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Nonprofit helps schools nationwide be more inclusive of LGBTQ community

Joe English hopes kids today don't have to go through school feeling like they have to stay in the closet.

News 12 Staff

Jun 29, 2021, 2:48 AM

Updated 1,089 days ago

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A nonprofit is helping schools around the country be more inclusive to the LGBTQ community, including in Orange County.
Joe English, founder of Hope in a Box, says that growing up, he never watched or saw or read anything that really spoke to him as a gay person. He says he also felt alone for much of his childhood. 
He says it's his hope that kids today won't grow up the way he did.
"There is a huge mental and emotional toll that comes from having to lie about who you are… and unfortunately, we still see to this day, unbelievably high rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, violence, substance abuse, homelessness, the list goes on in the LGBTQ community," says English
English launched Hope in a Box right before the pandemic.
Teachers apply, and the nonprofit sends them a curated pack of books - from novels to poetry to plays - by LGBTQ authors and about the LGBTQ community.
Kim Constable, who teaches English at Washingtonville High School says schools like hers - that are rural and receive Title 1 funding - get the box for free.
The books aren't a mandatory part of her curriculum, but they're there if the students choose.
"I identify as a cisgender straight woman, and I think that the privileges I hold mean I should take more responsibility in making sure that our students are supported," says Constable.
Hope in a Box is now partnered with 500 schools in all 50 states.
English says he is surprised at how positive the response has been.
"In the situations where there has been a skeptical school administrator or school board—this isn't a big political movement, this isn't some conceptual civil rights protest, this is a really human discussion about how you make sure kids feel safe and welcome at school," says English.
English hopes schools can be more inclusive for the next generation, believing it's never too early to learn it's okay to be yourself.
"It's important that our young children and teenagers understand that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity," says Constable.


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