- Age: 26
- Hometown: Milford, CT
- Alma Mater: Fairfield University
- Alma Mater: Hard Organ Transplant Nurse
Michael participated in Camp Pride in 2009. Now, he works as an organ transplant nurse. We asked Michael 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?
I first became involved with campus pride when one of our diversity professionals approached me and asked if I would like to attend. I hadn’t ever heard of Campus Pride before then and, sadly, I never dreamt that something so wonderful even existed. When I looked into the program further I fell in love at first sight and couldn’t wait to attend.
My experience was so life changing and, if this makes any sense, a breath of fresh air. It was the first time in my life that I was around a group of purely open people who were just like me. I felt at home and SAFE! I felt like I had acquired an instant family and I still keep in contact with some of my wonderful peers. The thing that I remember most is that everyone just wanted to do good work… they were so motivated! It felt like we could change the world with our ideas and our drive and I have no doubt that some of them did.
Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with Campus Pride.
One of my fondest memories and most life changing were my walks with J’ lissabeth. When all the festivities would die down and we had free time, we would go for leisurely walks throughout campus and just talk. I remember thinking about how dynamic she was (and still is). I probably have never told her but she really did change my life. She taught me to fight, to take on an adventure, but most of all to be myself. I think she is one of the most dynamic and inspiring people I know. We would reflect on the days activities and how we felt, how they translated into our spheres of reality, and what we were hoping the future looked like. I still talk to her this day. Even though we are both running around with our crazy lives on opposite sides of the country, we can always check in and pick up right where we left off. She definitely was my greatest mentor in the program.
Describe what you are doing today with your professional life and how Campus Pride helped to prepare you?
Now that many years have passed, I moved into the nursing profession and I actually work as a hard organ transplant nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital. I take care of patients before and after liver, kidney, and occasional pancreas transplantation. Campus Pride definitely helps me in my everyday life for many reasons. It taught me to “go for the gold” and to constantly ask “are we doing enough?” and “can we be better?” I apply these simple but effective questions to every aspect of my career, my institution, and myself. It also taught me how not only to be a leader but also to be a “rock” in times of crisis. As a nurse or any healthcare professional, you have to learn how to direct your passion and use it as fuel rather than a hindrance in tough situations. Though it sounds simple, the openness and logic I learned from this program helps me to navigate through new situations, patient and family dynamics, and self-reflection.
How did Campus Pride impact you and your individual growth as a leader?
Well, I think the greatest impact it had on my leadership ability was showing me what a leader was. I am not, by definition, what you would think of as a leader. I am not on the board for any organization, I’m not the chair of any charity, and I am not recognized at Yale as anything other than a floor nurse. But I’m still a leader. Campus Pride showed me that it’s not titles that make the leader–it’s action. It’s how you conduct yourself in everyday life, it’s what you fight for, how you fight, and most importantly what stand for. It’s not going along with the pack and being confident and sound enough in your convictions to blaze your own trails down paths that are less traveled. This is what a leader is. Though I am nothing special, I lead my life, my family, and my friends, through the support of my convictions and the actions I take to make them a reality. Maybe in a few more years I’ll get the title.
What value do you feel Campus Pride brings to LGBTQ and Ally young adult leaders?
Oh so much! It brings SO MUCH to the table for these kids. For one, Campus Pride gives them a platform where they can focus on what it really means to be a part of the LGBTQA community. It gets them talking about real issues and allows them to build a network of trailblazing individuals who have convictions and values that they might have never seen or experienced before. It also helps them to self- examine in a safe place with supportive people who have their best interests at heart. I could write a book about the worth of this program if I wanted to.
How does Campus Pride still provide enrichment to your life today and what you do professionally?
To be honest the memories are what still enrich my life and fuel me. The short week I spent with my peers was my ultimate. It felt like what I dreamed the world could be. We were supportive, kind, intelligent, and most of all compassionate towards each other. These values and experiences are things I want to see in the greater community, in my profession and my own life. It’s the rocket fuel that makes me want to get involved and help change the tone of our community as much as the greater community.
What advice do you have for those involved in Campus Pride or for those who want to become more involved?
For those who are debating about going…GO! Get your butt to campus pride this instant! It is the chance of a lifetime and you will never EVER regret the time you invested! TO those of you who are going! DIG IN! OPEN UP! TRY! The only stupid question is one not asked! This is a time and place to expand and grow! The mentors you will encounter are there to help you work through your questions and hindrances with no judgment! These are seasoned professionals who are there to help YOU navigate through your experiences and beliefs. PUSH THE LIMITS! It is a week that is meant to shape your lifetime so don’t EVER sit on those sidelines!
What knowledge, skills and resources do you use today in your professional life that you learned from Campus Pride?
Again, there are too many to list but the favorite thing I learned was humility. A leader, in my opinion, is not loud. Or domineering. Most importantly a leader isn’t judgmental. A real leader who knows what they believe in and stands for is humble and “even keel” because they understand the logic and definitions of their convictions. That is not to say they aren’t receptive to change, but a true leader who understands their core doesn’t have to shout it at people. They have enough humility to calmly enter into a discussion and understand that they can gain something from it as much as the other person. That skill is my favorite, to know I can walk into work and talk with my boss, or colleagues, or people I pass in life and know how to enter into a conversation and intelligently debate rather than battle.
What’s next for you in your personal and, or professional goals?
Oh I always love “What’s next” questions because it invites you to dream a bit. Professionally, I am in the last year of my Masters. I will graduate as a Family Nurse Practitioner in 2015 from Fairfield University. I am hoping that I can work with the transgendered community and support them through their transitional period. I want to focus in Cosmetic plastics and be more surgically oriented.
As for personally, I am hoping to reconnect and find better balance in life—something that all of us need to strive for. I have been working and studying so much I’ve forgot to have fun! Who would have thought that could happen! So in this next year, I’m going to make an earnest effort to get myself and my partner involved with the community more! Maybe even Campus Pride if there is any room!
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.