Pride Foundation Fellow, Jenny Lor in Oregon, shares her experience in the program.
For ten weeks this summer I had the opportunity to be a Pride Foundation Fellow. I was placed with a host organization, Western States Center, to receive on-the-job skills and learn more about the non-profit world. Western States Center works to build a stronger progressive movement for social, economic, and racial justice in the western region. They provide technical assistance, training, leadership development, and foster a supportive environment where organizations from eight states can come together to collaborate and share organizing successes and challenges.
This summer I learned a lot about community organizing and development work, and felt very welcomed by my colleagues who were genuinely invested in helping me have a broad learning experience. By attending workshops and individualized trainings, I was given the tools needed for the projects I was assigned, which was documenting stories from their VOTE, Uniting Communities and Strong Families NW programs. Being at the Center this summer was inspiring because I was surrounded by fiercely intelligent, diverse radical organizers who intentionally work to develop other leaders from traditionally marginalized communities as a means of social justice, empowerment, and strengthening communities. For me, as a queer woman of color, to see people in positions of leadership who share similar identities helps create visibility, leaving me hopeful and appreciative for their roles in paving the way for future leaders.
I learned that through grassroots fundraising and building a strong donor base, organizations are more invested in their community who inform their work and in turn, the community is more invested in supporting the work that reflects their values. I got to see this in action during their annual fundraiser where community members aligned their pocket books to their values and we raised over $19,000 to support Western States Center’s work.
As a non-traditional student, going back to college has had its economic challenges and I’ve been lucky to have Pride Foundation as a constant supporter. As a scholarship recipient, Pride Foundation has helped fund my education and now as a Fellow, they have provided the necessary learning opportunities to compliment my academic pursuits. I’ve been able to apply the theory and knowledge I’ve been learning in the classroom to my work this summer. In addition to the hands on experience, the other Fellows and I were a part of a learning community, meeting regularly to discuss relevant articles and the progression of our projects.
What I loved most about the fellowship program was the opportunity to learn from professionals in the social justice movement. The skills I learned will help prepare me for my future endeavors and have contributed to my holistic education of classroom knowledge and workplace experience. Being a participant in the program reinforces my passion for advocacy and organizing work and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
What’s next? I’m traveling to Maine this month for a volunteer vacation fighting for marriage equality and I hope to get in some outdoor fun before I start classes at Portland State University in the fall.
Jett Johnson is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Oregon. Email Jett.