Ella Briggs, an 11-year-old Connecticut resident, became her state’s first openly gay “kid governor” in January ― and she’s aiming to one day have national and even global impact.
The fifth-grader, who attends the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary Magnet School in Avon, was elected to the post by 6,400 of her peers from 87 schools across the state. During her campaign, she made LGBTQ youth safety her primary focus, noting that she was inspired by her own experience.
She’s already so invested in public service, she said she would love to become America’s “first lesbian president,” according to the Hartford Courant.
“A lot of kids don’t feel comfortable with who they are and that makes me really sad, because I just want everyone to be happy and be themselves. I like being myself,” Ella told the Connecticut Post in an interview published Wednesday. “I wouldn’t change one thing about me and I wouldn’t change one about anyone else in the whole world.”
Watch a short video of Ella’s inauguration below.
Still, the road to living authentically hasn’t been easy. Ella has said she was harassed at the public school she attended in East Hampton, Connecticut, after she first identified as a lesbian. In third and fourth grade, she said her classmates ostracized her and refused to sit next to her in class.
“I think they were just scared of me,” she told the Post. “They were afraid to touch me.”
When she told a substitute teacher that she identified as gay, Ella said, the teacher told her that subject wasn’t “school appropriate.”
“It really hurt my feelings,” she told the Courant. “I cried in the bathroom and I don’t want kids to feel like that because like I already didn’t feel like I fit in at that school.”
Her mission for the coming year, she said at her Jan. 18 inauguration at the Old State House in Hartford, is “to keep our schools safe and to spread the message that love is love.” That will include the launch of gay-straight alliance clubs, or GSAs, as well as other “safe spaces where members of the LGBTQ community and their allies can find pride in who they are.”
In fact, East Hampton Superintendent Paul Smith told the Courant he hopes to have a sit-down with Ella on how to make the schools under his jurisdiction safer for all students.
Now in its fourth year, the kid governor program was created by Connecticut Public Affairs Network as a tool to teach youngsters about what it means to run for political office.
Timed to coincide with Election Day in November, the statewide civics program allows fifth-graders in Connecticut to nominate one child from each class to run for kid governor with a mission of his or her choice, and fifth-graders vote in the subsequent election. Each kid governor serves a one-year term.