Scholar Class – 2011
Eric Nakano was born and raised in a conservative Christian family in a suburb of Southern California. As a child, his father worked for Focus on the Family, an evangelical parachurch organization and Eric himself was a rising youth leader at his Christian school and church. After graduating from high school, he went on to study Political Science at Penn State Mont Alto and was elected Student Government President his sophomore year. But after experiencing severe bullying and antigay harassment from other students, he transferred to the George Washington University and graduated cum laude with a BA in Political Science and Public Policy.
In 2007, Eric relocated back to Los Angeles where he accepted a job as an Associate Director of Development at UCLA. It was in the conservative areas near where he grew up that he volunteered extensively for the No on 8 Campaign, organizing communities of faith to vote no on the initiative, which would take away the right of same sex couples to marry. Following the passage of Proposition 8, he organized Campaign Boot Camp, the largest campaign training in the state on ballot initiatives in preparation for a future ballot initiative that would restore marriage equality. The following year, he organized College Rush, an event aimed at connecting Los Angeles area LGBT college students with resources at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and with LGBT friendly Fortune 500 companies. And this past year, Eric organized the nation’s first Asian Pacific Islander (API) Coming Out Workshop to help API LGBT youth discuss their sexual orientation with their families and friends.
Inspired by working with LGBT leaders and community organizations that served LGBT people in these communities, Eric decided to pursue his Masters in Public Policy at Duke and an MBA to prepare for a career in public service. At Duke, he aims acquire policy and management skills that will enable him to one day establish and grow an LGBT social service organization in an underserved area of the country and to pioneer new methods of social service delivery.