Kraig Cook, Pride Foundation's first fellow.

Kraig Cook, Pride Foundation’s first fellow.

Leadership and initiative. These are the two qualities that Pride Foundation’s first fellow, Kraig Cook, embodies on a daily basis.

Kraig is currently the Civic Engagement Coordinator/Project Manager for the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs, where he is in charge of implementing a fellowship program for immigrant youth known as “DREAMers”—the individuals who meet the general requirements of the Federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Kraig is 25, and grew up in Olympia, Washington. When he first came to Pride Foundation as a Thomas C. Wales Fellow in 2009, he had no idea that it would be the foundation for his future career.

With guidance from Pride Foundation’s staff and board, Kraig carried out an assessment of the needs of Pride Foundation’s scholar community and the LGBTQ nonprofit community to help inform our first fellowship cycle. He then stayed on board as a Pride Foundation Fellow the summer of 2009 and helped launch the first year of the program.

“My work designing Pride Foundation’s Fellowship Program showed me that my vocation is working to build connections between stakeholders to create community power,” explains Kraig. As one of his first leadership experiences with the LGBTQ community, it taught him “the beautiful breadth and the diversity of the community and the importance of acknowledging and lifting up marginalized voices within the community.”

When Kraig thinks back on his fellowship experience, he is amazed at how fortunate he was to play a role in designing such an impactful and lasting program. Kraig’s fellowship allowed him to work closely with Pride Foundation’s staff and board, teaching him the valuable skills of “professional collaboration, cooperation, and the power of a truly community-focused and community-driven organization.” It also taught him that you don’t always have to be right or know how to do everything; you just need to have the confidence and humility to ask for help.

Kraig has tried to replicate these learnings in each of his workplaces since and continues to have an important impact on his local community. After graduating college, Kraig moved to New York, where he was an Urban Fellow with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at a Latino immigrant rights organization.

At his current job, Kraig is implementing the pilot year of a fellowship program for young DREAMers, in which students will complete substantive internships at nonprofit organizations, receive extensive professional skills and training, and connect with leaders in the community. When Kraig accepted his current job, he couldn’t help but notice how similar it is to his Pride Foundation Fellowship.

This new position also gives Kraig the opportunity to explore the intersections that are inherent in our work. To him, “Coming out has become a strong statement in both communities as undocumented and LGBTQ individuals develop pride in their identities and stand up for equality. Powerful movements such as the “Undocuqueer” movement have tapped into the experiences of LGBTQ immigrants to make a stand for both LGBTQ and immigrant justice.” While he recognizes that we have a long way to go towards achieving full equality for immigrants and LGBTQ people, Kraig sees collaboration across movements as the only true way to advance justice.

For the past five years, Pride Foundation’s Fellowship Program has been connecting student leaders like Kraig to meaningful professional development opportunities with organizations committed to LGBTQ equality.

Building on the success of our Scholarship Program, we match exceptional Pride Foundation Scholars and other LGBTQ and ally students with Pride Foundation grantees and organizations that are advancing LGBTQ equality. Through this work we are able to support the educational dreams of LGBTQ and ally students, while also providing valuable support and resources to our community.

Said best by Kraig himself, “Leadership and professional development programs like the Pride Foundation Fellowship Program are vital to the broader movement towards equality, as they provide the foundation for young leaders in the community to launch successful careers.”

Each summer internship is carefully structured—ensuring that students receive tangible skills and on-the-ground experience to help further their careers. By introducing fellows to a network of community leaders and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ equality, our Fellowship Program gives students the opportunity to create meaningful connections to the LGBTQ community. Students receive a living wage stipend for the summer, guaranteeing that cost is not a barrier to participation.

We are excited to announce that this year we will be supporting nine fellows. Our 2014 fellows will begin their fellowships on June 17th. Learn more about this year’s fellowship recipients and the great organizations they’re partnered with here.

Posted In: Blog, Connecting Leaders, Blog, Washington