Who We Are & What We Do
The mission of Centre LGBT+ is to bring the community together through LGBT+ education, advocacy, and activities in the Centre County region.
Centre LGBT+ was founded in August 2014 when a group of community members got together to discuss how we could prevent LGBT+ suicides in our area. The group decided that we wanted to create a grassroots organization centered around enhancing the lives of LGBT+ members and their friends and families.
Centre LGBT+ started with open-mic nights at Webster’s and a community/business fair. From there much of our growth has come as a response to community members’ requests and needs. Teenagers asked for activities - and the annual True to You youth summit was born. The ongoing Bring Your Own Queer (BYOQ) youth group followed. People asked for support groups - and Centre LGBT+ offered two - one for LGBT+ and one for loved ones of LGBT+. Drag Bingo was added, the Gayla party, movie nights, wig/makeup workshops, the “out of the closet” clothing closet, and much more. Centre LGBT+ is committed to working with their neighbors to create an inclusive Centre County.
Community Diversity Statement
Diversity is a central part of our culture and how we do work at Centre LGBT+. It’s a key to our mission to bring the community together through LGBTQA+ education, advocacy, and activities in the Centre region. Furthermore, our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is deeply rooted in our collective values as an organization.
We recognize that differences in age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability, thinking style, and background bring richness to the work we do and the results we show for our community. Such differences help us connect better with the needs of people within the communities we serve. We believe that attracting, developing, and retaining a base of leaders that reflects the diversity of our community is essential to our success. We also believe success hinges on relationships with diverse partners and professional organizations.
As an organization, we are genuinely committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and understand that the presence of visible diversity does not equate to being diverse and inclusive alone. We believe that a meaningful commitment to DEI requires a dual and concurrent focus on individual behaviors, organizational systems, and change.
We believe in a nonpartisan approach to fostering a diverse and inclusive organization. These are all embodied in our community diversity statement. Our goal is to attract, develop and retain the best and brightest community members and partners from all walks of life and backgrounds. This requires our organization to have a culture of inclusion where all individuals feel respected, are treated fairly, and have an opportunity to have their voices heard.
Centre LGBT+ is committed to working with our neighbors to create an inclusive and equitable Centre County. We continue to partner with a wide variety of organizations to foster cooperation and improve the lives of all vulnerable individuals in our community.
Our Staff and Board
Cat Cook (she/her)
Cat graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and is currently completing her Masters of Social Work degree. She has been Involved in the nonprofit sector for over ten years serving in multiple capacities from volunteer to program coordinator and most recently as Executive Director at Centre LGBT+. Outside of her work with Centre LGBT+ she is the proud wife of her high school sweetheart (who is also a 20-year Veteran of the USAF), equally a proud Mom of four, Grandmother of two, and loves her furbabies who are all rescues. Cat is passionate about the community she serves and vows to do her best to meet their needs while working towards a fully inclusive community for all. To reach Cat: firstname.lastname@example.org
Founding Member & President
Dr. Pia Smal (she/her)
Pia is one of the founding members of Centre LGBT+ and the current co-chair. But her full time job is as a professor in Rehabilitation and Human Services and Counselor Education at Penn State. She has been an out and active member in the LGBT+ community for over 32 years. She lives with her wife, Susan Marshall, and their quarantine puppy, Roxie, in the borough and loves reading, traveling, and embroidery.
Susan Q. Port (she/her)
Susan has been on the board for Centre LGBT+ for the past 5 years. A lifetime ally, Sue works at Harpers and lives with her husband and two dogs and is the co-chair for State College Pride 2023.
Founding Member & Secretary
Susan L. Marshall (she/her)
Susan is an Independent College Advising & Admissions Counselor and owner of College Gateways, LLC. She is also a Restorative Practices Practitioner & Trainer and partners with community groups and institutions like PSU to provide Restorative Practices Training and to facilitate conferences aimed at repairing harm and restoring relationships. As one of the founding members, Susan currently serves as Secretary on the Centre LGBT+ Board.
Founding Member & Treasurer
Kerry Wiessmann (she/her)
By profession Kerry is an Elementary School counselor (since retired) and she is the proud mother of two daughters. She and Beth have been married since 1989, and lived in Centre County since 1982. As a Quaker with deep spiritually based values, Kerry is led to help lead the youth program, work with faith communities, and provide LGBT+ affirming spaces in our area.
Board Member & Youth Advocate
Katie Nurmi (she/they)
Katie is a 7 year Centre County foster parent, and an adoptive mother of a beautiful 20 year old son, Felix. They are also a Church youth leader, Activist, and advocate for the disenfranchised. Katie is also a loving Dog parent, rescue transporter, and trainer.
Board Member & Pride Chair
Kevin Kassab (he/him)
Kevin was employed by the State College Borough for 34 + years, and served as Borough of State College LGBTQ+ Liaison for the residents and visitors of the State College, member of the Diversity Group, He served in the United States Navy, he is married to Thomas M. Tate and is the father of two daughters, both graduates of the State College High School, and PSU, and proud Grandfather of 7 Grandchildren. Kevin has been dedicated to insuring a safe and Sustainable community.
Michel Lee Garrett she/her
Michel is a multi-published author and poet, recovering journalist, former political campaign communications director, member of the Professional Speechwriters Association, and a strategic communications industry professional. A proud queer and transgender woman, she has been a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, liberation, and equity. She has lived in small-town Pennsylvania since she was 16 years old and has been a resident of State College for more than a decade. She lives with her amazing wife and two beautiful children, and is a proud co-parent in a joyous blended family. She is honored to serve the local queer community as a board member with Centre LGBT+.
Board Member & PR/Marketing Chair
Fermin Almeida (he/him)
Fermin Almeida is a Los Angeles native currently living in State College pursuing a Bachelors in Biology with a premed focus at PSU. Fermin is also an undergraduate researcher at Baum’s lab which studies marine evolution and ecology to provide coral conservation efforts. Despite his background in the sciences, he is also experienced in PR/marketing and served as a brand developer for a private investment firm in Mexico. Since moving to State College he has volunteered in local political campaigns and for Centre LGBT+, recognizing the importance of being active in the community to ensure LGBT+ communities have proper representation and resources. Fermin has truly become enamored with Happy Valley and is proud to serve the community all while wearing his unique cowboy boots.
Rafael Alvarado (he/him)
Rafael completed his undergraduate education in St. Louis, Missouri, where (despite a degree in mechanical engineering) he learned that his passion lies in the field of education. He then went on to receive his master’s degree in student affairs in higher education in Oxford, Ohio, where he worked directly with first-year college students in residential life. This experience opened his eyes to the larger legal and policy frameworks that delineate and restrict the possibilities for learning and growth, both in and out of the classroom. This sparked a curiosity which led me to pursue a law degree and doctoral degree in higher education at Penn State. As a graduate assistant, I had the opportunity to research topics like affirmative action in university admissions, barriers to admission for formerly incarcerated persons, and Black women faculty’s experiences of tenure and promotion policies. He has remained involved in issues that advance a social justice agenda. I volunteered as a graduate student mentor through Penn State’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, where I was paired with undergraduate students whom I met with regularly to provide advice and triage as they dealt with the obstacles, challenges, and joys of being a queer undergraduate student at Penn State. I also sat on a committee, organized by Penn State’s Office of Educational Equity, to create a toolkit for students on addressing hate speech on campus.