“Hope in a Box ultimately wants to make LGBTQ-inclusive education the norm, rather than the exception in every single public school in this country,” said founder and executive director Joe English. That’s a lofty ambition, but English seems to be on his way to doing just that. “At its heart, Hope in a Box helps educators create classrooms that are safe and welcoming and inclusive for all students, but particularly LGBTQ students,” English said. The program is, literally, a box containing more than two dozen books featuring LGBTQ characters and themes, plus curriculum guides and information for further outreach. “We give that free to rural high schools and lower income high schools,” said English. “It would have meant the absolute world to have had even one book assigned in class or one unit that acknowledged LGBTQ people.” Growing up gay, English said, fueled his mission to bring more equity to public education. He started the program in 2018 as a pilot in about 30 schools. It will be in more than 1,000 schools across the country by the end of this academic year, he said. “Their mission really is impactful,” said Kelly Grady, a librarian at Meadow Hill School in Newburgh, New York.
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