HS Student Wins Class Actor Award; Admits He’s Been Acting His Whole Life & Comes Out

Photo: (YouTube/Jonathan Rudolph)

The next time someone gets up to speak at your local college or high school, you might want to pay attention. You never know when you’re going to witness an amazing moment of courage and honesty.

On January 28, NJ high school student Jacob Rudolph went on stage to accept his award for Class Actor. When he stood in front of the microphone, he made the decision to come out in front an audience of more than 300 people, including his teachers and parents.

His father posted this video, noting that his son “said something in his acceptance speech that took more guts to do than anything I’ve ever attempted in my life.”

In his speech, Jacob noted that the award was appropriate, as he spent most days acting as “straight” Jacob. He gave a moving speech urging those listening that, “It’s time to end the hate in our society and accept people for who they are regardless of their sex, race, orientation, or whatever else may be holding back love and friendship.”

He then told the auditorium full of his friends and classmates to “take me, leave me, or move me out of the way. Because I am what I am, and that’s how I’m going to act from now on.”

Although it’s hard to hear Jacob in the video — but really, were you ever quiet during presentations in high school? – it’s clear how far we’ve come as a society with the thunderous applause Jacob receives after he finishes his speech.

At the end of the video, Jacob’s father wrote a poignant aside, “We still have a long way to go. Jacob made his statement…to let other LGBT teens know they’re not alone and that sometime not too far…down the road, no kid will ever have to act as someone they’re not to avoid being bullied, harassed, or assaulted.”

We’re not sure what the Academy has to say, but we think Jacob’s acting that night, as a beautiful and inspiring human being, deserves an Oscar nod — even if we have to make up a category just for him!

As for how Jacob is doing now? He told NJ.com:

“It felt like this immense weight was gone,” he added. “I’d been carrying it around with me for years. It affected me academically, emotionally, socially. It’s like my life is now before and after. I think that explanation is what made this whole process make sense.”

We applaud Jacob for his #RealTalk. And clearly, he’s not alone.  If you or someone you know is struggling to come out, check out the action items below.

take action

Guide to Coming Out

Guide to Coming Out

Get more from GLSEN on coming out -- when to come out, who to tell, and more.

take action

Help Make Things Better

Help Make Things Better

Check out our It Gets Better action guide for ways you can take action right now to make things better.