Meet Noel Cousins ‘16, a Ridleian hailing from Prince Edward Island on Canada’s East coast. Noel is one of Ridley’s 2015-2016 Prefects and is known by his fellow classmates as having an infectious personality, indisputable intellect and a love for performing arts. Recently, he displayed his courageous side when he announced in his Prefect speech to Upper School that he is gay.
As a long-standing tradition, each Ridley Prefect is given the task of writing a chapel speech; one that will inspire the student body. This year, Noel was the second of 15 Prefects to bravely approach the podium and address his peers.
In the weeks leading up to his speech, Noel contemplated what he wanted to impart upon his fellow Ridleians, and ultimately decided that he wanted to be authentic and share his own personal narrative. What better way to inspire others than with a story; his story. On October 13th, Noel approached the podium of the Memorial Chapel, stared out into the sea of over 400 students, faculty and staff, and shared a secret he’d been keeping for his whole life; he is gay.
“I’m gay. I’m sure that to some of you – that concept may seem strange or abnormal, but the problem with that is that people have a tendency to fear what they don’t understand. And with fear left unchecked, inevitably so comes hate and discrimination and violence. And so today, my goal is simply to open up a dialogue; to educate and inform…”
It was obvious that, as Noel revealed personal facets about himself and his life (that only few were privileged to know beforehand), the audience felt for him; understood his struggles, and relished with him over his accomplishments. His personal story and message to never apologize for who you are as a person resonated with everyone who was present.
As his speech concluded and students flooded the aisles, there was a positive energy radiating throughout the chapel and within Noel . If you’d like to see Noel’s full speech, click here!
Within the days following his speech, we had the opportunity to ask Noel intimate details about his decision to come out and how this brave move has made a difference in his life.
Noel is now a part of Positive Space Group (PSG) at Ridley College – a group where students can come together and make a positive difference in the LGBQT+ community and here at school. This group of inspiring young Ridleians and faculty members meet every Wednesday to discuss issues, achievements and stories that advocate for human rights and a brighter tomorrow.
According to Noel, PSG has big plans on the horizon for Ridley. He and other members hope to organize a pride week that will include a dress down day, bowtie Friday – inspired by Jesse Tyler Fergusons’ Foundation – and an educational campaign that will raise awareness for issues that the LGBQT+ community faces everyday.
“[Homosexuality] is the human rights issue of our time, of our generation and you have the chance to make a difference.”
– Noel Cousins ‘16