For teaching credential student Kiana Medina, school has always been a sanctuary.

“I was never really social. I never really socially fit in … I was bullied a lot. But I found my home in what was academia,” she said.

As a child, the Fresno native bonded with teachers over her love of learning — particularly her third grade teacher, Nancy Montanez, at Holland Elementary School.

Teachers like Montanez inspired Medina to pursue a career as an elementary schoolteacher.

“School has always been my sanctuary. I love learning, I love reading and I just want to invoke that in other students,” she said.

Medina is now a volunteer teacher’s aide in Montanez’s classroom at Holland Elementary. She is using the skills she learns in Fresno State’s teaching credential program to make a positive difference in children’s lives.

Kiana Medina

“Medina is just like a bright sunshine,” said Montanez, who is also an alumna of Fresno State. “The kids look up to her. The kids love her.”

Having grown up feeling alienated from others, Medina said she makes it her goal to create an inclusive school environment.

As a student at University High School, Medina helped mobilize the Gender and Sexuality Alliance to create a more welcoming campus culture. Under her leadership, the club grew from four students “in a room eating chips” to 100 students.

“That’s definitely when I came out of my shell,” Medina said. “I think that’s where my love for advocacy stems from. It’s just about helping others. A lot of people leave the Valley because they don’t feel like, as an LGBTQ+ person, there’s a place for them.”

Medina, who identifies as queer, has been an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community since high school. She is the graduate coordinator for LGBTQ+ Programs and Services at Fresno State, where she is responsible for LGBTQ+ educational services, the volunteer program and the Q Clothing Closet, which provides free clothing to transgender and gender non-conforming students in need.

She is also helping lead the following Pride Week events in celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month in October.

  • Pride Week Kick-off Resource Fair: Noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7, at the Speaker’s Platform
  • Safe Zone Training: Noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the Education building (Room 140)
  • Pronoun Politics Workshop: Noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Madden Library (Room 2206)
  • Show Your Pride and Use #FSPrideWeek: All day on Thursday, Oct. 10, via Instagram and Facebook (@fresnostateccgc)
  • Pride Party: Noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, in Madden Library (Room 3212)

“I think in my heart of hearts, the core is service and helping others,” Medina said. “That’s my main passion. I think that’s where my love of teaching stems from.”

Medina’s goals are to finish the credential program in December 2020 and start a career as an elementary school teacher at a local school district.

For more information about LGBTQ+ Programs and Services, visit the Cross Cultural and Gender Center website.