by Rachel Ayres | Staff Writer
Ashton Skinner, a 2015 Whitworth graduate, recently had the privilege of attending the second Obama Foundation Summit after completing the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps program. The summit was held in Chicago on Nov. 18 and 19.
According to the Obama Foundation’s website, the goal of the Leadership Corps is to “empower and train young leaders to create the world they want to live in by working to address an issue in their community.” The program is for people 18-25 who live in Columbia, SC, Phoenix, AZ and Chicago, IL.
Skinner applied to the Leadership Corps and was selected as one of 35 young leaders from Phoenix. During the six months of training, participants were given mentorship and funding from the Obama Foundation to respond to an issue in their local community.
“That mentorship was really indispensable for us. And really, it is such a cool thing that they are investing in so many individuals who will be able to then give back to their communities,” Skinner said.
Skinner’s project for the Leadership Corps coincided with their work as a transgender & millennial outreach coordinator at the non-profit ONE Community. ONE Community is an Arizona “statewide coalition of socially responsible businesses and individuals who support diversity, inclusion and equality,” according to its website.
Skinner’s project was founding QuTopia, a website that connects trans people to resources for addiction and recovery, crisis intervention, mental and behavioral health, pediatrics and adolescent care, primary care, sexual health and family planning, social and peer support groups, specialists, transition-related care and more in Arizona. Skinner had help from friends they recruited to be on their project team.
“For my project I built a Yelp! style directory website that hosts profiles like listings for doctors and therapists who treat trans patients. That way trans people can find safe, direct access to competent medical care, which is a huge need here and something that is often a really big hurdle to people transitioning in Arizona,” Skinner said.
Arizona ranks 12th in the United States for concentration of transgender adults, according to the Williams Institute.
At the Obama Foundation, Skinner met with the other individuals from the three cities who had been also working on their own community related projects for the last six months.
“It was really cool because we all had in common the celebration of our hard work and common values but we didn’t know much about each others’ projects. So, we got to learn from each other and talk about the different ways we were impacting our communities,” Skinner said.
While attending Whitworth, Skinner met professor of political science, Kathryn Lee who, with another faculty member, hosted a book discussion group at her house on a book that was “trying to sort through LGBTQ issues and Christian theology,” she said. Lee and Skinner have continued to stay in touch.
“It has been an important friendship for me, to educate me about [Skinner’s] life and what it is like,” Lee said. “It is just spectacular that a Whitworth alum was apart of the Obama Foundation Summit.”
More information about the 2018 Obama Foundation Summit can be found at, https://www.obama.org/summit-2018/roots/.