For Lakeland alumna and registered social worker/psychologist Tamara Gartner, returning to the college this fall was a homecoming she had been looking forward to for years.
She has provided over 175 professional development training sessions and workshops on that topic, including the one she presented at the Lloydminster campus on Oct. 7. The workshop was geared specifically towards creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ2S+ individuals and their families.
It was the first time Gartner had the opportunity to come home to share what she had learned with area service providers.
After graduating high school with no clear idea on what she wanted to do with her future, Gartner enrolled in the Lakeland’s university transfer
program, a move she credits as an important step in her academic success.
“It gave me a starting point,” she explains. “It gave me the comforts of being near loved ones when I still wasn’t sure where to go next. It also gave me experience to start out my post-secondary route and to try being a post-secondary student without going through the throes of moving away or jumping into larger financial debt.”
Her experience in the university transfer program helped her identify some areas of study she'd pursue as well as gave her the confidence to move to larger centers to continue her studies.
After completing the program in 1992, Gartner transferred to the University of Saskatchewan to work on her bachelor of arts and then earned a diploma in social work at MacEwan University. She finished her bachelor of arts at the University of Alberta and spent eight years working in the field, primarily at non-profit organizations. In 2008 Gartner went back to school to earn her masters of arts in counselling psychology. She was a student at the Edmonton-branch of City University of Seattle, based out of Seattle.
Gartner’s experience growing up in the Kitscoty area also informed her studies, helping her understand a need in LGBTQ2S+ community that she was specifically qualified to fill.
“This community has been marginalized and my experience is that there are few services, not only in smaller centers like Lloydminster, but everywhere,” she explains. “When families are struggling, they don’t know where to turn to for support. When families or individuals have nowhere to go, they suffer, and I’m not okay with that. I’m not okay with people facing adversity alone.”
It’s part of the reason why Gartner was so excited for the opportunity to return home to offer a workshop on this topic. She receives a lot of referrals from the area and knows that, like many smaller urban centres, there is a lack of specialized supports.
“I always said to myself, if I could just get close enough to my hometown to offer a workshop like this, that would be the most ideal situation,” she says. “My learnings are important, my specialization and my personal experiences growing up here and identifying in this community was painful, so for me to come back and to share my story and to share why I do this work, I think it’s important for Lloydminster to hear it. I want to share my knowledge and my skill set so people can learn from it.”
Photo: Gartner spoke to Lakeland faculty and staff, as well as teachers and service providers from the Lloydminster area.