David Topping: Campus Pride Leaders in Action - Where Are They Now?

David Topping

  • Age: 27
  • Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI
  • Alma Mater: Western Michigan University
  • Alma Mater: Campaign Consultant

David participated in Camp Pride in 2008, and returned as a Pride Leader in 2009.   Now, he works as a campaign consultant.  We asked David to reflect on his experiences with Campus Pride and how they’ve affected his life and work since.  Below are his responses.

When did you first become involved with Campus Pride and what do you recall about your experience?

My first experience with Campus Pride was in 2008 during the Camp Pride event.  This was the 2nd annual camp, and it was astounding.  We were still working things out and figuring out how the hell this thing called “Gay Camp” worked.  It was amazing for me.  I had never been in a room where people were just as motivated as I was to make real change on their campus and in their communities.  I had no clue what I would be experiencing when I went there, and I can honestly say that Campus Pride is part of the reason I continued moving on the advocacy path that I am still on today.  It was invigorating, emotional, confusing, exciting, and simply fantastic.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with Campus Pride.

I don’t have a specific moment, but I can say that there are three specific people that I am incredibly thankful for whom I would never have had a chance to meet without Campus Pride.  They are Laura Graving, Judi O’Kelley, and Katy Garrison.  Laura and I have been good friends ever since we first attended Campus Pride together and were in the same den.  She is one of the most amazing, intelligent people I have ever met in my life.  Judi O’Kelley was my faculty member when I was a Pride Leader, and she had such a huge impact on my life that I don’t think either one of us understands.  She was a wonderful person to work with, and I still talk to her today.  Finally, Katy Garrison was one of my den members and I have never met anyone else who can just light up my day.  She is so intelligent and I still call her to this day to bounce ideas off of her and vent about frustrations.  I’m inspired by her and the work she’s done every single day.

Describe what you are doing today with your professional life and how Campus Pride helped to prepare you?

Nowadays, I run campaigns for political office.  I finished a local city commission campaign in November of 2013, and I am currently running the campaign for Jon Hoadley for State Representative (MI-HD60).  Jon would be the 2nd openly gay member of the Michigan State Legislature, and the first since 2006.  He’s a young candidate and has done amazing work the past ten years for LGBT equality.  Campus Pride helped me move forward on my advocacy path, and I think it helped me start to gain the skills I needed to work on campaigns: stability, durability, stamina, quick thinking.  Before this, I worked at a LGBT community center running youth and volunteer programming.

How did Campus Pride impact you and your individual growth as a leader?

Campus Pride gave me access to a huge network of people that care deeply about social justice.  It’s invaluable to my work as an organizer.  Because of this network, I’m able to reach out to folks who have different views and experiences than myself to discuss the issues I am having in my own field.  If anything, they give me the ability to talk to folks outside my work who are able to simply understand the problems I am having and to listen objectively.

What value do you feel Campus Pride brings to LGBTQ and Ally young adult leaders?

Campus Pride provides an amazing network of LGBTQ and Ally leaders for young people to connect with in their lives.  It’s important for young people to have professional areas where they can develop and grow.  Campus Pride gives LGBTQ students that unique network they can’t get anywhere else: hundreds of LGBTQ college students who are just as committed as they are to social justice and real work on their campuses.

How does Campus Pride still provide enrichment to your life today and what you do professionally?

I’m not as connected to Campus Pride now as I was when I was in college.  I still meet up with Campus Pride folks at any national or regional conferences I attend.  I also stay connected with some Campus Pride people via social media and regular check-ins.  I believe Judi O’Kelley has sat through 3 conversations with me about law school, all of which have come to the same conclusion!  The most invaluable thing I have been given by Campus Pride is the personal network I was able to cultivate through the organization.

What advice do you have for those involved in Campus Pride or for those who want to become more involved?

Stay in touch with your folks!  There are plenty of people I have not kept in regular touch with, and I wish I had.  If anything, talk to your other den members on a regular basis.  Keep in touch with these people.  They’re going places, and you should be going with them.

What knowledge, skills and resources do you use today in your professional life that you learned from Campus Pride?

Right now, one of the most important things that I learned from Campus Pride is how to make lasting connections with people.  So much of political organizing is about creating lasting relationships with people, and Campus Pride helped me learn more techniques for doing that.

What’s next for you in your personal and, or professional goals?

Right now I’m working on Jon Hoadley’s campaign, working to make the Michigan Legislature more representative of LGBT people.  We’ve been endorsed by multiple LGBT organizations, most notably the Victory Fund.  After that, we’ll see what happens!

Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.

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