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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
White House honors GLSEN, Trevor Project
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White House honors GLSEN, Trevor Project

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The White House honored GLSEN and the Trevor Project as 'Champions of Change' in a ceremony on August 21 for their work helping to prevent youth suicides.

The Champions of Change, Winning the Future Across America initiative 'profiles individuals and organizations that are helping the country rise to the challenges of the 21st century.'

The award ceremony was timed as a lead-in to National Suicide Prevention Week, which begins September 4.

Other honorees included the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Blue Star Families, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, the Suicide Prevention Action Network, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

GLSEN was represented at the ceremony by executive director Eliza Byard and public policy manager Alison Gill. The Trevor Project was represented by interim executive director David McFarland.

GLSEN works in K-12 schools to reduce anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and violence, and to organize Gay-Straight Alliances among students.

For some 20 years, GLSEN's 'Safe Space' initiative has helped increase visible support for LGBT and questioning students.

In 2011, GLSEN was selected for a five-year CDC-DASH grant as part of CDC's Safe Spaces Initiative and national HIV-reduction strategy. GLSEN provides technical assistance and professional development support to school districts nationwide, as well as to federal agencies working on the issues of bullying prevention, civil rights, educational access, and public health in our schools.

'This White House recognizes the amazing work that the staff. Volunteers, and student leaders of GLSEN have done for more than two decades to alert the nation to the ways that anti-LGBT bias in our schools is a serious barrier to both educational excellence and individual well-being,' Byard said.

'I and my colleagues are dedicated to identifying and implementing solutions to the problem that work for schools and for students, instilling hope and staving off despair. It is gratifying to gain this kind of recognition for our efforts to create better, safer schools for all.'

The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 in West Hollywood by James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone - creators of the 1994 Academy Award-winning short film Trevor.

The film told the story of a Gay 13-year-old boy who is rejected by friends because of his sexuality, and makes an attempt to take his own life.

The Trevor Lifeline became the first nation-wide round-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBT youth. The Trevor Project also provides online support to young people through its website, and makes resources available for teachers and parents.

After the White House ceremony, Byard, Gill, and McFarland met with Obama administration officials to discuss priority setting and suicide prevention strategy.

The U.S. Department of Education will convene a national anti-bullying conference at the end of September.

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