Ally to Queer Youth Award – Awardees
Hayley “Paisley” Frost
San Lorenzo Valley High School Student
Known affectionately as “Paisley” this powerhouse ally takes joy in acting as the president of San Lorenzo Valley High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance. As the president, Paisley has made a significant impact on the lives of all of the students on her campus, not to mention the members of the school’s thriving Gay-Straight Alliance. Paisley seems to be an unending source of energy leading a number of campus-wide events including selling wristbands with a pledge to end bullying and helping her GSA to create campus wide events such as Rainbow Week. Her influence is not limited to her ability to “do;” it is felt in her very presence. Her tireless dedication to the well-being of the LGBT students has changed not only her campus but the very livelihood of the students she is advocating for. Paisley is an outstanding example of what being an ally really means!
GSA Advisor, Pajaro Valley High School
As the faculty advisor for the Pajaro Valley High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Erica Murphy has been the backbone of one of the largest GSAs in the county. Over the years and under the loving care of Erica Murphy, the group has grown into a vital and creative community of dedicated and energized students who are ready to make a huge impact on their communities. By helping to plan many campus-wide events, including the National Coming Out Day event in which queer and ally students, faculty and staff were able to “come out” to their school using a donated door painted in rainbow colors, Erica has changed the PVHS campus for the better. Consistently supporting her students and tirelessly interrupting harmful and hateful language on campus, Erica has helped to develop a safe and affirming school for all of the students, not just the queer youth she so lovingly supports.
Ally to Queer Youth Award – Nominees
Branciforte Middle School Student
Always willing to stand up for what is right, Alyssa is an unstoppable young ally. As a former Branciforte Middle School student, Alyssa took the leadership role in recruiting students for the formation of the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance. Bringing together more than twenty students on a middle-school campus to help support queer youth and their allies is no small feat; it was a challenge that Alyssa was happy to take on. Motivated by a commitment to help create a safer campus for all students, she never hesitates to speak her mind and is always ready to stand up for what she truly believes in. Her willingness to always challenge her peers when she hears hateful or harmful language is a testament to her strength of character. Alyssa’s efforts have made way for a vibrant and dedicated group of students who continue to work at creating a more inclusive campus for all students.
Angela Firpo and Chris Martorana
Adult Ally Project Volunteers
To say that Angela and Chris have made a difference in the queer youth community is an understatement. Ever available and always present, Angela and Chris never fail to be ready and available in any way that they can. Whether it is providing support for the Safe Empowered X-traordinary Youth conference or helping to honor the awardees and nominees of QYLA, the powerful love and support from Chris and Angela cannot be missed. Present at nearly every queer youth event, Chris and Angela are happy to jump in from set up and clean up to helping with planning, organizing and developing queer youth programming. Their immeasurable impact on the effectiveness of queer youth programming cannot be overstated. They arrive with an infectious joy and a seemingly unending desire to support, empower and encourage queer youth to thrive. These powerhouse allies continue to inspire so many to step up and support what they believe in.
GSA Advisor, Soquel High School
New to Soquel High School as a counselor but not new to QYLA, Branna Banks has proven her deep dedication to the well-being of all of her students everywhere she goes. This year, Branna has been the steadfast faculty advisor for the thriving Soquel High School GSA. In supporting the development of their group, Branna has worked to bring new and powerful speakers and presenters to the campus as well as tirelessly interrupting violent language and hostile campus environments. Her love and loyalty are felt by all and the students she supports will tell you that in her presence they know they are cared for and safe. Branna works to empower the youth at Soquel High School, no matter who they may be. By supporting the GSA and providing them with the tools and materials they need to engage their campus, Soquel High School is no doubt a better place because of Branna Banks.
President of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Santa Cruz County
The energy and enthusiasm that Cheryl exudes is hard to miss. Her infectious laugh and boundless creativity are an inspiration to the many lives she touches. As the president of PFLAG, Cheryl has revitalized this incredible resource as a way to provide parents and friends with a safe space to find the support they need. PFLAG continues to grow under Cheryl’s loving leadership. Her outspoken and unapologetic authenticity has allowed the group to thrive in their expression and engagement. Cheryl works tirelessly to bring new and creative speakers and presenters to the group to create a dynamic and interactive opportunity for the group to learn and grow together. Cheryl also lends her support and enthusiasm to the many queer youth events that take place and is an ever-present and steadfast supporter of the many events and organizations that strive to support queer youth.
Pajaro Valley High School Student
Never afraid to speak her mind, Daryna is known for her willingness to stick up for what she believes in. As a student at Pajaro Valley High School and a consistent participant in the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, Daryna makes her fierce commitment to inclusion a known priority. Daryna’s peers count on her strength and courage to speak out against bullying and harassment of any kind as well as her unapologetic tenacity to interrupt hateful and harmful behavior. As an outspoken ally, Daryna is not afraid to push her fellow students or her community to provide more safe and affirming spaces for queer youth. It is her ability to get involved that makes Daryna such an important ally at PVHS. Her consistent presence and willingness to support her peers in any way they may need her has inspired other allies on the PVHS campus to come out in solidarity and stand with queer youth.
Frank “Pancho” Rodriguez
Principal, Pajaro Valley High School
Principal of Pajaro Valley High School, Pancho, as he is best known, has been a tenacious supporter of the GSA on his campus. With unwavering support of Erica Murphy and the PVHS GSA students and a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, hateful language, and harassment at school, Pancho has created a positive and affirming climate for LGBT youth on the PVHS campus. An outspoken supporter and open ally to queer youth, Pancho has not been shy in supporting campus-wide events such as the National Coming Out Day and including LGBT awareness in campus-wide assemblies. He has openly committed to tackling intolerance head-on and continues to provide a supportive and receptive ear to the staff, faculty and students alike when approached with new ideas to help create a safer school for all. Pancho’s commitment to his students is an inspiration to the staff and faculty who strive to create safe spaces under Pancho’s leadership.
Pajaro Valley High School Student
No stranger to her peers, Hailey is always willing to be involved. From being an active Ally for the Pajaro Valley High School Gay Straight Alliance to her involvement in multiple school wide activities, Hailey can always be seen front and center, ready to take action. Hailey continues to be a consistent role model for her fellow students using her compassionate leadership and drive for inclusion to inspire other students to make a difference on their campus. Her conviction and drive for a safe and inclusive school campus has given Hailey the motivation needed to support the PVH GSA in numerous school wide initiatives including the anti-slur campaign and national coming out day in which she supported students and faculty as they “came out” of a rainbow painted door in the middle of the campus. Her fierce conviction coupled with her gentle compassion make Hailey an outstanding ally and excellent role model for her peers.
Facilitator, Transfamily Support Group
As the current outreach parent for the Transfamily Support Group, Heidi’s energy and enthusiasm is changing the tide on transphobia in Santa Cruz County. Her dedicated willingness to support other parents of transgender youth has allowed her to step up and take an active role in organizing the Transfamily Support Group. As a mother, Heidi knows firsthand the journey that many parents of transgender children will embark on and has the loving and compassionate energy needed to support them through whatever they may experience. Many in the county are looking for other parents of transgender youth to learn with and Heidi is a wonderful resource for them. Her ability to reach out to other parents and offer an unconditional acceptance is the ultimate antidote to the many fears and anxieties they may have. Her passion for inclusion and acceptance make Heidi a force to be reckoned with in the fight against transphobia in Santa Cruz County.
Retired Teacher, San Lorenzo Valley High School
A long time educator in San Lorenzo Valley, Joan has had a long history of advocating for queer youth and demanding the inclusion and safety of all students. Despite controversy, Joan and San Lorenzo Valley High School stood strong and continued the Triangle Speakers program in willing classrooms as well as creating the Prejudice Reduction Workshop, a diversity peer education program, available to all 7th and 9th graders. Joan’s kindness and loving loyalty to her students is a hallmark of her incredible spirit. Throughout her career as an educator and beyond, Joan has maintained a steadfast commitment to safety and inclusion that is now being continued through her efforts with the Diversity Works project. Joan’s undeniable impact on the San Lorenzo Valley High school campus and greater community has been significant, helping to provide education and resources to faculty, staff and students alike that no doubt helped to pave the way for the incredibly vibrant and active GSA now present at SLV.
Pajaro Valley High School Student
With no shortage of energy, Julian is a powerhouse of creativity and enthusiasm. He is best known for his infectious spirit; his presence lights up the room at the Pajaro Valley High School Gay-Straight Alliance gatherings. This outspoken and exuberant young leader refuses to back down from an opportunity to educate his peers and empowering others to do the same. Through social media outreach, Julian helps to coordinate activities among participants and uses social media platforms to help engage his peers. Julian was a proud participant of the National Coming Out Day celebration at PVHS, proudly coming out as a straight ally. Serving as a role model for other PVHS students, Julian continues to be fearless in his advocacy for queer youth, not willing to let hateful slurs or intimidating behavior go by unchallenged. As an ally, Julian regularly speaks out on behalf of his LGBT peers, consistently advocating for a safer campus.
Out In Our Faith, Twice Blessed, Boys & Girls Club, Temple Beth El
Kathy is no stranger to Santa Cruz. As a board member for the Boys and Girls Club, a 7th-grade teacher at Temple Beth El and the lead for Out in Our Faith, an organization that brings together clergy and lay persons from open and affirming spiritual communities county-wide, Kathy is a much-loved and well known leader. Her steadfast support and loyalty to queer youth have been felt county-wide, vowing to empower and uplift queer youth through any and every avenue she can make available. Kathy has been a staunch advocate for queer rights and the support of queer families while helping to bridge the gap between faith and spiritual communities and the queer community. Her deep sense of commitment and the unwavering vision of inclusive communities that Kathy brings to the table can be felt by all. Kathy’s commitment to inclusion is infectious and her support continues to be a gift.
Pajaro Valley High School Student
Better known as Sandy to her peers, she is a proud ally and fierce advocate for queer youth on the Pajaro Valley High school campus. As a member of the campus’ Gay-Straight Alliance, Sandy brings her creativity and deep commitment to the table at every meeting, always looking for new ways to help improve the lives of her fellow queer students. She was a leader in the anti-slur campaign that advocated for students on campus to stop using hateful or violent language of any kind. She is always bringing new ideas to her club to help end bullying and harassment on campus. Sandy’s kindness and tenacious desire for inclusion on her campus make her a force to be reckoned with as she continuously demands safety and inclusion for all students. She constantly strives to push her group and her school to make positive changes that helps all students to feel safe and respected.
L.M.F.T – Therapist, STRANGE Peer Support Group
There are few who know the youth of STRANGE better than Victoria Campbell. As the weekly support groups facilitator and resident therapist, Victoria is continuously available with a loving and patient presence to provide support to the youth and their families as needed. Her kindness and commitment are felt by all who are in her presence and her support of the queer community has been long-standing. In her professional career, Victoria has stood up publicly for marriage equality and LGBT family inclusion publicly, never being afraid to stand in solidarity with her beliefs. Her quiet tenacity and loving presence have earned her the respect and admiration of colleagues, community and youth alike. Her willingness to jump in and do what it takes to provide queer youth with the freedom and clarity of mind that they deserve is a tremendous gift to so many of the youth that attend the weekly STRANGE meetings.