Students to share experiences, advocate for greater protections for
Washington − Youth advocates from GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight
Education Network, will be attending the June 29th White House Pride Month reception
at the invitation of the Obama administration.
Five high school students and their guests will be given a rare opportunity to share their personal
experiences with anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying
with top officials in the Federal government, including the President and First
Lady. The GLSEN youth advocates will advocate for continued protections of LGBT
students, including the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act now being considered
by both houses on Congress.
"I am glad that President Obama and senior members of the administration
will have an opportunity to hear directly from the youth who live through anti-LGBT
bias and bullying in our schools every day. As Ashley, Layne, Dantaee, Gen,
and Kaleigh will tell them,
bullying is a public health crisis that affects students in schools around the
country, and we welcome the administration's support for bullying prevention
efforts that truly leave no child behind, including those suffering because
of anti-LGBT bias and behavior. There are two vehicles in Congress right now,
the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Nondiscrimination Act which
will go a long way towards making schools safer for all young people and the
President should do everything in his power to help make these bills into law,"
said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard.
The students are GLSEN Jump-Start coordinators, youth chosen by their local
GLSEN Chapter to recruit, select, train and conduct programming with a group
of students in their area. They receive training from GLSEN national and ongoing
support throughout the year.
About the GLSEN Delegation:
Ashley N. Davalos graduated from High Tech High School and will be an incoming
freshmen at UC Santa Barbara. She has been leading LGBTQ workshops and collaborating
with her GLSEN San Diego chapter for four years. In her spare time she works
in a biochemistry lab at UC San Diego. She plans to continue her two passions
of social justice and science in college.
Layne Gianakos has been involved in LGBTQ activism with GLSEN Connecticut since
his freshman year at high school, following the murder of Lawrence King. Attending
GLSEN National summits for training and working closely with GLSEN Connecticut
has allowed him to initiate change in his state. One of his main projects has
been a student leadership team for Connecticut which he trained alongside GLSEN
Connecticut board members, preparing them to run workshops and reach out to
schools and their GSA's. Layne will be accompanied by his mother.
Dontaee Williamson has been a part of the GLSEN Jump-Start National Student
Leadership team since 2010. This fall, he will begin his senior year as a dance/acting
major at School of the Arts in Rochester, NY. Through his participation in GLSEN
and the Gay Alliance, Dontaee has overcome multiple barriers related to coming
out as gay and now works to empower his peers to improve school climate for
local LGBTQ students and families.
Gen Farrell is a student from the Northern Virginia Chapter of GLSEN. Gen started
working with GLSEN after noticing the day to day harassment of peers. Now feeling
empowered to make a difference, Gen has developed a passion for Transgender
Kaleigh Colson is a student from the Southern Maine Chapter of GLSEN. Kaleigh
is Co-President of her school's Gay-Straight-Transgendered Alliance as
well as a community leader for LGBT civil rights in Maine. Kaleigh will be accompanied
by her parents.
Jessica Cohen, one of the adults with the delegation, has been a board member of the Rochester, NY chapter of GLSEN
since 2005. Currently, she serves as the adult coordinator of the local youth
leadership Jump-Start team.
Jess works with Dontaee to educate the community about the importance of anti-bullying policies and practice. Having both overcome personal challenges that resulted from external and internal homophobic messages, they share the vision of creating healthy educational communities for all students.
All GLSEN representatives are available for media interviews before and
after the reception.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & 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.