GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ youth, is proud to announce that Elle Smith (they/them), a high school senior from Round Rock, Texas, will be honored as the 2019 Student Advocate of the Year at this year’s GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles.
GLSEN’s Student Advocate of the Year Award honors an outstanding young person who has helped create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students and has served as a voice of change in their school and community. Smith joins previously announced honorees Octavia Spencer (Inspiration Award), Apple CEO Tim Cook (Champion Award), the cast and producers of the Warner Bros. Television/The CW television series “Riverdale” (Gamechanger Award), and Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke (accepting the Visionary Award on behalf of Amazon Studios). The GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles will take place on Friday, October 25 at the Beverly Wilshire.
“Student leadership has been at the heart of GLSEN’s work for our whole history, and each year, we partner with tens of thousands of students across the country who are changing their schools and communities for the better,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. “Elle Smith stands out, even in a deep and talented field of student leaders. Their leadership, organizing, and vision for creating the world they want to see is extraordinary, and we are so excited to honor them as GLSEN’s Student Advocate of the Year.”
Elle, a senior at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas, has won several essay contests for LGBTQ+ advocacy, and they are a published contributor to Trans+, a health and life book for LGBTQ+ teens. Upon learning that their school no longer had a GSA, Elle reestablished the group during their freshman year. They have now served as president for four years. During that time, Elle organized an annual Day of Silence, developed and delivered inclusion and anti-bullying training for the staff, and advocated for safe spaces. Given the previously tenuous existence of their school’s GSA, Elle founded the Central Texas GSA Coalition to support and sustain GSAs in the region. The Coalition has become a hub for both schools and other LGBT organizations while expanding to include charter school and homeschool students who may not otherwise have access to the life-saving impact of GSAs.
The Co-Chairs for this year’s GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles include Andrew Graham, Dave Karger, Patrick Moran, and Chip Sullivan. Honorary co-chairs include Greg Berlanti & Robbie Rogers, Matt Bomer & Simon Halls, Bruce Bozzi & Bryan Lourd, Jess Cagle & Matt Whitney, Connor Franta, Bob Greenblatt, Marilyn & Jeffrey Katzenberg, Blair & David Kohan, Max Mutchnick & Erik Hyman, Jim Parsons & Todd Spiewak, Ellen Pompeo, Julia Roberts & Danny Moder, and Kerry Washington. The event is sponsored by Apple and Wells Fargo. Last year’s ceremony honored actress and activist Yara Shahidi; Will & Grace co-creators and executive producers Max Mutchnick & David Kohan; actress, producer, and activist Ellen Pompeo; Elizabeth Gabler, President, Fox 2000 Pictures, accepting on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox Film; and Student Advocate of the Year Ruby Noboa.
The GLSEN Respect Awards, introduced in 2004 and held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of students, educators, community leaders, and corporations who serve as exemplary role models and have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth. Past honorees include Kerry Washington, Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, Marilyn & Jeffrey Katzenberg, Julia Roberts and Danny Moder, Zendaya, Brendon Urie, Shonda Rhimes, and Carla Gugino.
For nearly three decades, GLSEN has led the way on LGBTQ issues in K-12 education through ground-breaking original research, innovative program development, educator training, student organizing, and targeted state and federal advocacy. With the development of educational resources, direct engagement of youth and educators, and GLSEN national programs like Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week, and Ally Week, GLSEN’s work has contributed to measurable improvements in the lives of LGBTQ students in the United State.
Tables and sponsorships for the Respect Awards are available now. For additional information, please click here.