By: Sasha Shishov, MD
It’s hard to believe that a relationship as meaningful as the one between Delaware’s Youth Governor, Kemper Cole, and Maryland’s Youth Governor, Mason Hill, could blossom in the Zoom world. But their seven months together is a testament to the uniqueness of CONA, as it continues to connect delegates familiar with perseverance, and a willingness to put in the effort necessary to keep relationships alive.
When Kemper and Mason met, they were not officially “out,” nor did they care to broadcast their respective sexualties to the world. Mason emphasizes how he believes that the concept of coming out is another pitfall of the “heteronormative culture that can be so damaging” to the youth in America.
This however, led to a period of uncertainty between the two, as they could not discern if the other was interested in pursuing a relationship. Thankfully, Mason asked Kemper out on “say-yes-to-the-person-that-asks-you-out-day” and cleared up any confusion. The two began dating on December 3rd of 2020, and since then, have continually represented the spirit of acceptance found in CONA in both Maryland and Delaware.
Mason and Kemper first posted about their relationship on social media after Prom, and were greeted with much excitement from the CONA community. Not because they are gay, but because they are prominent members of the space that were able to find happiness together. Delegates from across the country were delighted.
“They really are a Y and G power couple,” said delegate Sofia Cedrone.
Emphasis on sexuality can feel overwhelming and unnecessary at times, but both Mason and Kemper wanted to reiterate that their personal acceptance of their sexualites, and CONA, were deeply intertwined: “It’s an important aspect as it relates to CONA. I feel that there is no way I would have been able to come out without the program because I now feel that there is a place in the world for me” Kemper said with a smile.
CONA is a place that fosters so many different types of relationships. And oftentimes, these relationships involve a great deal of distance between delegates, yet remain strong.
What is it about CONA that breeds such lasting connections?
A mix of efficiency and passion. CONA students get things done, in simple terms. For example, over Group Me — once an established interest is formed — delegates move quickly to start a separate group chat where bonding with one another is easier. This efficiency stems from a commitment to hard work that is seen in the program, no matter what role a delegate may participate in.
CONA participants are generally just more “emotionally mature and intelligent,” because we know how to articulate ourselves. Kemper also states that “Our determination makes it easy to communicate.”
Mason even credits a lot of his campaign for Youth Governor to Kemper, as he was continually inspired by Kemper’s drive and ambition within his respective race in Delaware. And similarly, Kemper says that what he lacks in emotional intelligence, Mason makes up for in his commitment to kindness and care for everyone.
It’s unclear as to whether or not CONA participants are the way they are because of the program, or the program is the way it is because of the delegates. As there is a unique and valuable sentiment found in every delegate that makes coming together so easy. But, what is evident is that we all cherish the specialness of the program, and consequently, we cherish each other.
Mason and Kemper continue to make time for one another, seeing each other regularly once a month. And with summer approaching, they are excited to spend much more of their free time hiking, swimming, and watching movies together.
Resources for Coming out:
- The Gay-Straight Alliance: GSA Network
- Campus Pride: Campus Pride | Building LGBTQ-Friendly College Awareness
- The Trevor Project Coming Out Handbook: Coming-Out-Handbook.pdf (thetrevorproject.org)