Meet Rae Larson

Jun 26, 2023

From Left to Right: Bowie, Forest, Rae
Rae and their partner Forest holding Bowie on his first day home in Bellingham, WA. This photo celebrates his doggie gotcha day.

Rae Larson (they/them) has been both a student and a teacher. They have been a scholarship recipient and a scholarship funder. They faced housing insecurity as a young person and now serve on the board of a nonprofit helping students facing insecurity. They are a queer person and a proud rural Washingtonian.

Over the course of their career path—from undergraduate studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane to 10 years working in higher education and nonprofits in Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, Island, and Snohomish counties—Rae has consistently examined and learned from the intersections of their own life to improve the experiences of others.

Early in their career, Rae served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program as a childcare small business development specialist where they worked to expand access to quality childcare for low-income families, change policy, and improve services. Rae encouraged private companies in Northwest Washington to invest in childcare and published reports with local data showing the real effects of having limited access to childcare. These advocacy reports also highlighted how issues like childcare access disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

From Left to Right: Rae Larson, CeAnna Heit, Katie Patterson-Hulett
Rae, CeAnna, and Katie celebrating their completion of the English graduate program at Western Washington University by throwing their caps. This celebration was done as a small group because commencement was held virtually that year.

Rae then pursued a master’s degree in English studies from Western Washington University while simultaneously teaching first-year students during the pandemic. Rae saw that many students were in crisis, alone in their dorm rooms for much of the time.

“My students showed me the importance of advocacy. They showed me the importance of having someone who was not in the classroom as an authority figure but sincerely wanted them to do well. It also helped me articulate my career goals, particularly thinking about community organizing because I was both a teacher and a graduate student at the same time. It was a productive intersection of experience—and an opportunity to think about how we perpetuate systems of inequity while also being catalysts for change.”

Rae continued to advocate for students in their next role as a program specialist at Whatcom Community College Foundation , where they managed programs such as student scholarships, emergency funds, and the foundation ambassador program. Having received multiple scholarships to attend Gonzaga University, Rae knew firsthand just how life-changing scholarships can be and the importance of ethical systems of funding.

From Left to Right: Rae with their friends, Nikelie and Okunyi, goofing around near Centennial Trail on Gonzaga’s campus in Spokane, WA.

Informed by their own experience of housing insecurity in their youth, Rae was also inspired to join the board of directors for Futures Northwest, a nonprofit in Whatcom County working to ensure every student has the information and guidance they need to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.

Now, as a policy and advocacy associate at Inatai Foundation, Rae provides administrative, project management, and event support to the foundation, which is critical to the advancement of Inatai’s advocacy strategy and policy priorities, as well as the foundation’s larger mission.

“What drew me to this work is the opportunity to help reexamine the relationships of philanthropy—not seeing those that provide funding as being the most powerful and as the perspectives that matter the most but ensuring that the perspectives of folks doing the programmatic work are given equal or more importance. I am excited to work on long-term, sustainable change and for the opportunity to learn from so many people who have a deep wealth of knowledge, resilience, and hope.”

Rae is a self-proclaimed “choir nerd,” the proud owner of a three-year-old Goldendoodle named Bowie, and at their core, a hopeful poet.

“Hope, like poetry, is progressing and growing. It is using language in unexpected ways and bending linguistic rules. It is believing that change is possible and continuous.”

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