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Our Omaha Chapter
Who We Are
GLSEN Omaha is the Omaha, Nebraska based chapter of GLSEN, Inc. The mission of GLSEN Omaha is to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.
We primarily serve the greater 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.
From the Board of Directors to program coordinators to committees, GLSEN Omaha is a completely volunteer-run organization.
JohnCarl Denkovich, MPA - Board Chairperson / Research, 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 (Public Policy) & Psychology (Health Intervention), with a concentration in Pre-Law, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2006. He also holds a Master's of Public Administration, Nonprofit Management 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 in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors. He currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition, overseeing tobacco prevention, control, and education efforts for Douglas County. He also serves as the Chairperson for Heartland Family Service's (HFS) LGBTQ+ ERG, Prism and sits on its Culture of Inclusion Council, where Trauma Informed Care Principles are used to thoughtfully incorporate diversity and inclusion.
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.
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 for artistic inspiration or the Brass Armadillo and Omaha Auction Center searching for antique or vintage pieces to add to his collections! JohnCarl resides in the Millard Public School District.
Jordan Brown - Treasurer
It's an honor to join the Omaha GLSEN board. I believe that GLSEN is doing amazing things in schools for queer and trans students. I wanted to join because I firmly believe in the quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" from Gandhi. That change would be making students feel safe, accepted, and valued when they come to school.
He currently resides in the OPS school district, though graduated from Westside in 2013. He completed the Technical Theatre Apprenticeship Program at the Omaha Community Playhouse where he majored in carpentry.
When he's not working at Starbucks, he's a full-time student at University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the the President of the Queer Nebraska Youth Network. Jordan also volunteers as a mentor for the IncluShip program and as a facilitator and IncluCity Counselor with Inclusive Communities. I might be planning events like Transgender Day of Visibility and National Coming Out Day. Favorite past times include reading, watching Bob's Burgers, or camping/hiking. It's also crucial to know his favorite coffee shop is Archtype Coffee in the Blackstone District, because they have a nitro Cold Brew which is "unbelievably amazing."
Amber Barcel, BS - Secretary
Amber is a full-time employee of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland as a Community Educator, and facilitates the organization's Teen Council. She also works part-time as an academic coach for an education consultant. She's passionate about nonprofit education, youth engagement, volunteer coordination, social justice, international human rights, and diversity and inclusion.
When she's not working or volunteering for GLSEN Omaha, she's giving of her time and energy to organizations like Omaha Girls Rock, the Union for Contemporary Art, the Nebraska AIDS Project, or United Way of the Midlands. She also started a Facebook page called "Volunteer Omaha" for folks to have one place where they can find out how to get involved in our community!
Charles "Chuck" Kaup, MSW - OPS Policy Coordinator
Andrew Aleman, MSW - Special Events Coordinator
Aaron Burbach - Student Board Member
Sam Carwyn, MA - 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 LGBTQ+ youth to have LGBTQ+ 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.
Billie M. Grant - State Policy Coordinator
Billie Mari Grant has lived in Omaha for almost 5 years. In those years she has become a recognizable activist in many communities. She is a core organizer for CHEER (Comprehensive Health Education and Equal Responsibility) and SlutWalk Omaha. She is the creator of Period.Productions, an alternative printed resource currently focused on creating a comprehensive sexual health zine (The Talk) to be nationally distributed. She is as board member of Friends of Planned Parenthood, and QPOC (QPoC) Nebraska. She works as the Program Director for Omaha Girls Rock Camp, a summer camp and after school program 5 years strong! Billie has volunteered regularly as a facilitator or panelist for GLSEN, Inclusive Communities, and The Anti-Defamation League. This September she was named, Omaha Table Talk's Facilitator of the Year. She somehow still finds times to binge watch Gotham and Pretty Little Liars and even walks her dachshund Chihuahua, Winston...sometimes.
Jacqueline Hotz, MS - School Counselor/Board Consultant
Jacqueline is 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 home. Jacqueline is also committed to learning and loves encouraging her students to be prepared for success in college, career, and in life!