Queer Youth Leadership Award – Awardees:
Watsonville Charter School
Estelle Gonzales is a fourth grader at Watsonville Charter School of the Arts where they are an active member of the school’s GSA Junior club. Estelle came out as pansexual at age eight and has been a shining example as a young person who feels free to be themself. Estelle is a model to other young people that it is possible to be out and supported by your family, even in elementary school. Last fall, Estelle recorded a video for the PVUSD board about the importance of GSA clubs in elementary schools to support LGBTQIA+ students and prevent bullying. During distance learning, Estelle continues to attend GSA and always has their camera on with their pansexual flag in the background. Estelle is described as “truly amazing, inspiring, and self confident.
Harbor High School
Gloria Panttaja is actor and activist who is the secretary of Harbor High School’s QSA; was host of the Fall 2020 Queer, Trans, & Allied Virtual Summit, and participated in the first New Voices artist cohort, a queer youth performance program. At Harbor High, Gloria has presented information about gender and sexuality to health classes and is a member of the book club Project Lit, where they helped plan a community author talk with Dashka Slater. As a member of New Voices, Gloria created and performed their own original queer performance piece titled “Indecision” which explores the questions and struggles of identifying as bisexual. In addition to hosting the summit, Gloria also created and presented a workshop on queer history. Gloria is described as “a true leader.”
REYES MORALES WARNE
San Lorenzo Valley High School
Reyes Morales Warne is a student and activist at San Lorenzo High School who works with The GSA Network and The Queer Youth Task Force (QYTF), and is a member of the Queer and Trans Youth Council of Santa Cruz County (QTYC). Reyes has been doing intersectional activism in the LGBTQIA+ community for years. They work with The GSA Network at the state level and locally with the QYTF to come up with themes for summits and participate in student panels and projects to speak about the intersections of disability, race, and gender identity. Reyes is currently working with the QTYC to create a website to support closeted youth. Reyes is always willing to take on opportunities to raise the visibility of queer youth, people of color, and neurodivergent individuals.
Scotts Valley High School
Q Licht is the Student Media Lead for Scotts Valley High School’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) club, a leader for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in schools, and the creator of the Purple Sticker Project. As a Girl Scout, Q created the Purple Sticker Project after identifying the need for more and easier to access LGBTQIA+ books and media in school libraries. Q identified criteria for analyzing various media, built a website, and labeled those media with purple stickers to be easily identified and accessed. He also created bookmarks, posters, and stickers for the school library. Q presented the Purple Sticker Project at the Queer, Trans, and Allied Student Summit and is now developing plans to bring the Project to additional sites in Santa Cruz County.
Queer Youth Leadership Award – Nominees:
Soquel High School
AJ Ouse is the QSA president at Soquel High School and a leader in Soquel band and theater classes. As QSA president, AJ facilitates meetings with skill and his leadership has doubled the size of the club. AJ trains younger students in leadership so they may run for leadership positions in the QSA next year. During distance learning, AJ has worked to create meaningful and safe social events for club members and allies, such as movie nights and a Love,Victor Club that meets to watch and analyze episodes of the TV show “Love, Victor.” AJ’s leadership even allowed the club to secure a grant from the Santa Cruz Community Foundation to pay for food to be delivered to students’ homes during the next movie night.
Santa Cruz High School
Camila Snyder-Alaniz has been president of Santa Cruz High School’s Rainbow Alliance for three years and is a member of the Queer and Trans Youth Council of Santa Cruz County. Camila has been credited with reviving the club and has led the club in sponsoring several events such as Queer Movie Nights and National Coming Out Day. Even during distance learning, Camila continues to provide safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ students through virtual club meetings and has supported their classmates through these difficult times. As a councilmember Camila has supported closeted youth through the creation of a website of resources. Camila is described as someone who is “attentive to issues, and who provides amazing ideas’’ for club members to work on. Camila was a 2020 Queer Youth Leadership Awardee.
CHLOË RAE ADOLFO
Soquel High Graduate
Chloë Rae Adolfo is a 2020 graduate from Soquel High School and is currently at UC Berkeley studying Molecular Environmental Biology. While at Soquel High Chloë participated in theater and sports and was an emcee for the Queer Youth Leadership Awards for two years in a row where they were commended for being “dependable, clear, energetic, and dedicated.” During the pandemic, Chloë worked with the Queer Youth Task Force and other collaborators to create several Public Service Announcments to support the LGBTQIA+ community. Their PSAs included information on how to be counted on the census, how to register to vote, a promotion of GSAs, and a powerful “We See You” PSA that spoke directly to LGBTQIA+ youth who were sheltering at home and isolated from their support networks .
Harbor High School
Georgia Brown is the co-president of the Queer-Straight Alliance at Harbor High School where she has been credited with welcoming and supporting younger students who are new to the school and club and are struggling with distance learning. Georgia has attended several of the GSA Network’s trainings and she uses what she’s learned to bring new and challenging ideas to the club. Last fall, Georgia used her skills in graphic design to create a beautiful presentation on queer history for the Queer, Trans, and Allied Student Summit. While working on the project, Georgia encouraged the participation of other students and helped coordinate the division of labor in researching queer history, creating the slides, and practicing the presentation, which was a hit and received positive feedback from attendees.
Alternative Family Education
Jamie Veditz is a member of The Diversity Center’s Youth Program who is credited with helping save the lives of youth in crisis during the pandemic. Jamie has been attending the program for years, and over the past year of virtual programming he has helped support his peers in numerous ways. Jamie has welcomed every newcomer and makes himself available to answer younger youth’s questions and has researched and shared doctor and surgery information for trans youth. Recently, Jamie helped soothe and monitor the mental health of youth in crisis while program managers contacted emergency support. Jamie is described as having “the heart of a stellar social worker and the calm head of a dispatcher” and is described as “a beacon of hope and compassion” for his peers.
Scotts Valley High School
Kelly Baker is the president of the new Sexuality And Gender Acceptance (SAGA) club at Scotts Valley High School where she has been advocating for her LGBTQIA+ peers. Kelly is described as “a natural leader” and was offered the position as president after writing a thoughtful and powerful email to the school’s principal in regards to the LGBTQIA+ experience on the campus. As president, Kelly created a shared Google Doc for club members to record both positive and negative experiences on campus as LGBTQIA+ students and invited both the principal and vice principal to a SAGA meeting to review the document. Kelly’s advocacy and professional manner impressed administration and led to immediate positive change on campus, including changes and new goals for inclusivity in curriculum and campus culture.
LUCY LUDINGTON & ISAAC LUDINGTON
Co-emcees, 2020 Queer Youth Leadership Awards
Lucy and Isaac Ludington are out and proud siblings who have participated in theatre arts and improv at West Creative Performing Arts and who co-emceed the 2020 Queer Youth Leadership Awards. Lucy and Isaac are both creative and skilled actors who have created original performance pieces that explore the queer experience. Lucy and Isaac moved to Santa Cruz from the midwest five years ago and found community in our local theater programs, and both siblings came out as queer through the support of their theater community. When the Queer Youth Leadership Awards went virtual due to the pandemic and needed a dynamic emcee, Lucy and Isaac rose to the occasion. Their creativity, confidence, and self-acceptance.
Soquel High School
Marie Harrison is the vice president of Soquel High School’s QSA and a member of the Queer and Trans Youth Council (QTYC) of Santa Cruz County. Marie moved to Santa Cruz from out of state two years ago and has become an integral part of the LGBTQIA+ youth community. As QSA vice president, Marie has helped grow the membership of the club, handles paperwork and finances, and is a strong advocate for the Ace community. As part of the QTYC, Marie has worked to help create a website for closeted LGBTQIA+ youth by gathering coming out stories to feature online and supports her fellow councilmembers with web design. Marie is described as “humble and intelligent” and is not
Aptos Junior High School
Nico Olmstead is an out and proud member of the trans community and a leader in Aptos Junior High School’s Pride Club. Nico is described as someone whose confidence is contagious. Nico shares openly about himself and his experiences which has helped bring visibility to the trans community at Aptos Junior High. Nico is described as a role model at the school’s Pride Club who has attended every meeting and often helps plan and staff events. Nico has worked with school staff to ensure future LGBTQIA+ students have a safe and supportive campus by helping plan the construction of a non gendered bathroom as part of the school’s gym renovations. Nico’s openness and pride have helped educate school staff and students and has positively affected his entire school.
Watsonville High School
Raquel Jacinto is vice president at Watsonville High School’s SAGA club where she has helped build community and engagement during the pandemic. Raquel volunteered to become vice president at the beginning of the school year despite being in distance learning. In the past few months, Raquel has helped organize a socially distanced meet-up of SAGA and ASB students to create a video for National Coming Out Day which was shared widely on social media, she has helped organize fundraisers for the SAGA club including advertising at local businesses. Raquel also helped with a sweatshirt distribution where club members designed sweatshirts. Raquel leads virtual club meetings with patience and kindness for students having difficulty with the virtual format and has brought the club members together during this difficult time.