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Rick Occulto

Our Family Coalition - www.ourfamily.org

Q. Who is OFC? What is your position?

Our Family Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) families with children through support, education, and advocacy. We seek to create an inclusive and just world where all LGBTQ families with children have visibility and opportunities to thrive as valued participants in our schools, institutions, and communities.

As the Education Coordinator I work with schools and other youth-serving professionals to help them create more welcoming and inclusive environments for diverse families. We believe that by engaging families to advocate on behalf of their children that we can encourage those communities to recognize and celebrate their diversity. By acknowledging and celebrating the fact that everyone has a unique story, comes from a unique family with diverse members, different faiths, genders, family structures, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc… we hope to create a more positive climate at schools.

Q. What are you doing to create a safer school community for LGBTQ students?

Every year we invite the community to join us in a conversation about how to make their schools more welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ families. We have named our annual town hall Everyone’s School, and as the title implies, we strive to create a climate where all families can feel welcomed. At this event we engage the youth in some of the welcoming and inclusive lesson plans we recommend for the classroom. Meanwhile, the adults collaborate with other families, schools, and topic experts to discuss better ways to nurture positive school climate.

As an ongoing partnership, for the past four years we have co-hosted the LGBTQ Family Diversity Night at Marshall Elementary School. Together we have created programs that address both LGBTQ students and families and educate other families on those experiences. We hope to be able to bring this tradition to other schools in SFUSD.

Q. What are some student/school reactions to the work you’ve done?

We’ve received very positive reactions for our work, particularly for our parent education workshops. It is not uncommon for a parent to come up to us afterwards and express gratitude for representing non-stereotypical families. Of course, we have also had some pushback where some parents express concern about students hearing about LGBTQ people.

Q. What would you like to do better this year?

I would really like to get more parents involved in their schools. We’re partnering pretty closely with Ruth Grabowski and Maribel Sainez at the Department of Family & Community Partnerships at the district. I’d like to see these families advocating for programs, visibility, and inclusion in their own ways working with us and the school district.

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Quote - “Treat everyone like you love them, even if they are different.” - 12th grader, School of the Arts High School

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