Justin Weller served last school year as an AdviseMI college adviser at Perry High School. He is currently working as a strategic engagement intern with MCAN for the summer, and he plans to serve as a college adviser again next school year.

What makes Pride Month important to you?

Pride is not only a way to express myself authentically as a queer person but also to appreciate the history of queer leaders of the past, especially trans women of color. Without their tireless advocacy, protest, and mutual aid, queer and trans people would not have the freedoms we have today. Pride is a time to celebrate, as well as a collective societal call to action to not repeat the same mistakes of the past.

What does Pride Month mean to you in your role as a college adviser?

As an AdviseMI college adviser, I see Pride as a time to advocate for and to celebrate my students. For me, Pride does not stop in June. It continues every month of the year. Ensuring that LGBTQ+ students have an LGBTQ-friendly adviser to turn to is important, as it may be their only resource at school. I utilize resources such as the Campus Pride Index and FastWeb, as well as providing my own experiences as a queer person, to inform my work on providing inclusive LGBTQ+ college access.

In what ways have you supported LGBTQ+ students in your college access work?

Cultural humility is an essential and life-saving skill to have for working with vulnerable populations, especially LGBTQ+ students and students of color. As an adviser, I provide resources about LGBTQ+ college campuses and minority-focused scholarships, as well as educate my students about policies in college that affect gender and sexuality, such as Title IX and pronoun policies on campus. Next year, I plan to co-advise our school's new GSA club outside of my AdviseMI duties.

How does celebrating Pride Month tie into improving college access and fighting for education equity?

Pride is a reminder of the struggle that LGBTQ+ students continue to face, including discrimination, harassment, and social exclusion. It is also a call to action to continually revise our work to best serve vulnerable minority student populations. It’s important to recognize that the LGBTQ+ population intersects with a variety of populations, and Pride is a time to listen to the voices in the queer community that have been systemically silenced, such as people of color, people with disabilities, and trans and non-binary people.