So, I was recently asked to submit some answers to questions for a teacher's newsletter and it was really fun, so I wanted to share! Hopefully this gives you some idea of my background, why I do what I do, my vision for The Acadami, and the foundation we are built on.
Thank you for spending this time with us.
Also! E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to write and make videos answering your questions!
How long have you been working with LGBTQIA+ youth?
-I have been working with youth for about 7 years now, but my advocacy started when I was in high school actually.
-If you're interested in the full story:
I moved to a new school shortly after coming out and cutting my hair and changing my expression to match my comfort. I am gender on-conforming and so students, very quickly, assumed my orientation. They did so correctly, thank goodness. Very, very soon I was being asked about my identity and orientation by students and I confirmed that I did, in fact, identify as LGBTQ. That same day I had people sneaking up to me, telling me how brave I was and that no one had ever been so open before; that they too identify but would never dream of being out on campus. I didn't realize, but I was the first student to be out on this campus! After so many people came up to me, telling me their stories about hiding and lying and how much it hurt them; how they don't have any support and they are fearful, I knew I couldn't let that fly. I went to ASB to ask about a club and I begged my basketball coach (a very non-LGBTQ guy who was very nervous, but wanted to support his star point guard) to be the advisor and he agreed. He admitted he knew nothing about LGBTQ or a GSA Club but he was willing to let me use his room and that's all I needed. I got some friends on board, submitted the paperwork, and thought I was good to go. It got denied. My principal at the time was (I think) a very conservative, religious man who told me that he didn't want "a club about sex" on campus. Okay, so I went and did research and gathered a ton of information about how the club would not be "about sex" and how helpful GSA clubs are and so on. Sill a no and this time he said it would cause too much disruption to the student body. Okay, so I went to the student body. I walked around campus every day at lunch collecting signatures of students that said they would support my club and that they would not "be disrupted" by it. Almost every student in the school signed. I sat in the principal's office day after day, he kept refusing. The next year, we got a new principal who said the similar things - "no". So I collected signatures again and I spent every day at lunch outside of his office with my signatures and research to show. Eventually he got tired of me and finally said, "okay, I will let you have one meeting. If you can show me that students are supportive and want this I will allow it." CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! I told all of the students I could, asked for support, and the day came for the meeting. I walked down the hallway toward my coach's classroom very nervous and barely breathing. I knew that chances were, this wasn't going to work. When I got to the room, I started to cry immediately. It was standing room only. There were so many students and staff in the room that we had to prop the door open and have people listen from the hallway. I was blown away and I guess it was right then that I realized the impact we have on each other's lives. I realized how one small conversation, one act, some perseverance, and gathering support can transform the lives of people - especially youth and especially under-served youth like I was. I will never forget the moment that I was standing in the hall and I look down toward the entrance door to see my principal entering to check to see if I met his challenge. He entered, saw the amount of people flooding through the corridor in support; he didn't even come into the meeting. We just locked eyes for a second, I smiled like crazy, and he turned and walked away. Thus, the GSA was born and with it a life long LGBTQ Youth Advocate.
-Years later I got a very random call from a high school friend. She said, "Hey! My dad runs a non-profit and is going to work with LGBTQ youth. He remembered what you did with the GSA back in high school and thinks you would be great. Want a job?" And of course, I said yes and some more years, lots of training and experiences, some college later, and here we are. That is one thing I always tell my students, what you do in high school matters! I share that story with them and try to remind them to always be their best selves, even when they think, "It won't matter." It always matters. What inspired you to work with youth? In other words, if you’re willing to share, was there an event that you can reflect on that made you want to choose this purpose? -I guess I answered that already LOL
-There was a moment, when I came out, my mother who was always so open. She got very serious and shared her fears with me. She made me make her a promise and I ask my students to make the same to me. She told me that, being who I am, the world was going to want to hate me. They may want to be mean to me, cast me out, or deny my true self. She said to me, "Ami, the world is going to want to hate you. You have to promise me that you will make it hard for them. Be so kind, be so honest, be so polite, and be so giving that if someone is going to hate you, BOOOY they are going to have to try hard and really work for it. Promise me, you'll make it hard to hate." And I promised and that is what I try to do every single day and I try to teach, empower young people to do that same. What advice or words would you give to someone that asks you, “What gives your life purpose? What are you grateful for each day?”
-I would be very honest to say that I have spent most of my life going through the motions and surviving. I have been through a lot personally, lots of trauma in my youth. So, for me, for along time - life wasn't about finding my purpose. It was about just getting through. Looking back, I was always living in it. It is just really hard to see yourself sometimes, especially when it is good. We are so hard on ourselves and can pull ourselves apart so quickly, but we fail to see the light in each one of us that's always there. My advice would be to, as soon as you can - right now!, connect with yourself. Take the time and send the energy to really get to know yourself, your light, your power and own it, share it, live in it.
-My purpose is to save lives and change lives. My life's purpose is to spread empathy and compassion; to show young people that they are enough and they are perfection as is, they are love (even if they have forgotten that or never been told). My purpose is to be seen and heard because in that, young LGBTQ folks know that they deserve to be seen and heard as they are; to support and empower people. Ultimately, my life's purpose is to leave the world better than I found it - and to have so much fun along the way!
-I am grateful every single day for the opportunity to try again, another chance to be my best self and share myself with the world. I am super grateful that I get to live my purpose and that I am so supported in that. I am grateful for my body and mind that carry this crazy, energetic, very big spirit of mine through the world. I am grateful for every moment but especially the moments that I am so fortunate to experience with my students/clients when I train; those moments when a young person who thought they were so lost and broken, actually connect with themselves and then the world catches fire (with positivity and support) around them. I am grateful for every time a frown or tears turn into a smile and a laugh. For the moments when you can see someone shift away from hate into a space of understanding; it is life changing for me, every time, to get to facilitate that kind of shift.
-I am also very grateful for my family and friends, my home, my new business, and my dog LOL
SO MUCH LOVE!