Student spotlight: student activist Nadine Gibson


Julia Henning, Online Editor

Nadine Gibson, in just her first year of high school, is already an award-winning student advocate for rights for people of color and the queer community in Tacoma. She has advocated for organizations across Tacoma and gained strong ties with Mayor Victoria Woodards. Her work has won awards, and most recently, she received the Star of Destiny award from the Tacoma Historical Society.

Gibson identifies strongly as an advocate for others. “I’ve always been an outspoken person and I’ve always been one to point things out and speak out,” said Gibson. Her most prominent advocacy began in Tacoma after moving to the city in 7th grade. She said that both Tacoma and Annie Wright opened up doors and connections for her. Gibson found that moving to Tacoma allowed her to create many different connections that she didn’t actually realize she was making in the moment.

Since then, Gibson has become an advocate for communities of people of color and the queer community in and around Tacoma. Additionally, Gibson is able to identify and advocate for issues beyond specific groups. “While there is a plethora of topics and causes of things that I speak up for, I think my biggest goal is to make people question and think,” she said. Rather than pushing my personal agenda I would rather let people speak for themselves and question authority and question the systems that we live by.” 

This concern for others and her ability to question have been praised by many including Alicia Mathurin, Director of Auxiliary Programs at Annie Wright, who described Gibson as “empathic and aware.” “If there is anything or anyone who is being treated unfairly, she has a voice for it,” Mathurin said.

Gibson learned about the Legislative Youth Advisory Council in Tacoma in 7th grade at a youth action fest at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. After she finished the application, she found that she was a year too young to be a part of the council, but her mom encouraged her to submit the application anyway. When Gibson was accepted into the program, the board thought her application had a typo with the wrong grade, but when she told them that was true, they brought her on board anyway.

Gibson has worked alongside the mayor of Tacoma, Victoria Woodards, since Woodards took office in 2018. “I kept getting involved with the community and our paths just kept crossing and we would recognize each other,” Gibson said. Woodards offered more opportunities and connections to Gibson as they got to know each other. 

Gibson believes Woodards was involved in the nomination for her most recent award from the Tacoma Historical Society, along with members from a local group of people of color, the Black Collective. The mayor presented Gibson with the award at the Historical Society dinner in September. Despite the prestige of the award, Gibson has remained humble. “I don’t think it’s the awards that push her to go harder,” Mathurin said. “It’s the personal stories, and when she hears about communities that are being marginalized, that’s what makes her go. When she received this most recent award, she was like ‘you want to go to this dinner?,’ and she just plays this like it’s not a big deal to her because it’s not why she’s doing it. She waited until the week of to even invite people.”

Nadine spoke about the power of youth in the activism community. “Right now, we’re in an interesting time with our history as humans,” she said. “Youth are at the forefront more than they’ve ever been in history and I think it’s interesting to see where this will lead.” 

Annie Wright has provided many of these opportunities for Gibson to engage with the community, including connecting her to the mayor and the Black Collective. “The first platform where I ever really met her [Woodards], who would inspire me to approach so many opportunities, was in the Great Hall,” Gibson said. “I learned about the Black Collective through Annie Wright because in 7th grade one of the founders of the collective came and spoke about his activism in the Puget Sound area. Both of these monumental moments for me were fostered by Annie Wright. It was really up to me to cultivate these opportunities and take advantage of them and direct where they would lead me. Annie Wright has opened up a field of opportunity for me to jump in.”