Scholar Class – 2011
After coming out as lesbian during her sophomore year in high school, Kailin Kauffman-Jewell joined West High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) with the goal of increasing acceptance of LGBT students. Although her immediate family was accepting, the next few years presented many challenges including the divorce of her parents and an ensuing blended family; coping with her father’s depression and her sister’s hospitalizations from Cystic Fibrosis; and dealing with homophobic relatives. She also faced homophobia from friends, classmates and occasionally teachers at school. During her senior year, a friend she had met at a leadership camp for LGBT students, committed suicide because of the intolerance he faced in his conservative hometown.
Throughout these difficult years, Kailin gained solace and strength from the open arms of the LGBTQ community and her rewarding involvement with LGBT activism. She was a leader of her GSA during her junior and senior years, held an internship with Fair Wisconsin (an LGBT advocacy group) and was a student planner for GSA for Safe Schools. Through GSAFE, she spoke on panels for students and educators from around Wisconsin, organized state-wide GSA conferences and attended the Leadership Training Institute. Kailin plans to continue to contribute to the LGBT community which has helped her become a strong leader and a confident individual.