The Pride and Joy Foundation is very excited to introduce you to our recipients of the Leaders for Inclusive Change Grant, which was generously funded by the Gamma Mu Foundation. This six-week course will provide information, tools, and resources for anyone who wants to start a Gay Straight Alliance, Rainbow or other Diversity clubs at schools.
After reviewing an exciting round of incredible applicants, the decision was not easy. Our Board of Directors has selected two LGBTQ+ educators, Ær Queen (they/them,fen/fens) and Nicholas Prosini (they/them), as facilitators of Leaders for Inclusive Change. Ær (they/them,fen/fens) is a trans non-binary General Music teacher at Bradock Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia in Fairfax County Public Schools. They are a proud alumnx of Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia where they earned their Bachelor of Music in Music Education. Ær met Nicholas Prosini through online activism in music educator spaces, and that has translated to a professional and personal partnership in this space. Mx. Prosini currently teaches with Amber Charter Schools in New York City. Mx. Prosini’s work includes teaching K-5 general music and choir.
Lambda Legal reports more than 4,000 Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) nationwide! GSAs, Rainbow Clubs, and other forms of pride and diversity groups in public schools are important ways students can form strong relationships, foster community, cultivate leadership skills, and reduce discrimination. According to U.S. News and World Report, high schools with gay-straight alliances had a 52% less likely chance to hear homophobic remarks, and LGBTQ+ teens were 36% less likely to fear personal safety and 30% less likely to be victimized.
Now more than ever, we MUST help protect our LGBTQ+ students as GSAs are starting to be threatened with new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation into schools according to a Washington Post article. It is YOUR legal right to have an extra-curricular club like GSAs and other diversity clubs as they are protected under the Equal Access Act (EAA). We hope you will find empowerment and inspiration in starting some of your very own GSAs in such a critical time with the help of our new Leaders for Inclusive Change program kicking off in September.
A little more about Ær…
Ær has seen and experienced the real effects of targeted transphobia, and that has only served to drive them to be more active in advocacy spaces for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and queer students. Their “why” centers around the idea that education is one of the best ways to stem hatred and violence, and their platform is in line with the theory that anyone can do better when they know how. They believe that seeing and hearing the first-hand experiences of a transgender person can help to demonstrate the importance of being affirming of other transgender people, especially our students.
Ær is passionate about helping educators view the importance of gender inclusivity in schools through the f lens of a practicing transgender teacher. They have presented at numerous conferences throughout the US including 11 state Music Educator Associations, the Virginia Education Association Summit for Racial and Social Justice, and the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity - National Summit for Educational Equity. They have also been accepted to present on Gender Equity at the National Association for Music Education conference in the fall of 2022.
In their classroom, they do everything they can to make sure that their students know they are loved, cared for, and included from the moment they enter the space. Part of that care includes actively and unapologetically being themselves, which involves being as open and honest with their students as possible. They also firmly believe in trusting students when they express questions or truths about themselves, and giving their students the benefit of the doubt in as many situations as possible. Ær works on being intersectional and anti-racist in their teaching practice and was recognized as a Quarterfinalist for the 2022 and 2023 Music Educator Grammy Awards.
You can find them on Facebook: Ær S M Queen, and website is here. Want a rad t-shirt?! Here's the link to their t-shirt "store" - which is also linked on our website! BONUS: All proceeds from t-shirt sales help cover travel costs for teachers who teach at conferences.
More about Nicholas…
Mx. Nicholas Prosini found the love of music at age 9 from playing alto saxophone in the band. Nicholas continued studying alto saxophone in middle school and added piano and clarinet skills. In high school, Mx. Prosini switched to bassoon but played alto saxophone in the marching band.
After high school, Mx. Prosini earned an undergraduate degree in music education at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. After graduation, Mx. Prosini taught band, orchestra, and general music in New Jersey’s public schools for 6 years. It was during this time that Mx. Prosini completed a Master of the Arts in Music Education degree at Montclair State University.
When the COVID pandemic began, Mx. Prosini reimagined their entire music program to exist digitally. It was also during this time that Mx. Prosini discovered their passion for transgender advocacy. Mx. Prosini used social media as a tool to develop and amplify the fact that trans people belong in all spaces, and that gender inclusivity needs to be present at K-12 schools.
In 2021, Mx. Prosini’s passion for gender inclusivity led them to pursue a master’s in Education Leadership degree at CUNY - Hunter College. This degree will empower Mx. Prosini to affect change at the school and district levels as a school principal or Superintendent.
We are humbled and incredibly grateful to have such dedicated educators as part of the Pride and Joy family and appreciate everything Nicholas and Ær are doing for our LGBTQ+ youth in schools. We thank all of our educators nationwide for supporting and advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ+ in schools across America. Comments? Thoughts? Drop them in the comments below.
In addition to our evergreen workshop, The Pride and Joy Foundation is currently seeking fundraising for running these sessions live. If you or someone you know would like to donate, please visit our fundraising page.