GLSEN Announces Inaugural Class of Freedom Fellows



GLSEN Announces Inaugural Class of Freedom Fellows

Young Leaders to Represent Regional Voices for LGBTQ+ Students

NEW YORK (Dec. 7, 2021) – Today, GLSEN, the leading national organization working to guarantee LGBTQ+ students safe and affirming education, announced five young LGBTQ+ leaders as the inaugural cohort of GLSEN’s Freedom Fellowship Program.

After a national search and competitive application process, the five selected fellows will lead GLSEN’s Freedom Fellowship, a one-year program for 18-25 year olds. This unique opportunity offers Fellows the chance to study regional topics affecting LGBTQ+ students and organize community mobilization efforts in order to make school environments a safer and more affirming place for all LGBTQ+ youth.

“We are excited to welcome the cohort members of GLSEN’s Freedom Fellowship program,” said Jamond Foree, Community Mobilization Manager of GLSEN. “These individuals represent the next generation of young LGBTQ+ leaders with the experience to organize coalitions, mobilize communities, and build partnerships to advocate for their fellow LGBTQ+ students. The influence of these Fellows will support the continuous work of our Chapters and will lead the effort in centering GLSEN’s story around captivating and groundbreaking voices of our nation’s LGBTQ+ youth.”

As part of the inaugural Freedom Fellowship program, Fellows have the opportunity to serve as regional contacts maintaining connections and providing support for GLSEN’s network of more than 48 Chapters across the country; receive monthly community mobilization training; grow their skills through working directly with Chapters and providing recommendations that affect LGBTQ+ students in their regions.

“Young LGBTQ+ people in our schools and communities are at the front lines of the fight to deflect recent attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and provide support for impacted people,” said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Interim Executive Director of GLSEN. “We are currently witnessing a record-breaking year of political attacks, with anti-LGBTQ and discriminatory state bills banning trans and nonbinary youth from playing on school sports teams or denying life-affirming health care to trans youth and their families. These five, young emerging leaders will serve a critical role in connecting state communities facing these attacks and building support for the LGBTQ+ movement into the new year.”

Get to know GLSEN's 2021-22 Freedom Fellowship members:

Dorcas Adedoja (they/them), based in N.Y., serves the East region and is a trained public health specialist advising health professionals, artists, activists, and the general public on best practices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They currently serve as the FORWARD Committee Chair at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

Jaiden Blancaflor (he/him), based in Ohio, serves the Midwest region and is a first-year student at the Ohio State University. He is majoring in speech and hearing sciences as well as minoring in LGBTQ studies, American Sign Language, and disabilities studies. He was born and raised in California to a Filipino mom and Salvadorian dad and also spends time in Chicago with his family. He identifies as bisexual and transgender (FtM). As a disabled LGBT youth of color, he is an advocate for human rights and equality, both online and in his own community.

Tyrese Rice (he/him/el), based in Conn., serves the Southwest region, was born and raised in Okmulgee and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tyrese grew up as one of the only out queer kids in the area since the age of 11. His mission is to ensure the LGBTQIA+ youth of today gain a sense of security and self-worth in an area where conformity is the standard. Tyrese is also fluent in four languages: English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Esmée Silverman (she/her), based in Ore., serves the West region and is a queer activist, community organizer, public speaker, and educator. She is the co-founder of the nonprofit Queer Youth Assemble, which is dedicated to serving queer youth across the U.S. through providing resources and support for youth to create positive change in their communities. She also created Let Trans Athletes Play, an event that brought together more than 100 queer youth for a day, protesting anti-trans bills while building a queer youth community through sports and games. In addition to her own endeavors, Esmée has also worked with various organizations including GLSEN National as a member of the 2020-2021 National Student Council, the Massachusetts GSA State Leadership Council, and GLSEN Massachusetts.

Jace T. Wilder (he/they), based in Tenn., serves the South region and is a senior at Belmont University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree of science in both political science and public health. Jace, a Tennessee native, identifies as transmasculine. At his school, he is the head delegate for Belmont's Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature and the chair and co-founder of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature's LGBTQIA+ Caucus and the Diversity and Inclusion Board on the Executive Council. He has been active in the field of LGBTQ+ politics for three years aiding in education and advocacy regarding LGBTQ+ legislation alongside Tennessee Equality Project, the Nashville LGBT Chamber, GLSEN, and the ACLU.

To learn more about GLSEN’s Freedom Fellowship, click here.


GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ+ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ+ issues in education.