It’s been a whirlwind week for one Newton, Massachusetts family, led by same-sex parents Amy and Oona. Daughter Olivia is presently in the running to win $50,000 for a college scholarship from the #Matchmade Contest—an online video-share competition that connects kids to an education. And days before she learned of the good news, she met another same-sex couple during a family trip to Ecuador that gave a whole new meaning to her chance for success. We spoke with her Olivia’s mother, Newton educator Amy Kelly about her daughter’s awakening to LGBT issues, this ambitious girl’s future and past in education, and what she hopes to accomplish with your vote for the #Matchmade Scholarship.
Olivia had always known her mother was lesbian, and never had trouble accepting her mother’s identity. Together, they have established a strong support system, and when mother Amy met Oona in 2011 through Match.com’s dating website, their family happily got a little bigger. By the third date, Amy and Oona had fallen in love, but it was just as important to the couple that their own children feel loved in the new family dynamic. A week after the proposal, “they actually proposed to us. They wanted to know if we wanted to be a family,” chimes in Olivia and her step-sister Lucia. “Of course we said yes.
But for all of Olivia’s understanding and open-mindedness, Amy wasn’t always so lucky to find support. Throughout her own Rhode Island childhood, there was a distinct lack of LGBT-inclusion. None of her classmates were openly gay. Even after leaving her small high school with a graduating class of barely thirty to attend big-city schools Columbia and Boston College, Amy remained closeted. It was during her tenure student teaching in Newton (where she has now been a principal for seven years in a remarkably progressive responsive school district) that she felt comfortable enough to come out. She was 22.
And now at 14, her daughter wants to make life easier for women like her mother. Newton, Massachusetts may be seen as something of a “gay Mecca,” but as Olivia found during a family trip to Ecuador, their happy family home is an exception, rather than the rule. Amy’s wife Oona, a therapist, made a special connection with two closeted Californian lesbians, and for the first time, Olivia witnessed the oppression hundreds of thousands of LGBT persons across America experience on a daily basis. It was a startling and life-changing experience for the teenager, and she has decided to take the opportunity Match.com’s viral competition has given her to spread awareness of LGBT diversity; more than anything, she is inspired to show the country how powerful a supportive, loving family can be, no matter who your mothers are, or how many you have.
Olivia has her eyes set on California to pursue an environmental engineering degree. She has been “very interested in environmental issues for as long as I can remember,” laughs Olivia’s mother. And as soon as she enters her new school, she will be able to take a green engineering track to put her on the right path. But she doesn’t just want to change the world for the greener, she wants to change it for the better for LGBT families.
It’s youth like Olivia, with ambition and a loving family to support their endeavors, that we at GLSEN hope to see change the landscape of LGBT family life. Far from every family in America looks like this, and we support youth no matter what your family looks like—but hopefully one day, we’ll see more loving, diverse families. And we hope you’ll take a minute to share her video so that she, in turn, can share a message of inclusion and acceptance…and be able to afford attending the college of her dreams.
To vote for Olivia, watch her video and share via Facebook or Twitter: http://www.matchmade.com/olivia/#Olivia.