LGBT University Apprentice in Florida Works to Strengthen Orlando Community

By Adam Polaski • July 5, 2016 • 7:00 am

Editors’ Note: This post was written by Hannah Willard, an LGBT University apprentice in the Class of 2016. Through her work with Equality Florida and One Orlando, Hannah – who lives in Orlando – has been working to organize her community following the senseless loss of 49 lives in an LGBT club on June 12. She has written this reflection and described how LGBT University has impacted her work. If you’re interested in applying for LGBT-U, applications are open through July 22, so just click here to learn more and apply.

Ever since I woke up on the morning of June 12 and heard the heartbreaking news about the horrific shooting at Pulse Nightclub’s Latin Night, I have been filled with so many emotions – shock, grief, fear, and anger, yes – but also inspiration and resolve unlike ever before.

I live in Orlando. It’s my hometown. And for three weeks I have been moved to tears time and again by the kindness and generosity that have enveloped my city and the LGBT community nationwide. I am proud to have helped coordinate our emergency response to this tragedy, through planning vigils and managing the overwhelming media requests, as Equality Florida organizes the groundswell of love and coordinate it to make the most significant impact.

During this challenging time, I am reminded how grateful I am to be a part of LGBT University, the year-long apprenticeship program designed to train the next wave of leaders in the LGBT movement. This thoughtful program helped me to build the backbone that I really have needed this summer to respond under pressure and keep people moving forward.

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When I began my apprenticeship with LGBT University last year, I never imagined how important the very first session on self-care would be in the midst of this tragedy. I never imagined how much love and support I would receive from my fellow LGBT University members. And I never imagined how much of the training I received at LGBT-U would sustain me as I launched myself into the emergency activism that my city so badly needs.

I have learned so much from LGBT University. If you have a desire to get involved with the fight for LGBT equality, I hope you’ll apply. Applications are being accepted through July 22. 

LGBT-U is an intensive, skills-focused boot camp. But it’s also a family. It’s a community. And it’s a safe space for activists committed to this movement to gear up and come together for the hard work ahead.

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The challenges for the LGBT movement sometimes seem insurmountable. That’s how I felt in the morning hours of June 12. But in the hours and days that followed, I saw that they aren’t insurmountable – I’ve seen that when smart, passionate advocates come together and organize, we can make real change.

We need more of those advocates to be better trained – and that’s what LGBT University is here for. You can learn more and apply to the program, which is coordinated and fully funded by Freedom for All Americans, by clicking here.

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