NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is pleased to announce Danielle Smith of Topsham, Maine, as its Student Advocate of the Year, presented by AT&T. Smith will receive the award at GLSEN's seventh annual Respect Awards - New York gala at Gotham Hall on May 24.
"We are honored to name Danielle Smith our Student Advocate of the Year," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Danielle is an exceptional student whose leadership within her school, community and state has led to safer and more welcoming schools for all Maine students. From her work as an organizer to serving as a statewide spokesperson, Danielle’s commitment to safe schools is an inspiration."
Smith has spent her entire high school career working for the rights of LGBT students. As the GLSEN Southern Maine chapter’s Jump-Start leader she organized southern Maine’s regional Jump-Start team
of Gay-Straight Alliance student leaders by recruiting a dozen youth from several area schools and leading multiple trainings this winter.
In addition to serving as Mt. Ararat High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance president and Southern Maine’s Jump-Start leader, Danielle has been quoted in newspapers and appeared on news broadcasts to talk about issues involving the rights all students have to an education in a safe and inclusive environment.
She also served as a media spokesperson for GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) and GLSEN as they worked with the Maine Human Rights Commission to issue guidance to schools regarding anti-discrimination policies and practices stemming from a 2005 amendment to the Maine Human Rights Act.
"Through a time of highly polarized debate and frequent statewide ballot measures over civil rights for LGBT people in Maine, Danielle Smith's courageous, peaceful leadership for safe schools has been a light," said Betsy Parsons, GLSEN Southern Maine Co-Chair.
Danielle, who is Mt. Ararat High School’s valedictorian for the Class of 2010, also helped lead a student-driven campaign to end the sale of an offensive product called “Gay-Away” in a local Hallmark store.
"Being surrounded by youth who share similar ideas and share my passion – and feeding off their energy – has been amazing," Smith said. "This award is a symbolic representation of work that is sometimes invisible because working on school climates is a very slow evolving process and isn’t always recognized. I’m incredibly honored and feel very recognized and appreciated."
GLSEN's Student Advocate of the Year Award, presented by AT&T, honors an outstanding young person whose efforts have helped ensure a safe learning environment for all students - and have served as a voice of change in their school and their community.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org