Patricia Nicolari (she/her) is the Founding Head of School for PROUD Academy. PROUD Academy has been Patty’s vision for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies after working with youth in education and nonprofits throughout her 40-year career. Patty has four degrees from SCSU. She holds a BS in Physical Education, an MS in Community Health, a Sixth Year in Educational Foundations, and another Sixth Year in Administration/Supervision, and presently holds an 092 certificate in Educational Leadership.
Patty has always been actively/progressively involved in her community. However, that passion escalated after coming out publicly as a teacher in 1997, alongside the brave move of Ellen DeGeneres. She was featured in the New Haven Register article, "Ellen is Out and so is Ms. Nic." Patty even received a call from GMA’s Robin Roberts, then a host of 20/20, for consideration to be featured on the TV show as an “out” teacher. Patty felt this newfound confidence liberating.
The freedom to be authentic became the catalyst for Patty to create change in the educational environment for LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and staff. The most powerful part of coming out as a teacher was the outpouring of students who now felt safe enough to disclose their own sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) or that of a relative.
As a result of coming out, Patty started her high school's first GSA and organized the first Day of Silence. She joined the GLSEN Board of Directors, became a Stonewall Speaker, facilitated support groups for youth and closeted teachers at the New Haven Pride Center, and presented workshops across the country in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, and CT, on the topic of “How to Create a Safe School for all Students Regardless of SOGI.” Additionally, Patty presented a workshop for actor Hill Harper’s nonprofit, ‘Manifest Your Destiny,’ for 8th graders in LA on the topic, ‘Academic Success Strategies.’
Patty was interviewed by Faith Middleton on NPR, was a recipient of a Dorothy Award for her LGBTQ+ community involvement, and had her story published with other LGBTQ educators in Kevin Jennings’ book, “One Teacher in 10.” Kevin was the Founder/ED of GLSEN, and under the Obama administration as an assistant deputy secretary at the US Department of Education.
Patty’s experience as an educator ranges from working with marginalized youth as a teacher in an AIC (Alternative to Incarceration) program in Bridgeport, an administrator of an alternative school for grades 7-12, to higher education as an adjunct professor at WCSU. In 2004, Patty was named Teacher of the Year in Ansonia.
Patty’s nonprofit work includes being the director of a mentoring program for youth involved with juvenile probation and DCF foster care. Patty was also a foster parent. She has volunteered on the Governor’s Prevention Partnership LGBTQ+ Advisory Board and presently serves on the New Haven/Hamden Juvenile Review Board.
Patty’s lived experience, "in and out" of the LGBTQ+ family, coupled with her careers in education and nonprofits, have led her to this moment in time. PROUD Academy is eager to join the ranks of Harvey Milk High School, The Alliance, Magic City Acceptance Academy, and Albert Einstein Academy to create a safe and affirming educational option for CT’s LGBTQ+ youth/allies.