“Empire” Star Jussie Smollett to Present Award to Honoree Ilene Chaiken
NEW YORK (May 10, 2016) – GLSEN, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students, today announced that it will honor Colorado teacher Amber Schweitzer with the Educator of the Year Award and New York City’s Academy for Young Writers Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) with the GSA of the Year Award at GLSEN’s Respect Awards – New York, Monday, May 23, at Cipriani 42nd Street. Jussie Smollett, who portrays Jamal on Fox’s “Empire,” will present the award to previously announced honoree Ilene Chaiken.
The GLSEN Respect Awards, introduced in 2004 and held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of students, educators, individuals and corporations who serve as exemplary role models and have made a significant impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.
“Rounding out this year’s GLSEN Respect Awards honorees are an educator and GSA that exemplify what it means to create school climates in which all students succeed,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director. “Amber Schweitzer is an exemplary supportive educator whose inclusive curriculum, leadership and community involvement have had a significant impact on the lives of her students. She will join the stage with the GSA at the Academy for Young Writers, whose extraordinary work has encouraged a culture of respect for all in their community. Our research makes clear that it is educators like Amber and GSAs like the Academy for Young Writers that allow all students, including LGBT students, to succeed in school.”
Schweitzer, a teacher at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colo., will be recognized for devoting her teaching career to ensuring a safe and inviting environment for every student. She teaches Yoga, Adventure and Health using a thoughtful curriculum developed to reflect self-acceptance and inclusion while tackling tough topics like gender and sexuality, suicide prevention, mental health and bullying. As the faculty advisory of Castle View High School’s GSA, she has expanded the program from two to 30 students in the past two years, and she has created a network of connections between her students and the LGBT community through her involvement with myriad local organizations.
The Academy for Young Writers, a public secondary school in Brooklyn, N.Y., will be honored for its accomplishments, including working with the school’s principal to ensure the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms, organizing a Pride Month Celebration and anti-bullying pledge initiative, and meeting with educational directors at the New York City Department of Education to advise on inclusive policy such as the Chancellor’s Guidelines on Transgender Students. By coordinating school and community LGBT events, the GSA has changed attitudes fueled by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, celebrated and honored the beauty and success of LGBT individuals, and worked to ensure that every single classroom and hallway is an inclusive and empowering space.
Schweitzer and the Academy for Young Writers GSA will join previously announced honorees George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, Ilene Chaiken and Optimedia. GLSEN also acknowledges other educators and GSAs that have helped create positive school climates for LGBT youth through the Educator and GSA Honor Rolls. The Educator of the Year Honor Roll members are:
- Tina De La Fe, Literacy Coach/GSA Sponsor at South Tech Academy, Boynton Beach, Fla.;
- Anthony (Tony) Gatto, Principal at The Arts & College Preparatory Academy, Columbus, Ohio;
- Briana Stiller, Behavior Support Specialist at Eugene School District, Eugene, Ore.; and
- Al Vernacchio, Sexuality Educator and English Department Chair at Friends’ Central School, Philadelphia, Pa.
The GSA of the Year Honor Roll members are:
Franklin County High School, Winchester, Tenn., who will receive Special Recognition at the awards;
- Helix Charter High School, La Mesa, Calif.;
- Marshall High School, Marshall, Mich.; and
- Morris Area High School, Morris, Minn.
GLSEN has led the way on LGBT issues in K-12 education since 1990. Through ground-breaking original research, innovative program development, student leadership and educator training, community organizing, and targeted state and federal advocacy, GLSEN has seen the impact of its work with the development of educational resources, direct engagement of youth and educators, and national programs like GLSEN’s Day of Silence, GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, and GLSEN’s Ally Week.
The 2016 GLSEN Respect Awards – New York is co-chaired by Cindy Armine-Klein, Chely Blitzer-Wright, Barbara Frankel, Michel Mercure and Ryan Pedlow. Sponsors include Presenting Sponsors Optimedia, Target, The Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo, as well as Senior Sponsors First Data and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
For more information about the GLSEN Respect Awards – New York, please visit our event website.
GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. 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.