Growing up in rural Yakima Valley in Central Washington, Kris Gonzalez remembers her father and his family working in fields cutting turnips, asparagus, grapes, and the toll this labor took on them.
“My grandparents were immigrants from Mexico who faced a lot of hardships. Growing up, there were a lot of doors that were not open to me—I didn’t even know there were doors.”
“Looking back, I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without my grandmother, Edna,” Kris reflects. “She believed in me wholeheartedly. When I cut my hair short and changed my name to Kris at age four, she supported me.”
Edna believed education was the key that would open doors, and this inspired Kris to become a teacher. Kris’s path, though, was not without struggle. She was closeted for 17 years out of fear of being fired.
“Eventually, I came out because I believed it was my responsibility to show my students that they could be exactly who they are,” Kris explains.
Kris’s commitment to supporting students extends beyond her classroom. In 2015, she joined a Pride Foundation scholarship review committee focused on supporting Latinx youth.
“The experience of reading their applications reminds me of my history and the legacy I want to leave in this world,” Kris reflects.
Inspired by her grandmother, the stories of Latinx students, and supported by the generosity of family and friends, Kris recently started the Edna Earl Education Scholarship for Latinx LGBTQ+ and allied students studying education.
“I know firsthand how much a supportive community can mean. I can’t think of a better way to honor my grandmother than by working to open even more doors for students through education and wholehearted support of exactly who they are.”