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GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year Featured in Local News

Laila Al-Shamma, GLSEN's own 2013 Student Advocate of the Year and a high school senior from Carlsbad, California, was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune last month for her ongoing activism. 

When she was honored at the GLSEN Respect Awards - Los Angeles in October, 17-year-old Laila moved the audience to tears when she read aloud pages from her past journals that explained how she was coming to terms with being gay. Eventually, she overcame her fears by coming out publicly in her school newspaper, and was met with overwhelmingly positive responses.

Today, Laila is an active leader in the Gay-Straight Alliance at La Costa Canyon High School. The Union-Tribune spoke with her family and educators about the tremendous ways her work has impacted her community:

Suzi Van Steenbergen, a journalism and English teacher at La Costa Canyon, said Al-Shamma’s column was a revelation for many on campus.

“I had a lot of students comment about how impressed they were with her and how it opened up a dialogue between students and teachers. It had a really cool ripple effect,” Van Steenbergen said. “Laila’s sense of broader obligation is really mature, very beyond her years. It came from an honest place and that is why people embraced it so much.”

We're proud to work with students like Laila who advocate for their LGBT peers every day. Read the full article here, and make sure to watch Laila's powerful speech from the GLSEN Respect Awards below: