GLSEN, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students, honored George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, Ilene Chaiken, Optimedia, Amber Schweitzer and the Academy for Young Writers Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at the 13th Annual GLSEN Respect Awards – New York on Monday, May 23 at Cipriani 42nd Street.
The 2016 GLSEN Respect Awards – New York continues through June 2 with an online auction via Charitybuzz that features items such as tickets to a Rangers game in the Fox Networks’ Madison Level Suite in Madison Square Garden; tickets to Kinky Boots on Broadway, plus a backstage tour and gift bag; and VIP tickets to the Good Morning America 2016 Summer Concert Series in Central Park.
Stephanopoulos and Wentworth were recognized for their dedication to improving the lives of young people and creating opportunities for marginalized communities. Accepting the award, Stephanopoulos said, “The great privilege we have to work at an organization like ABC News is that we have the chance to shine a light on issues where others might not go, to help bring people out of the shadows, to tell stories of people who are living their lives with courage and grace and grit in the face of incomprehension, in the face of hostility, in the face of a world which either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to understand.”
Ilene Chaiken, who was honored for providing LGBT young people with role models and increasing visibility through positive media representations of LGBT people in her work, said, “It’s disheartening that, even as we’ve made huge strides forward in the struggle for equality, our young people continue to face homophobic harassment, bullying and discrimination – not only at the hands of other students, but from teachers and parents and administrators. It’s enraging that we are again battling back ignorant efforts to enshrine new laws designed to deprive us of our human dignity. It’s disgusting – just disgusting – that our national politics is so rife with racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, reactionary and violent rhetoric. Our children deserve better. We all deserve better. That’s why we’re here tonight, standing with GLSEN.”
The program also featured GLSEN National Student Council members from Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas, who shared their own stories of why GLSEN’s work is important and how it has helped each of them in creating more positive school climates in their own communities.
Other speakers included GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard; Empire star Jussie Smollett; Dave Ehlers, President of Optimedia; Tim Jones, CEO – Publicis Media, The Americas; Educator of the Year and Colorado teacher Amber Schweitzer; model Andreja Pejić; Michelle Eisenberg, Spencer Washington, Daniel Collado, Dio Ayala and Dasia Flemming from the Academy for Young Writers GSA – the GSA of the Year; television anchors Brooke Baldwin, Robin Roberts and Thomas Roberts; Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary, Office of Civil Rights, the U.S. Department of Education; Jordan Krantz, Abbie Faxon and Allie Faxon from Franklin County High School GSA; Del Ray Zimmerman, co-chair of GLSEN Middle Tennessee; Chief Control Officer of First Data Cindy Armine-Klein; and NYC Department of Education LGBTQ Liaison Jared Fox.
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.
The 2016 GLSEN Respect Awards – New York was co-chaired by Cindy Armine-Klein, Chely Blitzer-Wright, Barbara Frankel, Michel Mercure and Ryan Pedlow. Sponsors included Presenting Sponsors Optimedia, Target, The Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo, as well as Senior Sponsors First Data and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
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 through 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, GLSEN’s Ally Week.