As the West Coast director for OutRight Action International, a U.S.-based nonprofit advancing human rights
for LGBTIQ people around the world, Katie has spent her 20+ year career contributing to her local, national, and international communities through nonprofit management, fundraising, and social justice activism. Previously, Katie served as the Northwest Regional Director at NPH USA, where she raised more than $11 million to support vulnerable children in Latin America and the Caribbean, and helped launch a training institute for young leaders from Central America. Building off her experience at Burke’s, Katie dedicated much of her early career to girls’ empowerment as the executive director of Passages Northwest, a Seattle nonprofit dedicated to building courage and leadership in girls through the outdoors and the arts, as a board member for the Northwest Girls Coalition, and as a member of the Grants Committee for Women’s Funding Alliance. Katie lives in Seattle with her wife and three children, but one of her greatest joys is keeping in touch with friends from the Burke’s Class of 1988 and seeing them often when she is in the Bay Area.
“I grew up with the firm belief that I could do anything, and so could every other girl I knew. I know that being at Burke’s nurtured this confidence and challenged me to go after my dreams. It’s what has powered me to do work in the nonprofit community that is focused on empowering girls and personally get involved with helping support women leaders and elect more women to public office!”
What is something you learned at Burke’s that you still carry with you today?
I credit Sra. Pera’s Spanish class from fifth through eighth grades with putting me on the path to becoming fluent in Spanish and eventually spending a good part of my academic and professional career in Latin America.
How would you encourage Burke’s students and fellow alumnae to give back to Burke’s?
I think Burke’s needs alumnae to stay involved and be active participants in the community, even or especially if we feel that we are in the minority in terms of cultural, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation/gender identity, family makeup, etc. As an alumna and now parent of children in independent schools, I can better recognize that Burke’s needs our diverse voices and leadership to thrive and grow in the 21st century. I think there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to help give back to the next generations of girls who need our support to be exactly who they are meant to and want to be.
If you had it to do all over again, your time at Burke’s and since, what might you do differently?
Something I’m very focused on right now is supporting the inclusion of girls of color and kids who identify as LGBTIQ in all aspects of society, schools, leadership, and democracy. We’ve made so much progress over the last generation, but we can do more to support them and ensure that their voices and experiences are centered in all our institutions, including Burke’s! In addition, my own interests and career have focused increasingly on human rights and development globally, and I see the need for expanded education about what’s happening around the world, awareness about our interconnectedness, and commitment to make our efforts for justice and equality truly global.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you hear “Katherine Delmar Burke School”?
“Nurturing and challenging environment,” “girls can do or be anything!” and “lifelong friendships.” I truly consider my Burke’s classmates to be my sisters, and growing up with them was an incredibly special gift of which I am often reminded. I remain in regular contact with several friends from Burke’s and love, respect, and admire them deeply. I know that if one of my classmates called on me for anything, I’d be quick to respond with encouragement or a helping hand – and that they would do the same for me.
What is your favorite memory from Burke’s?
It is so hard to pick one! A few happy memories are: our kindergarten or first-grade production of Peter Rabbit when I was Mrs. Rabbit, the pirate rap that Monique Rocca and I wrote for our production of Peter Pan (Rachel Skiffer was the best Captain Hook ever! And thank you to Ms. Whitsell!), dancing to “Lollipop” in 1950s costumes
with Renée Sharp at the Burke’s Festival in fifth grade, and learning how to develop and print photographs in a real darkroom. I also have extremely fond memories of playing soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and tennis. We were so lucky to have such great facilities on campus, and I always believed we were athletes – something that stayed with me as a high school athlete and now as an avid fan of women’s professional soccer and basketball! Finally, I remember all of my teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade – they made indelible impressions and formed the basis of my academic habits and success all the way through graduate school.