Here are two unique stories among thousands that make clear all the ways you have changed the lives of LGBTQ people in the Northwest.

 

Meet a Pride Foundation Scholar:
Andrew Nichols

When you live on an island where your family owns a large and well-known marine company (that you also happen to share your last name with), it’s hard to fly under the radar.

This unique situation framed Andrew Nichols’ childhood on Whidbey Island in Washington. With more than 30 cousins within arm’s reach, Andrew spent his early and teen years in the constant company and influence of family. Part of the early messages Andrew received included the firm statement that gay people were sinful and evil. This made his recognition that he himself was a gay man a profound and painful challenge. So difficult that at times Andrew wondered if the world might be better off without him. To escape his anguish, Andrew focused on academic and athletic achievement, gaining awards and recognition. He still could not quiet what he knew to be true—that he was a gay man. He joined the military and continued to excel, but knew he had to embrace his truth. He came out to a few friends and summoned the bravery to tell his family. The people closest to him had mixed feelings and responses.

Andrew went on to serve as a police officer, and a few years into his service realized two very essential things. First, he couldn’t “make up” for being gay by choosing and succeeding at masculine-identified lines of work. Second, he realized the piece of police work that he enjoyed the most was providing comfort and listening to people in crisis. He had a yearning to help people work through their pain, and he had a natural skill for being supportive in the moment.

This epiphany led Andrew to pursue a graduate degree in Counseling at Seattle University where he is joyfully thriving. He plans to focus his future professional work on supporting gay and lesbian couples and gay and lesbian individuals coming out of the military service. Pride Foundation supported Andrew with a 2012 Pride Foundation Scholarship and we could not be more proud of his courage, focus, and passion.

 

Meet a Pride Foundation Grantee:
Gay Straight Alliance at Salish Kootenai College

Montana is home to seven Indian reservations and tribal colleges, but until recently no gay-straight alliances existed on campus.

Thanks to the hard work of Rosalinda de la Luna-Long and her students, Salish Kootenai College (SKC) on the Flathead Reservation now boasts the first ever Gay-Straight Alliance at a tribal college:  Spirit of Many Colors. De la Luna-Long, assistant to the college’s president and director of the Rosalinda de la Luna Foundation, received a $2,000 grant from Pride Foundation to help fund the new group’s activities in 2012.

Spirit of Many Colors hosted a Diversity Fair for Martin Luther King Celebration last month, presenting to local first graders the harmful effects of bullying in schools. The group has also made a presentation to SKC’s social work department about domestic violence in same-sex relationships. According to de la Luna-Long, students reported that it was “the highlight of the quarter” and the personal stories from their LGBTQ and two-spirit peers were very powerful.

De la Luna-Long had urged new SKC President Luana Ross to expand the school’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. With the support of Ross and the new student group, SKC’s board of directors passed a new, inclusive non-discrimination policy in 2012. Thank you Salish Kootenai College for your incredible and groundbreaking work!

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Posted In: Blog, Building Organizations, Blog, Montana, Blog, Supporting Students, Blog, Washington