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Katie Easley ‘24: Community Fosters Love and Family

Katie Easley

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Katie Easley attended Appalachian State University for her Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management before coming to NC State to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work.

As a new graduate student looking to get involved in the campus community, Katie found a space in the LGBTQ Pride Center where she felt heard and accepted. She holds great value to the impact it had on her.

“I was really looking for opportunities within NC State’s community to get involved as someone who had just moved here. I hadn’t previously felt like I made an impact yet and wanted to do so,” said Katie. “I came in having a passion for working with LGBTQ+ youth that was unfulfilled.”

How the LGBTQ Pride Center Shaped Katie

Katie joined the Pride Center as a graduate assistant, supervising undergraduate students and assisting with events like the clothing swap, the Lavender Graduation celebration, Pride Fest and Day of Giving. Lavender Graduation was especially meaningful to Katie.

“It’s a separate graduation [celebration] with about 150 people, for people within the community to have their own moment. They can use their different pronouns, they can use their preferred name and they get a bio that gets read when they walk across the stage,” she said. “It’s a special night to celebrate everyone.”

Beyond the events, Katie highlights the impact the staff at the center has left on her.  It was through her co-workers that she learned to prioritize herself and her mental health. Charla Blumell, director of the Pride Center, was specifically memorable for Katie.

“Charla has been such an inspiration to me, she’s a fantastic mentor. She really prioritizes your own mental health and really showed me what I want out of my future career,” Katie said. “Charla had so many lessons to offer. She taught me that you have to prioritize yourself and everything you do. There was never a ‘no’ with her —if there was anything we wanted to do that would impact the students in any way, we would find a way to do it.”

Under Charla’s guidance, Katie grew to be more confident within herself.

“She pushed me to be more imaginative and creative. I’m a lot more confident now. I was always supported and it was an empowering feeling. All of the staff showed me there is always a way and I became more willing to speak up and felt more valued in that space.”

What Katie Enjoys Most About The Centers

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Katie deeply appreciated the visible role models among NC State’s faculty and staff.

“We had a huge amount of people that were faculty and staff who identified with the community. As someone who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community too, it’s nice to see so much support and allyship within the community,” she said.  “It’s incredible… and just knowing that it’s a really inclusive place to work is awesome.”

She added, “a big struggle within the LGBTQ+ community is not seeing happy, thriving older individuals. Being able to see visible staff members that you can look up to is awesome. You have all these role models around you and that’s amazing that that’s a priority at NC State.”

The tight-knit nature of the Pride Center provided a strong sense of belonging.

“I’m still very close with all the staff. The staff and I leaned on each other so much. We had so many moments where we would just lean on each other to get projects done and it was always just such a happy outcome.”

What Katie Wants Others to Know

The center’s close community gave Katie a deep sense of belonging. Words like “love” and “family” are what she uses to describe the bonds that have allowed her to flourish at the Pride Center.

“Anybody in there will drop anything for you; they’re good people. Everyone comes together there as a family,” said Katie.

After her time at the Pride Center, Katie believes that the students left the greatest impact on her.

One message she has for other students is “If you have ideas, go and share them; get involved. It is so important that we have student voice. There’s nothing we want more.”

Future Aspirations

Now looking ahead, Katie is eager to pay forward the empowerment she found at the Pride Center to the youth through social work. Through the center she was able to experience speaking with other students about their concerns that were often personal.

“My area of social work will be in direct practice, working with youth and young adults on diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD.”

Katie also considers herself to be an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist.

“I welcome clients of all identities. I am looking forward to beginning my career at an outpatient clinic working with youth, and becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the years to come.”

– Interviewed by Annabella Battaglia-Morgan (Communications ’24)

This post was originally published in Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED).

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