Working in public schools might be unusual for someone who never attended school as a child, but for Jillian Wedel it’s a perfect fit.
Wedel has been presenting films about queer lives to students in Vancouver Island high schools and facilitating discussions for Out in Schools for the last five years.
“I was home-schooled growing up, so school is kind of a foreign ground for me,” admits Wedel, who also goes by Jay and uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they.”
Wedel is now completing a sociology degree at the University of Victoria, thanks in part to the LOUD scholarship they received in 2014 from BC’s lesbian and gay business association. Distributed annually, the LOUD scholarships recognize and support future leaders in the LGBT community.
“It’s sort of been a lifelong dream of mine to go to university,” Wedel says. “I was a little intimidated, so [the LOUD scholarship] was definitely kind of a motivator to get over some of those fears and actually pursue this dream.”
In addition to their work with Out in Schools, Wedel is involved with a forthcoming youth drop-in program in Victoria for LGBT youth.
They also work as a piano instructor, and volunteer as an instructor at Girls Rock Camp Victoria, a non-profit organization offering young girls the chance to learn to play instruments.
Wedel combines their love of music — and its ability to bring people together — with their personal approach to activism. “I always want to be breaking down barriers, and I always want to be inviting people in rather than pushing people out,” they say.
When Wedel came out, their parents did not accept them and ultimately Wedel had to cut ties with them. This lack of acceptance is another reason the LOUD scholarship has meant so much to them.
“It was so much more than the money,” Wedel says. “I was invited over to Vancouver to the gala — in a room filled with members of my community that maybe I hadn’t met before, but I felt like I was their family.”
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