Our Omaha Chapter

Who We Are

GLSEN Omaha is a Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The mission of GLSEN Omaha is to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

We primarily serve the Omaha metropolitan area, including Council Bluffs, IA but provide services across Nebraska. 

We strive to protect students from bullying and harassment, to advance comprehensive safe schools laws and policies, to empower principals to make their schools safer, and to build the skills of educators to teach respect for all people. We work closely with the national staff of GLSEN to implement programs and affect positive change in school communities.

Our Leadership

From the Board of Directors to program coordinators to committees, GLSEN Omaha is a completely volunteer-run organization.

 

JohnCarl Denkovich - Board Co-Chair / Advocacy and Policy Coordinator

JohnCarl currently serves as the chapter’s Director of Policy & Legislative Advocacy, focused on impacting state and local education policy, to ensure schools that are safe and nurturing for ALL students. He has served as a member of the GLSEN Omaha Board of Directors since 2006, in the capacity of Co-Chair (2007-2013). 

“I became involved with GLSEN’s life-saving advocacy work as a result of being tortuously bullied, especially in middle/high school. Verbal and physical harassment were a part of my daily routine. Avoiding unsafe areas like bathrooms, the cafeteria and even certain hallways were how I tried to safely navigate my school and avoid my bullies. If I can protect even one youth from experiencing what I had to go through, I consider it a success, and this work to be well worth it. GLSEN has the tools and programming necessary to change schools and save lives, and I wanted to be a part of the solution, and we are seeing positive change” 

JohnCarl holds a Double Bachelor of Arts from Hastings College, in Political Science & Psychology (Health Intervention), and a concentration in Pre-Law, graduating with honors in 2006. He has also obtained his Masters of Arts in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, focusing on education policy, and served as the Founding Director of the UNO Student Agency of Gender & Sexual Orientation. Professionally, JohnCarl has a background as a Senior Field Services Manager in retail operations and visual merchandising, and has recently moved into the nonprofit sector.  

Beyond his work in Nebraska, JohnCarl is a member of GLSEN’s National Advisory Council (NAC), which informs GLSEN’s national strategic direction on programming and services, and Co-Chairs the National Accreditation Review Committee, which considers the quality and quantity of work produced by each of GLSEN’s 40+ chapters. He also serves as a member of the National Safe Schools Roundtable (NSSR), which brings together organizations practicing safe schools work, in order to collaborate on best practices for collective impact across the country. Additionally, he has served as a member of RESPECT’s Community Advisory Board, and volunteered with Prairie Hill Montessori Learning Center and Style Omaha, Help All.  

JohnCarl, originally of Lincoln, currently resides in the Millard Public School District with his partner, Ryan, and their 3 “fur children,” miniature dachshunds, Teddy, Rex & Pippa, all adopted through local rescue organizations. In his free time, JohnCarl enjoys volunteering and social justice advocacy, and has a passion for Dachshund rescue, art, antiques, classical/chamber music and travel with family and friends. When getting out of Omaha for an adventure isn’t an option, you can usually find him at The Joslyn Art Museum or Prouty Place Gallery for artistic inspiration or the Brass Armadillo and Junk N’ Treasure searching for antique or vintage pieces to add to his collections!

 

Jacqueline Hotz - Board Co-Chair / Educator Engagement Coordinator

Jacqueline currently serves as the chapter’s Co-Chair and Educator Engagement Coordinator, focused on creating safe spaces in schools and to empower other educator to do the same.  Jacqueline has served as a member of the GLSEN Omaha Board of Directors since 2012 and was nominated and voted as Co-Chair in 2015. 

 

“As an educator and as a school counselor, I became involved with GLSEN to allow EVERY student to feel safe when going to school.  GLSEN allows students and educators to feel empowered about the work they are doing in schools to make it a safe place.  Teaching students and educators/administrators appropriate language and teaching them kindness will be beneficial when a bullying situation arises.  GLSEN provides the tools and the trainings for educators and students to be more aware of bullying and harassment and become part of the solution!”

 

Jacqueline holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Science in K-12 School Counseling.  Jacqueline received her Bachelor’s degree from Black Hills State University in 2009 and her Master’s degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2014.  Jacqueline also did her student teaching overseas in Reigate, England at Reigate Priory Junior School.  Jacqueline’s educational career has been with Omaha Public Schools for 7 years.  She has worked as both an intermediate, multigrade teacher and now serves as the elementary school counselor at Walnut Hill Elementary. 

 

Beyond her work for GLSEN Omaha, Jacqueline keeps busy by serving on several committees at school including Wellness, Happy Hearts (courtesy & social), Student Council and Student Ambassadors club.  Jacqueline enjoys inspiring young students to become leaders and role models early on and has a focus of teaching empathy and compassion to all students. 

 

Jacqueline was born in Germany and moved to many different schools during childhood due to her father being in the Army, however, she currently resides in the Papillion-Lavista school district.  She lives there with her husband, Andy, and their pug puppy, Libbey (she is adorable).  In her free time, Jacqueline enjoys going to Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing and Fitness Center, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.  Jacqueline really loves to travel, but always knows that Omaha feels like the place where she belongs, home.   Jacqueline is also committed to learning and loves encouraging her students to be prepared for success in college, career, and in life!

 

Austin Soejoto - Board Treasurer

Austin currently serves as the chapter’s Treasurer, prioritizing the fiscal management and operations of the organization, in order to ensure programming and services budgets are effectively met, while maintaining financial solvency. The Board likes to spend, and he make sure it’s the right amount(s)! He has served on the Board of Directors for GLSEN Omaha Board since 2013.

“I joined GLSEN Omaha’s work to make schools safer for ALL students, including LGBT+ students. I believe every student deserves the right to go to school in a place where they feel safe and respected, and we work to make this vision a reality.”

Austin holds a Bachelor’s of Science in International Relations & Affairs from The Ohio State University. It is here that Austin earned numerous awards for both academic performance and leadership, and was heavily involved in Greek Life, serving as Chapter President of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He was also the Founder and President of Lambda, Ohio State University’s first LGBTQ support and advocacy organization for Greek students.

Austin is professionally bilingual in Spanish, and interned with the Douglas County Public Defender’s Office, supporting bilingual police and attorney interactions. Professionally, Austin is currently a Sales Representative for American Laboratories, Inc. where he serves as direct contact for hundreds of customer accounts, in the Southwest and Great Lakes regions of the United States, by answering inquiries, processing product orders, and working to establish new product lines.

Austin, originally of Elkhorn, NE currently resides in the Omaha Public School District, and enjoys training for Triathlons, singing Acapella, dancing with questionable rhythm and the show, Veep!

 

Brett Masterson - Board Secretary/Fundraising Coordinator
 
I have been with GLSEN for 3 years now, one and a half years as volunteer coordinator and one and a half years as fundraising chair and secretary. I joined GLSEN because I knew people in school that were bullied for being themselves and I want to see it stop, as school should be a safe place for all students to come to to learn and grow. I reside in the Millard School District currently, and when I am not working at my full time job for Samsung, I am usually reading, or hitting the town with my friends, or eating my way across the local food truck scene.  
 
 
Brent Thomsen - Public Relations Coordinator
 
Brent Thomsen has been a member of the board of GLSEN since August of 2014 and serves as the Communications/PR Chairperson. Brent graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After college he traveled to the Phoenix area where he worked for ten years for Hilton Hotels. He moved back to Omaha and work at several hotels and know serves as the Director of Guest Services at Carol Joy Holling Camp, Conference and Retreat Center. Brent is an ally for persons with special needs and volunteers weekly for this cause. He is an active member of St. Matthew Lutheran church where he has served as Council President and various other leadership roles. HE loves spending time with his partner of 15 years, Andrew and their yellow lab, Gillette. He enjoys music, travel and the outdoors.
 
 
Sam Carwyn - GO ED! Coordinator
 

Samantha serves as Coordinator of the chapter’s professional development programming, “GO ED!” As Coordinator, she ensures that GLSEN’s cadre of certified Facilitators and Panelists are trained and prepared to assist in the delivery of presentations and trainings as well as ensuring these opportunities are scheduled and facilitated. Samantha has served in a variety of capacities for GLSEN Omaha’s Board of Directors, including as Vice Chair and Programming Co-Chair, and has been involved with the chapter since 2012. 

“As a mother and an educator, I believe it’s critical to have teachers and administrators that are properly equipped to intervene in situations of bullying/harassment of any student. The intersectionality of GLSEN trainings encompass how cross-sections of the community are affected by anti-LGBT bullying/harassment, and how these complexities compound when someone has multiple identities, such as a queer person of color who identifies as a woman.”

Samantha holds a Bachelor’s of Child, Youth & Family Studies and Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has also possesses a Master’s of Arts Degree in Teaching, with certification in Special Education and a Social Sciences Endorsement for grades 4-9. Professionally, Samantha has worked with Region 6 Behavioral Health and Omaha Home for Boys.

Beyond her work with GLSEN Omaha, Samantha saw a need for LGBT+ youth to have LGBT+ positive role models in their lives, and founded Ally Mentoring, for which she serves as its Board Chairperson. Ally Mentoring is a GLSEN Omaha Community Partner, and operates under the banner of “Sometimes you need more than someone to be there. Sometimes you need someone who has been there.”

Samantha currently resides in the Omaha Public School District, with her son. In her free time, Samantha is deeply committed to her faith, and service to her local Catholic Parish.  

Click here to get involved with GLSEN Omaha.

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