Cultivating Empathy and Delivering Hope for LGBTQ Students with Joe English (2013)

“I grew up in a 1900-person farm town… I never saw or watched or read anything that I felt really spoke to me as a gay person. It would have meant the world to me to have read even one book with one gay character in school, or one unit in history class talk about LGBTQ people just to understand — hey, there are other LGBTQ people in the world, and my identity is something I could be proud of rather than something I should hide.” – Joe English

In this episode of The SIP, actor Kevin Shen (2000) interviews Joe English (2013) about his journey creating Hope in a Box, a nonprofit on a mission to help rural public schools cultivate empathy and fight prejudice by representing LGBTQ people, stories, and history in school libraries and classrooms.

Joe shares how, starting with his own high school, Hope in a Box gives rural educators curated boxes of books with LGBTQ+ characters, detailed curriculum for these books, and coaching on how to build an inclusive classroom. Since 2018, Hope in a Box has grown into a national program supporting hundreds of schools in all 50 states and currently has a waitlist of 600 schools.

Kevin and Joe also discuss how the program was developed, some of the roadblocks Joe’s encountered with school boards, and how he made the leap of quitting his job at McKinsey to lead Hope in a Box full-time.

The episode is introduced by Ericka Jones (2011).

The SIP, short for the Coke Scholars Ignite Podcast, shares a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change.

Read a transcript of this episode here.

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