casey at conferenceI didn’t fully realize just what I was doing; stepping into the glare of the hot California sun on a 105 degree day with four suitcases, a box, and a backpack — I wasn’t aware of the adjustments I would soon be making and how the next three weeks would be.

These past three weeks I’ve moved 2080 miles away from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to Pomona, California on the east end of Los Angeles County. I’ve had to make quite a few adjustments: waking up in a different space to a new “family” of suitemates, cooking for myself, wearing shorts in October, budgeting, learning how to use public transportation, establishing new connections, and most notably starting college at Cal Poly Pomona. Only one week into these adjustments, I called my parents in tears and gushed about missing everyone (though my younger siblings want me to think that leaving the house was the best thing their annoying big brother could do).

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Casey at the Models of Pride Conference

While I’m adjusting to a lot here in sunny SoCal, I haven’t strayed too far from my goals to empower the LGBTQ+ community. I have even used my new space and opportunities to reach out to a new audience; I presented my workshop titled “Art, Identity, and YOU: A Journey Through LGBTQ+ Art Hirstory and Expression from Long Ago to Here and Now” at LA LGBT Center/Lifeworks’ 23rd annual youth-focused Models of Pride Conference. I gave my presentation to 40 attentive youth. I never imagined that 5th graders would ask more insightful questions on art censorship issues and my curated research of artists than I heard at college-sponsored art seminars. My workshop introduced me to some much needed familiarity and new opportunities in my new place of dwelling.

It’s also the little surprises and doses of the unfamiliar that have made these past three weeks extra special for me as the “new kid in town”. My first weekend here in Los Angeles, I went to the LA County Fair on the day that Bob Gurr was a surprise “meet-and-greet” guest at an exhibit on pop culture. Bob Gurr is a Disney Imagineering legend who developed the ride vehicles for most rides at Disneyland and subsequent parks. I had just read his memoir last year, so yeah, I was excited. It dawned on me that this surprise opportunity on a Saturday morning study break was something I could have only gotten here. This experience during week-one of my new chapter affirmed that I was in the right place to pursue my dreams. Another surprise I encountered was a connection with a coordinator for my campus’ Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers. She was forwarded a link to an article I had written on the issue of transgender individuals in public and school bathrooms for MTV News. We got to talking and now I’m a “Diversity Design Studio” graphic designer working with various centers on campus (such as the Pride Center, where I’m making a lot of friends and finding support!).

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Casey met one of his role models, Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr

While I miss my family, while I wince as I memorize yet another formula for my trigonometry course, and while I go through my first harsh design critiques in the study of environmental design — I have so much to smile about because I’m not alone in my new home. Just two weeks ago, I spoke at the Voices on Point Gala (my first Point event since my interview in May) and networked with Point Scholars and Alumni living in the area. I have my Point family, I have my campus family, and my families that I have built back home in Louisville to celebrate the quarter breaks with.

I have so much to smile about as my new classroom spans across the sprawl of Los Angeles County. Which reminds me…

I’ve got a train to catch in the morning to perform a site visit for design class.

This blog post was written by Wells Fargo Point Scholar Casey Hoke

Casey-HokeGrowing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Casey Hoke’s first efforts as a participant in “Day Of Silence” were met with homophobic remarks from students and teachers and Casey never expected to become a confident activist. With aid from his supportive family, Casey did just that in high school as he transitioned from female to male. Casey became a GSA officer and peer educator at duPont Manual High School where he studied visual arts. His efforts to provide a safer community were noticed by GLSEN and in July 2014 he became a student ambassador, working to organizing national events, contributing to media, and speaking at the GLSEN Respect Awards in New York City.

Read more about Casey here.

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