Connecticut’s Very First LGBTQ School To Open By December 2023

One Of Its Kind

As a huge debate still arises around the topic of LGBTQ community and their lifestyle, lawmakers have continued to debate their representation in U.S. schools. In addition to this, Connecticut’s PROUD Academy plans to open its doors to an extensive number of queer youths and allies by the end of this year.

Throughout the last 30 years as a teacher, Patricia Nicolari had said that she faced a lot of harassment from all her students due to her sexuality. Some even left her notes on her desk asking if at all she was a lesbian. Others called her an absolute dyke under their breaths. One day the students even went so low so as to carve “Lez” into her car.

From left, Brandon Iovene, board member of Proud Academy Inc., Kassandra Hernandez, president/chair, Patty Nicolari, executive director, and Chelsea Reid, vice president, are photographed in New Haven on July 7, 2022.

She says that during that time, she remembers going through a lot of anxiety. She goes on to say that she can’t imagine her students of the same kind going through the same questioning themselves and how unsafe it is for them to come out, so she gave up thinking and started to act out on it instead.

In September of 2023, she plans to open a private school in Connecticut that’s utterly designed to be an open space for LGBTQ students. PROUD Academy, which stands for Proudly Respecting Our Unique Differences Academy, will take extensive actions and prioritize what Nicolari saw lacking in the U.S. education system: a sordidly safe, affirming and ragging-free academic environment for all the LGBTQ students.

Affirming Optimism

The private school’s curriculum aims to include educational basics like math and science classes, rigorous courses at the Advanced Placement and honors levels, and lessons that touch upon LGBTQ history and literature. In addition to fostering a queer-friendly environment, Nicolari said she wants to hire mental health counselors who can cater to the specific challenges of these youths.

When Nicolari first set out to launch PROUD Academy, she planned to only enroll students in grades seven through 12. But since word about the school has spread, Nicolari said, there’s been a strong demand from parents with younger children as well, and she now plans to accommodate these families. Some families only want their child to be happy and if this academy can provide that, it’ll be a priceless experience.

The school hasn’t decided on a location to put up the establishment but Nicolari said that it will be either in or near the city of New Haven, where Yale University is, and she hopes to start the school from grade three to begin with. Research has shown that LGBTQ people go through a lot of stress and bullying the entire year round.

Melissa Combs’ transgender son attends a middle school in Farmington as of now in Connecticut. Combs is working as a fundraiser for PROUD Academy and she her son is regularly bullied for his gender identity so much so that he was physically assaulted last year during the Pride Month in June. She said sending her son to a school like PROUD Academy will be certainly “life-changing.”