A Scholar’s Story: Music to My Earson December 12th, 2014 at 5:08 pm
Christopher Newcombe, a Pride Foundation scholar, was born in Spokane and graduated from Mead High School in 2002. He is currently in his senior year at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, WA—working toward his bachelor’s degree in music education.
Christopher plans to pursue a career in teaching because of his passion for music and his desire to positively impact youth who are marginalized, bullied, or underrepresented.
As a teacher, leader, and role model, Christopher wants to use his dedication for supporting youth to create a safe and empowering place for students to express themselves, be creative, and receive a well-rounded education. He plans on being an advocate for students and helping connect youth with important resources.
One memory has stuck with Christopher since his visit to an elementary school in Federal Way about three years ago. “One of the things this school did to counter bullying was a ‘chain of kindness,’ where students would focus on deliberate acts kindness and find ways to make others feel good—creating a chain reaction,” he recalled. “This activity is intended to empower students to think more positively about how to support their peers.”
That is exactly the kind of culture Christopher hopes to recreate in his classroom. His goal is to provide a place where he can foster creativity, support, teamwork, mutual respect, and acceptance—so that students can be who they are without fear.
While discussing how to create safe spaces for students, Christopher told me about his involvement in the Highline Community College Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), in Des Moines, WA. During his first semester he became the president of the club, and in this capacity helped start an annual drag show. In his second year, he pushed the GSA to create a scholarship for LGBT students with the funds raised from the event.
Christopher initially became involved with the GSA so he could feel safe and supported in being out as a young, gay man.
“The GSA was fluctuating many years before I joined, and when I shared my story of what happened to me in the military with the school newspaper, they placed the article on the front page,” commented Christopher. The story involved having to hide his sexuality in the Navy, the subsequent physical harm he endured when a rumor circulated that he had been seen holding hands with a man—almost costing him his life—and the military’s refusal to pay him after he was medically discharged (read more here). “Being on the front page with a picture and everything was unexpected and I felt very nervous. I didn’t realize how many people read the school newspaper, but that is how I came out.”
I asked Christopher about his experience after “coming out” in the school newspaper and what the reactions were of school staff and his peers.
“Positive,” exclaimed Christopher. “I felt very supported by the executive staff. They would even attend [GSA] events. Professors that I didn’t even know would acknowledge me in passing because of the newspaper article. I became more open and vocal about my story, being gay, and my work with the GSA.”
Now, at WSU, Christopher spends most of his time on his studies, considering his degree his hobby and passion. When he is not studying, you can find him hanging out with friends, playing video games, or conducting choirs and bands at various high schools. Christopher is involved in numerous music groups at WSU and also runs a nonprofit organization, The Newcombe Foundation, which provides five instruments to Washington state students each year.
When Christopher graduates, he plans to remain in Washington, on the west side of the state. However, if the opportunity arose, he would love to work at the high school he graduated from (Mead High School)—allowing his education to come full circle. Christopher’s ideal job would be teaching students how to play musical instruments, although he would be happy teaching chorus as well.
Receiving a Pride Foundation scholarship has shown Christopher that people are invested in his success—keeping him focused and on track. “It’s been a tremendous support and hopefully I can give back from what I’ve received,” he shared.
Christopher’s advice to others who are thinking of applying for a scholarship is plain and simple; “They should. Pride Foundation is a great organization that truly cares about people’s success and helping them along their journey in life.”
“It all starts somewhere in life and that one ripple in the water can turn into a huge wave of change. Change in a person can lead to change in the LGBTQ community.”
Gunner Scott is Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs. Email Gunner.