Talking with Brandin Smith, it is clear that he is a thoughtful, patient, and very driven young leader who knows where he wants to go in life.
This intuition about his future first came when he was a young child and his Aunt was diagnosed with lupus. Brandin was always close to his Aunt—who was more like his second mother—and went with her to her daily treatments at the hospital. During these visits, he noticed the profound bond and trust his Aunt shared with the nurses.
This experience led Brandin to later become a volunteer at the very same nursing station where his Aunt spent so much of her time. “My Aunt passed away eight years ago, and she is still remembered by the staff as one of their favorite patients,” said Brandin. “That is what I want. I want to touch the lives of the patients that I take care of, and I want them to touch mine.”
In the fall, Brandin will begin working towards a degree in nursing at Whitworth University in Spokane. He plans to pursue his dream of helping people through medicine and is looking forward to small class sizes and continuing his involvement in the theater community.
Brandin grew up in Nespelem, a town of a just a few hundred people located on the Colville Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington. Going to school in a small, religious town and being the only openly gay student at his high school was a challenge and struggle for Brandin—but the experience helped solidify his career path. “Helping people is what I was meant to do,” he said. “I may not be able to save everybody, but I will keep them alive in my heart, just as the nurses did for my aunt.”
Despite the animosity he felt from his classmates, Brandin used his senior project as an opportunity to start the school’s very first GSA in 2014. It wasn’t easy. Teachers and students alike made an effort to halt the project—ripping down posters as soon as he put them up. Parents also fought the formation of the club, making angry calls to the Principal.
Luckily, Brandin was working with the school counselor to form the club, who he calls the “backbone” of this project. Eventually, after months of hard work, the project became a reality. The GSA is now the most popular club at his high school, highlighting that despite the vocal opposition—the majority of students were in support of the project.
Throughout his life, Brandin has always been a role model to his three younger brothers. While he was still a child himself, his parents would leave for long periods of time—leaving him as the main caretaker of his brothers.
“Receiving this scholarship means that I’ll be able to show my younger siblings the correct path to follow,” said Brandin. “My journey has shown them what is possible when they are focused and stay in school.”
His advice to other students applying for a scholarship? “Don’t procrastinate. Get as many adults to look at your application as possible. Get as many opinions as you can.” After college, Brandin hopes to move to New York City where he can continue to be an activist and leader—this time surrounded by more people who share his values.
“Giving a scholarship to students like me is one step towards equality,” Brandin mused, adding that “It validates who you are.”
Kira Deshler is Pride Foundation’s Communications Intern.