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Supporting Students - Saving Lives

This past weekend I had the honor of attending and presenting at the 4th annual National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth. The tagline for the conference was "Supporting Students - Saving Lives".  The conference was presented by The Center of Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL).
 
According to the conference booklet, the Mission of CESCaL "is to promote excellence in the field of school counseling and to assist school counselors and site administrators as they design, implement and evaluate school counseling programs to best meet student needs. Supporting Students - Saving Lives is a division of CESCaL and provides national conferences, training opportunities, consultation and support for educators seeking knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to advocate for LGBTQIA youth."
 
I presented a workshop entitled: "Gay Sexuality: Biology as a Destiny". This workshop helped audience members compare and contrast the definitions of sexual orientation and sexual behavior; describe the spectrum of sexuality in the general population; identify that sexual orientation is not a choice; describe how genetics plays a role in male homosexuality; list the current biological theories on causation of male homosexuality; and identify neuroanatomical differences between homosexual and heterosexual men.
 
Over 75  attendees made the workshop standing room only and included K-12 educators, administrators, counselors, LGBT educational leaders and interested community members from across America. Click on "Supporting Students - Saving Lives" link above to view written comments of the attendees.
 
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2012 Commencement Address: Impacting the Lives of LGBT Youth Through Community Service

 
In December 2012 I was honored with my alma mater's alumni achievement award. With that award came the privilege of giving the commencement address for Winter graduation at Wayne State College in Northeast Nebraska.
 
I received the award for my community service on ending bullying, suicide reduction, and LGBT advocacy. My commencement address focused on achieving life's dreams, following one's passion, and the importance of  following your heart to make the world a better place.  
  
Never let anyone stand in your way of achieving your dream.
 
"If you find yourself being picked on, singled out, or bullied for whatever reason: Please know that you are not alone and you are loved.You are loved fully and unconditionally - Just the way you are!"
 
 
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Betty Degeneres: Pioneering the Way For Acceptance of All LGBT Children

I had the privilege of meeting Betty Degeneres at CESCaL's National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth, which occurred in San Diego February 15-17, 2013.
 
Degeneres was the recipient of the Excellence in Advocacy for Safe, Welcoming & Inclusive Schools Award.
 
"When Ellen Degeneres very publicly came out, her mother Betty immediately became a visible ally to the entire LGBT community. She values the opportunity and has worked tirelessly as an advocate for equality and, in particular, for supportive families and safe and inclusive schools," according to the conference booklet. "Betty has been a strong and proud PFLAG mom for over 15 years and recently became their spokesperson for Care with Pride campaign, an initiative to bring education and media attention to issues related to bullying of LGBT students. Betty also became the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Day."
 
Betty recently stated, "I am so happy to be a part of this most important conference. It's vital for counselors and teachers to have the training and sensitivity to step up when needed." Betty continued, "Clearly, what inspired me to be a strong advocate for safe, welcoming schools for all students - especially LGBT students - was my daughter's coming out. We should do anything and everything to rid the world of these negatives."
 
Betty told me that Ellen was bullied in many different ways when she first publicly came out, including sponsors pulling support.
 
Congratulations and thank you, Betty,  for being such an amazing role model for families of LGBT children.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we live in and serve.
 
 
 
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De’Borah: A Musical Sensation That Rocks Support for LGBT Youth

I had the privilege of meeting musical sensation De'Borah at CESCaL's National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth, which occurred in San Diego February 15-17, 2013.
 
De'Borah was the musical talent for CESCaL's conference attendees.  Her amazing passion and gift for music was obvious throughout her performance.
 
De'Borah was a recent contestant on NBC's The Voice. According to the conference booklet, "This Chicago-based pop vocalist comes from a large Christian family and has struggled to gain acceptance from her community. De'Borah was denied the opportunity to sing at church because of her 'boyish' looks. Luckily, her parents, who are both pastors and teachers, fully accepted her. Bravely, De'Borah announced she is gay on live television just before her blind audition and joining Christina Aguilera's team on Season 3 on The Voice."
 
Congratulations and thank you, De'Borah,  for being such an amazing role model in music for LGBT youth.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we live in and serve.
 
 
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Thomas Roberts: An Amazing Media Role Model for LGBT Youth

I had the privilege of meeting Thomas Roberts at CESCaL's National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth, which occurred in San Diego February 15-17, 2013.
 
Roberts was the recipient of the Excellence in Media and Journalism Award.  
 
According to the conference booklet, "Thomas Roberts is an award-winning and Emmy nominated journalist and anchor of MSNBC Live. Prior, he served as a correspondent for CBS News, contributed to Entertainment Tonight and was also an anchor for CNN Headline News. Thomas never shies away from covering LGBT focused stories, challenges homophobia and does it in a way that opens up the hearts and minds of his viewers. In 2010, Thomas filmed a moving 'It Gets Better' video giving advice and suggesting resources to LGBT youth all over the world. The video soon went viral and is still saving and changing countless lives. Thomas recently married his long time partner, Patrick Abner, in their home state of New York, becoming the first cable anchor to marry a same sex partner."
 
Congratulations and thank you, Thomas,  for being such an amazing role model in media for LGBT youth.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we live in and serve.
 
 
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George Takei: Paving the Way Towards Equality for LGBT Youth

I had the privilege of meeting George Takei and his husband, Brad, at CESCaL's National Educator Conference Focused on LGBTQIA Youth, which occurred in San Diego February 15-17, 2013.
 
Takei was the recipient of the Excellence in Advocacy For LGBTQIA Youth Award.  
 
According to the conference booklet, "With a career spanning five decades, George Takei is known around the world for his role in the television series Star Trek, in which he played Hikaru Sulu. George has been a strong advocate for LGBT equality since he publicly came out in 2005. Shortly after, he became the spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project and was also awarded with their prestigious Equality Award in 2007. In 2011, he continued his advocacy by starting the campaign 'It's Ok To Say Takei' in response to a controversial bill in Tennessee that tried to prevent educators from speaking about sexual orientation or advocating for LGBT students. After being together for more than two decades, George married Brad, his Life Partner, in 2008."
 
Congratulations and thank you, George,  for your strong commitment to LGBT equality.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we serve.
 
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Program Director Paul Kesner: Ensuring Safe Schools for All

I had the privilege of meeting and interacting with Program Director Paul Kesner in Washington, D.C., August 6-9, 2012. We both participated in the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit August 6-7 followed by the National Conference of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students August 8-9. 
 
Kesner is the program director for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students.  
 
During the course of the four conference days, we were able to learn about the latest efforts in reducing and combatting bullying, as well as making our schools safer for all youth.
 
I had the honor of discussing with Kesner my passion to help reduce bullying, end suicide, and  bring awareness of minority healthcare disparities through education.
 
Congratulations and thank you, Paul,  for your strong commitment to making our schools safer for all students.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we serve.
 
 
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Secretary Arne Duncan: Passionate Advocate for Safe Schools

I had the privilege of listening to and speaking with Secretary Arne Duncan at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C., August 7, 2012. Secretary Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education. I had the honor of first meeting him at The White House screening of 'Bully' on April 20, 2012.
 
Secretary Duncan was a keynote speaker Tuesday afternoon of the Summit.  
 
"There aren't any quick fixes to stopping bullying. We need to continue to evaluate our efforts and delve deeper into the risks and protective factors around bullying," Secretary Duncan stated.
 
"If we fail one child, we fail ourselves, and we fail our country. Our children and our nation deserve better," Secretary Duncan stated with conviction and passion.
 
According to information provided in the Summit's booklet, "Arne Duncan was named U.S. Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009. Prior to his appointment, Duncan served as the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country.
 
Congratulations and thank you, Secretary Duncan,  for your compassion and strong conviction of making our schools safe for all.
 
Together we can all make a difference in the lives of the communities we serve.
 
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Presidential Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett: Crusader to Help End Bullying

I had the privilege of meeting Valerie Jarrett at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C., August 7, 2012. Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She is also the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
 
Jarrett was a panelist, along with Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation, for the Tuesday afternoon session entitled, "A Kinder and Braver World for Our Youths: How Do We Get There?"  
 
Cyberbullying and it's consequences were discussed.
 
Jarrett stated, "One of the challenges we have in this cyber-world is trying to remember there is a human being on the other side of that internet. It's just not going into the ether, it's going into someone's heart. You're potentially wounding someone in a way that they're going to remember for a lifetime. Children can be permanently scarred."
 
According to information provided in the Summit's booklet, "Prior to joining the Obama Administration, she was the chief executive officer of the Habitat Company...Jarrett received her bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1978, and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981."
 
Congratulations and thank you, Valerie, for your strong commitment to ending bullying.
 
Together we can all make a difference and help end bullying in the lives of our youth.
 
 
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Mission of Born This Way Foundation: A Kinder and Braver World

I had the privilege of meeting Cynthia Germanotta at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C., August 7, 2012. Cynthia Germanotta is the co-founder and president of Born This Way Foundation, which she founded with her daughter, Lady Gaga, to "empower youth" and "inspire bravery."
 
Germanotta was a panelist, along with Presidential Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, for the Tuesday afternoon session entitled, "A Kinder and Braver World for Our Youths: How Do We Get There?"  
 
"My daughter has spoken very publicly and very openly a lot about a lot of her own personal struggles. She was bullied quite a lot," Germannota stated.
 
Germanotta described when her daughter first brought up starting the foundation. They were flying home when Lady Gaga stated to her mom, "It's time...It's time to start this movement." Germonotta continues: "We started this passion project together and I couldn't be more excited to be working on this. I think it's critical to the future of our young people."
 
According to information provided in the Summit's booklet, "Germanotta is a former telecommunications executive whose career spanned 25 years in sales and sales management. She was an honors graduate of West Virginia University as well as the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she received a master's degree in public administration and was a candidate for the Presidential Intern Program."
 
Congratulations and thank you, Cynthia and Lady Gaga,  for your strong commitment of giving a voice to the nation's most vulnerable populations through your Foundation.
 
Together we can all make a difference and help end bullying in the lives of our youth.
 
 
 
 
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