Happy Pride Month, Aerie fam! As June comes to a close, we want to end Pride with a special spotlight on not one, but two projects close to our hearts.

First up is #AerieREAL Changemaker Rebecca Damante, founder of Pride and Less Prejudice, a non-profit organization that advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ reading materials in schools. Rebecca is using her Changemaker grant to grow the Pride and Less Prejudice project so that even more pre-K through third-graders have access to diverse, inclusive books. We spoke to her about the need for inclusive educating and how she is celebrating Pride!

In this post, you’ll also meet two grant recipients from the It Gets Better Project, a non-profit that provides hope, encouragement and community to millions of young LGBTQ+ people worldwide. This year, our Pride Month donation goes to It Gets Better’s 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices program, which empowers students across the United States to make their schools more open and inclusive. Two of this year’s grant recipients, Saga and Marz, shared more with us about their projects.

See what they had to say below!

#AerieREAL Changemaker Rebecca Damanate,
Founder of Pride and Less Prejudice

Tell us about your organization and what inspired you to create it. 

When I was growing up, I didn’t personally know anyone who identified as LGBTQ+. But queer representation on TV shows like Glee and Pretty Little Liars fostered my ability to come out to myself, my family, and my friends. Looking back on my childhood, it would have been a game-changer to have books in the classroom that were LGBTQ+-inclusive, as it would have normalized my queer identity. That is why my mom and I created Pride and Less Prejudice, a non-profit organization that sends LGBTQ+-inclusive books to pre-K through third-grade classrooms in the United States and Canada. 

Why is it important for learning environments to be inclusive? 

Given the current attacks on LGBTQ+ youth in the classroom, it is more important than ever for learning environments to be inclusive so that queer students can feel seen, understood, valued and accepted. 

Best advice for the Aerie fam? 

You don’t know unless you try. In our first year, we reached out to celebrities to participate in a campaign video for Pride and Less Prejudice, and never imagined we would have the support of prominent LGBTQ+ individuals like Adam Rippon, Nicole Maines and Tig Notaro. 

How are you celebrating Pride? 

I’ll be meeting up with my queer book club to discuss Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and then checking out the Pride parade in Washington, D.C. 

Saga and Marz, It Gets Better Ambassadors 

Meet Saga and Marz, two grant recipients of the It Gets Better Project’s 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices program! They each told us about their grant-funded projects as well as the types of change they hope to effect in their communities.

Saga, 16 
Cape Elizabeth High School, Maine

Meet Saga! A winner of the 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices grant, Saga wants to help her school’s GSA create training materials for educators and administrators that focus on LGBTQ+ knowledge and inclusion. The trainings will feature videos from students sharing the importance of each topic, and one of Saga’s goals is that eventually a short informational video will be shared with their entire school community at the start of each year.

What are you hoping to see change at your school through this grant opportunity? I hope to see a change in demeanor in my school. Teachers will be more comfortable asking questions to better understand pronouns. They’ll feel more confident in their ability to use pronouns correctly, and we’ll see an openness to growth and change. 

Marz, 14
Idea North Mission College Preparatory, TX

Meet Marz! With his project, Marz intends to host a regional conference in the Rio Grande Valley, which is part of Texas’ southernmost border. The project will provide a safe space to start a conversation and foster collaboration between people in the community who share similar stories and face similar obstacles, and help them find support, friendship and solutions.

What are you hoping to see change at your school through this grant opportunity? We want to be heard and acknowledged so that we are able to create a safer environment for those to come, those who are here currently, and to let others know they are not alone in feeling the way they might feel. 

It Gets Better’s 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices program empowers students across the United States to make their schools more open and inclusive.

Hope you’re having a safe and happy Pride month, Aerie fam! What kind of LGBTQ+-inclusive projects are you most excited about in your community? Tell us in the comments!

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