Coaching and Celebrating LGBT University’s Second Cohort of Apprenticeship GraduatesBy Freedom for All Americans • April 17, 2017 • 3:48 pm
Note: This post was written by Carter Roberts, who graduated from the first cohort of the LGBT University Apprenticeship Program and now serves as a coach for the program. He reflects here on the graduation of leaders he has helped to train.
Earlier this month sixteen LGBT advocates and allies joined together in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate a year of education and growth through the LGBT University Apprenticeship Program, Freedom for All Americans’ year-long apprenticeship program designed to build the next wave of leaders for campaigns to win LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. The LGBT-U Apprenticeship graduation, the capstone of the innovative and intensive program, allowed the apprentices to reflect on what they’ve learned about the best strategies for advancing LGBT equality and building momentum toward national non discrimination protections.
For most of the past year these 16 individuals worked diligently on a thorough campaign simulation. While each of these apprentices differ in their experiences that bring them to the table, they all share one common value – the belief that all Americans, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, deserve fair and equal treatment.
LGBT University is an innovative training initiative dedicated to preparing individuals to work on local, state, and national campaigns to pass laws that fully protect LGBT people in America from discrimination. The apprenticeship, one part of the initiative, leads a small group of leaders through monthly webinars, in-person meeting sessions, regular homework assignments, and a hands-on learning experience to educate on best practices for how to secure nondiscrimination protections by gaining skills in fundraising, lobbying, voter targeting, and communication strategies. During the latter half of the program, apprentices compete in a mock campaign simulation to advance their understanding of public education, advocacy, and ballot initiatives. Freedom for All Americans makes it possible for these individuals to learn from some of the best movement leaders by offering a full scholarship for travel, lodging, and other necessary accommodations.
In November 2016, the first cohort graduated from the LGBT-U Apprenticeship and began to pursue endeavors to maintain connections within the movement. The first step in doing so involved the development of the alumni program, which allows for a deeper understanding of the material and connections to prospective jobs. The second aspect, the coaching piece, calls on LGBT-U Apprenticeship graduates to give back to the program by providing support as the next cohort navigates their way through the mock campaign simulation.
When I first started the LGBT-U Apprenticeship program in September 2015 as part of the program’s inaugural cohort, I was familiar with little more in the political organizing sphere than the directions to my personal local voting booth. Graduating from the program and subsequently serving as a coach allowed me to learn from the most brilliant minds in the campaign world. I cannot explain the honor of watching four unique, diverse, and hardworking teams compete, yet support one another, in their shared vision of a country that fulfills its promise of opportunity and freedom for all – where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have an equal chance to thrive.
“I cannot explain the honor of watching four unique, diverse, and hardworking teams compete, yet support one another, in their shared vision of a country that fulfills its promise of opportunity and freedom for all.”
– Carter Roberts
As the second cohort collectively sighed in relief and accomplishment after their final presentations, they had the opportunity to share what the experience was like for them. One word became a common theme: “invested.” Every person described their gratitude for the generosity of everyone who makes this program possible.
I could not agree more with the sentiment of feeling invested in by the Freedom for All Americans team. Investment is the very reason I volunteered to coach the next cohort to show my appreciation for the time and energy that allowed me to call myself a leader. Before this program, I did not recognize my true potential and consciously prevented myself from progressing forward. Through my experiences during the first cohort, I challenged myself, with the support of my team and trainers, to step outside of my comfort zone and grow professionally and personally.
As the third cohort nears the start of their simulation, I look forward to new opportunities to improve my leadership skills and work alongside individuals passionate about creating change. The LGBT-U Apprenticeship program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity grounded in a focus on what is important to all of us: Taking pride in our work and celebrating a job well done.
To the graduates of the second cohort, I applaud you for a job well done throughout the last year and look forward to what the future holds as we all work to ensure protections for every American.