2022 PEN/Benenson Courage Award Honoree: Jack Petocz
Jack Petocz is PEN America’s 2022 PEN/Benenson Courage Award recipient. Petocz, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, hails from Florida. Petocz was launched into the public eye after organizing a state-wide student walk out against HB 1557, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in March, after which his school suspended him for handing out LGBTQ+ pride flags. The walk out helped catalyze a groundswell of protest at schools and beyond against the censorious legislation. Petocz has been loudly fighting censorship in his school district for the past year, including leading students in protest against the removal of George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue from the district’s school libraries. Petocz has written to Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers, imploring those in positions of power to stop policing the education and identities of LGBTQ+ students. He has also spoken out publicly against his suspension, and his school’s dress codes. Petocz’s unflinching stance against censorship of LGBTQ+ identities reflects a growing outrage at hate, inequality, and marginalization. His voice is one of many inspiring the rising generation of activists to speak out. Jack is currently a political strategist at Gen-Z For Change, working on the midterm elections for the progressive non-profit.