By Alice Roche Cody
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club welcomed a virtual visitor at its last meeting to help plan the upcoming Student Forum about identity and expression. Jack Riccardo-Wood '17, GSA's co-founder, Zoomed into Thursday's meeting to offer guidance for the April 15 community-wide event. A senior at Brown, Jack shared about his college experience and gave insightful suggestions for forum conversation starters.
"Keep questions open-ended so everyone can engage in the conversation," he said. "A lot of people might not be on the same page as this group, so when phrasing questions, be sure to include people who are joining the conversation for the first time, who may not have a lot of information. Understand that people may not want to speak up."
And for the GSA leaders co-hosting the Student Forum along with Gill for Diversity, he encouraged them to speak up, even if they are hesitant. "If you're uncomfortable speaking, you can reach out to me – I used to get nervous, but it's important to hear students who are brave and courageous," he said.
As a student at GSB, Jack served as co-president of Relay for Life and then became co-president of Light the Night his senior year. A member of the Upper School Honor Board, he also was co-president and co-founder of the GSA group at Gill, with Nichole Morley '17 and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tracey Goodson Barrett. He also helped plan the annual Day of Silence demonstrations, a tradition that continues today. On April 23, GSB will take part, and LGBTQ+ students and allies will remain silent to protest harassment and discrimination in schools.
Jack was heartened to see his work at GSB continuing, and congratulated the GSA club and its advisor, Jared Ciocco, world language and history teacher, for all the April LGBTQ+ events planned around campus. "A whole month, this makes me so happy!" he said.
At college, Jack continues advocating for diversity and equity, and is often reminded of one of Ms. Barrett's sayings: No matter where you go, things still need to get done.
"Brown has an open environment; its LGBTQ+ community is not kept in the shadows, but there have been instances of homophobia on campus," he said. "And gender-neutral bathrooms have been an ongoing issue for the past 14 years. Most buildings on campus has at least one on every floor."
Taking a break from his creative writing thesis to talk with GSB students, he shared that he stays busy with Brown Active Minds, a suicide prevention and awareness organization, and as co-president of Brown's ACLU chapter, he is doing on-campus advocacy for LGBTQ+ and voting rights.
For anyone wishing to learn more about Jack, Ms. Barrett invited students to read a poem of his that still hangs on her wall. "Jack was very influential as a student," she said. "He created a lot of change at Gill, and his legacy still lives on today."