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Rutgers alumna uses experience as U.S. marine to advocate for LGBT rights

<p>Danielle King served in the Marine Corps for three years before attending and receiving her degree from Rutgers. She is currently working to provide higher quality healthcare to underserved communities.</p>

Danielle King served in the Marine Corps for three years before attending and receiving her degree from Rutgers. She is currently working to provide higher quality healthcare to underserved communities.

A Rutgers alumna and former Marine is making strides to help underserved members of society.

Feeling outcasted during her time in the military for being herself led Danielle King to advocate for the LGBTQIA community and disabled youth. She said her passion for helping others began long before her first encounters with discrimination.

King’s desire to help others began in elementary school when she befriended a blind and deaf classmate, she said. This relationship led her to volunteer her time outside of school helping other disabled children.

After serving in the Marine Corps for three years, King said she came back energized to do something to help the LGBTQIA community.

While serving, she realized she was not the only closeted person in the Marines, and formed a group for them to stick together, she said. It was clear to her that she and others in the group needed a voice both in the Marine Corps and in the world.

Her service was during the time of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. 

Upon returning to the U.S. after deployment in Afghanistan, King enrolled at Middlesex County Community College and began studying public health, she said. She later transferred to Rutgers and received her degree.

While at Rutgers, King began working as an HIV counselor at Hyacinth AIDS Foundation. She also joined Health Outreach, Promotion and Education, a peer education program where she worked with youth to teach them about substance abuse, said Patti-Ann Verbanas, a writer for the Rutgers University's Office of News and Media Relations.

King is determined to continue advocating for vulnerable communities, she said. She has a passion for helping others and feels there is no better person to spearhead the effort than herself.

“Underprivileged communities are a reflection of the whole community,” King said in an email. “Therefore, if we are not striving to lend a hand to those around us to help pull them up then we are also failing.”

Verbanas said King is now focused on joining the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta in hopes of establishing a joint non-profit venture with her wife, Jahari Shears. The creation of this organization would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to support the LGBTQIA community.

The non-profit will aim to limit the spread of HIV while also helping to limit stigmas and bridge the gap of quality of care to traditionally underserved populations.

Diversity training will be offered to companies around Atlanta on behalf of the organization.

King hopes this nonprofit will provide the push society needs to change the mindsets people have towards those with HIV and members of the LGBTQIA community, she said.

“I believe that each day our existence impacts humanity, and we choose whether it will be a catalyst of positivity or negativity,” King said. “We will use each day as an opportunity to inspire the broken and dare them to live a life they love.”

Christina Froelich is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

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