appreciating our college’s very active student base.

There were always students gathering in public spaces, and during my second year at Harold Washington, I stumbled into a meeting for the Pride Alliance club at the college. I’d never been a part of the group before, or active within the LGBTQ+ community in general, but as a gay man, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get connected. The meeting I walked into happened to be elections for club officers for the school year. I decided to go for it. During my second meeting, I was voted in as president.

A group of graduates and employees pose for a photo in front of a balloon arch.
Brock gathers with a group of fellow graduates and City Colleges employees at the Lavender Graduation ceremony.

Becoming a part of Pride Alliance changed my college experience. I stepped up as a leader. As president, I led the efforts to organize a coming out mixer and a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance. I also worked with students from across City Colleges to organize the system’s first-ever Lavender Graduation—a ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ graduates as we earned our associate degrees. It was the first time that various pride clubs across the seven colleges truly came together, and it was a huge success. As both an organizer and a graduate, it was an incredibly special moment for me personally.

Looking back on my college experience, it would have been so different had I not stumbled into that first meeting for Pride Alliance. I developed as a leader and as a person, and I saw my peers do the same. Having pride on campus means that we don’t feel lost during the college experience. It’s not just a club. We get to build a community—a family.

I know this family will stay with me as I take my next steps and transfer to a four-year university. Pride Alliance not only changed my college experience, but it changed my life.