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Celebrating Pride Month

Tim'm T. West, who heads Teach For America's LGBTQ+ Community Initiative, shares the progress made over the past three years and the work to be done in improving outcomes for LGBTQ students.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we celebrate the efforts of corps members, alumni, staff members, community members, and students who are working to advance safer and braver classrooms in schools and communities where we serve.

A year ago, we shared the pain of our community in Orlando at the tragic murder of 49 LGBTQ+ people, most of them Latinx and Black. We stand together still after the rollback of Title IX guidance that advanced protections for transgender students. We have so much work before us in the fight to expand educational opportunity for all students. Fortunately, we also have the tenacity and resilience to see it through.

In the three years since I came on staff to lead our LGBTQ+ Community Initiative, we have strengthened our organizational commitment to LGBTQ+ corps members, alumni, and students. Since 2016, the corps application has allowed nearly 400 corps members each year to self-identify as LGBTQ+. We are advancing safer classrooms and communities in a variety of ways, including developing regional chapters of Prism, our network to mobilize the leadership of corps members and alumni alongside partner organizations to improve the well-being and long-term outcomes for LGBTQ students.

Just last week, nearly 25 members of our Teach For America community joined a call to talk about the direction of our initiative’s work and the activation of Prism chapters in regions around the country. Two days after the call, I drove to Charlotte to support the regional Prism group's induction celebration, which included a panel discussion with corps members, alumni, community partners, non-TFA educators, and students. The event was standing-room only, and it was one of those special moments when you see a compelling vision and theory of change embodied by a roomful of hopeful leaders.

TFA–Charlotte members of Prism gather for a group photo.
Tim'm was on hand recently as TFA–Charlotte celebrated its regional Prism group's induction.

Teach For America's LGBTQ+ Initiative is joined by aspiring allies, such as those partnering with us at Institute sessions, to help connect our newest corps members with the key aspects of this work.

Our community's most powerful allies are visible and active in the work to create safer schools and classrooms. We honor the courage and conviction of those whose self-identification as LGBTQ+ comes with real risks of being fired or facing pushback where employment protections don’t exist.

So this month and beyond, we will celebrate the work that is happening across the country: in our large cities, where we continue to hear the call of #BlackLivesMatter; on reservations in regions like South Dakota and New Mexico; among our students who are undocumented; among AAPI students in low-income communities who are often made invisible by the model minority myth; and in states like North Carolina, where all three of our regions create spaces to support corps members and alumni in light of HB2, its repeal, and current compromise legislation that expires in 2020.

I call this work brave because, for all the gains around LGBTQ+ rights in our nation, more than 100 new anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced in 2017. More than ever, we must support our LGBTQ+ students—and all of our students—against threats to educational equity and excellence. Stay brave and thank you for your leadership.

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