Interview with Brennan Lewis: 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series
“I think a lot of the time, young people feel like their voices aren’t being heard, they feel like maybe they have a really great idea or are dealing with problems in their schools and people just aren’t listening.”
North Carolina native Brennan Lewis first came out at as queer at the age of thirteen and was the only person in a middle school of thousands of students who openly identified outside of being male, female, or heterosexual. Lewis’s personal experience with identity led to action. “I grew up in a supportive family and fairly supportive school, and I still struggled. I saw other people around me really having a tough time coming out. I felt compelled to reach out to people around me that I saw were having a worse time than I was and bring people together,” says Lewis, who founded QueerNC.
“QueerNC is a statewide organization in North Carolina that works to support, engage, and empower LGBTQ youth across the state. I’m really passionate about making North Carolina a safer and more supportive place for LGBTQ young people,” explains Lewis. QueerNC provides support to youth ages 13-20. The organization hosts events, social meetups, and leadership trainings along with providing information and answering questions online.
After School’s interview with Brennan Lewis is the second interview in the 10-part “5 minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series.” The series is hosted by After School in partnership with nonprofit organization Peace First, and includes teens across the country who have made a difference in a wide variety of ways, from anti-bullying to raising awareness for the homeless, to efforts to spread support for LGBTQ teens.
From being a young person with a dream and a mission and bringing it to life in QueerNC, Lewis recognizes the role and power young people have in making change. “Young people are going to be the catalyst for change. Particular to my work, we’re seeing a lot of pushback about transgender people in NC. Having young people talk about their experience in school will really help make things better and build a shared perspective,” says Lewis.
Now 20 years old, Lewis is still dedicated to helping youth five years after founding QueerNC. “I think young people have a very unique perspective in how they view the world and engage with their communities. I love talking to folks in that age range, and helping them realize their passions and turn it into tangible actions,” says Lewis.
Realizing passion and taking action is something common among Peace First Challenge participants and Peace First Fellows like Brennan Lewis. For other young people looking to get more involved in issues important to them, Lewis recommends, “Start conversations, speak out, share stories; if there is something that really feels like an injustice, tell people why.”
During Lewis’ Peacemaking Story video for Peace First, Lewis stated “I’ve become so much better at everything I set out to do by just telling myself ‘I know I can do this.’” Whether you think you can, or question your ability to make a difference in the lives of others like Lewis, you can make a positive change in the world and organizations like Peace First are making it easier than ever to do it. To learn more about the Peace First Challenge, and to get involved today, visit PeaceFirst.org today.
Follow QueerNC on Twitter @QueerNC or visit QueerNC.Tumblr.com/. Learn more about the After School 5 minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series here.
Additional Quotes From Our Interview with Brennan Lewis:
- “I think Peace First is doing a really great job in putting financial support behind the ideas of young people. That’s something that’s been really amazing and helpful for me.”
- “I felt compelled to reach out to people around me that I saw were having a worse time than I was and bring people together…to try to make our community safer.”
- “If you are feeling lonely and isolated, one of the most helpful things you can do is to talk to someone and be open about what you are experiencing…Sharing that experience and trying to make connections was really helpful for me.”
- “I actively went out of my way to ask for help and learn the things I might need. Over the years, I’ve genuinely built that confidence. It’s just a continual process of getting better.”
- “Go out, look at your community, and read about different problems that are happening and think through what you are feeling…Start conversations, speak out, share stories; if there is something that really feels like an injustice tell people why.”