Connor Hesketh is shaking up the status quo of Philadelphia’s universities and moving campuses toward a more accepting future.
A native of South Kingston, R.I., Hesketh said he chose higher education in the “City of Brotherly Love” in order to separate from his brother, his fraternal twin.
“I chose Temple because I wanted to go someplace where I wouldn’t know anyone,” said Hesketh, a senior secondary education history major.
Hesketh formed connections with students across Pennsylvania through his work advocating for GLBT rights during the past four years.
“I joined the Queer Student Union because I not only had friends in the organization, but also wanted to apply my passion for politics,” Hesketh said.
“I enjoy lobbying and advocating for safe school and anti-bullying legislation,” he added. “When I become a teacher, I want my students [to be] in an environment where it is safe to learn.”
QSU networked to encourage stimulating equal-rights education and supported fellow GLBT members, as well as those who had yet to declare their sexual orientation.
Hesketh said during his time in QSU he met Jason Goodman who had the idea to bring together all GLBT student organizations in Pennsylvania. Goodman and Hesketh established the group into a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization known as the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.
“My responsibility is to coordinate all of the groups within city limits,” Hesketh said.
The organization provides resources and support to GLBT youth in local communities and educational institutions.
According to PSEC’s mission statement, the organization, “works for Pennsylvania to be a commonwealth that respects the diversity of human expression and identity, which provides opportunity for all.”
Hesketh’s progress forming PSEC prompted QSU to elect him as president in Spring 2011.
“During my presidency, I worked with major organizations to make our community more accepting,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh led a “Back to School Night” fundraiser that brought in $1,200 in one night and hosted a party at iCandy Nightclub where students from across the city wore their college’s colors.
“It was a massive social event for GLBT youth and everyone had fun,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh said that Temple’s administration has always supported QSU.
“Temple is a great school for practicing GLBT rights,” Hesketh said.
“President [Ann Weaver] Hart actually reached out to us after the suicides last year to offer her office and any other assistance that she could provide,” Hesketh added. “Hart is an understanding leader who realizes bullying remains a big issue in schools.”
With his last few months at Temple on his mind, Hesketh reflected on four years of encouraging students to take pride in their beliefs.
“I always say that I could have gone other places, but I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying my time as much as I have at Temple,” Hesketh said. “I cultivated my love of politics, participated in community organizing and lobbied for something that I believe in.”
“What I do, anybody can do,” Hesketh added. “I’m just a regular person that got involved.”
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.