Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall

The 2018 HRC Foundation Youth Ambassadors are 16 inspiring young people, ages 15 to 22, from across the country who show courage in sharing their stories and demonstrate a commitment to speaking out about issues facing LGBTQ youth. As Youth Ambassadors, they represent the HRC Foundation, using their voices to raise awareness about HRC’s youth-focused programs.

HRC recently sat down with Miles Sanchez (he/him/his), a Youth Ambassador from Denver to learn more about his work challenging LGBTQ stigma in schools. After experiencing bullying, Sanchez chose to live proudly and openly, rather than letting bullies define him. He knows that it’s important for him to be open and visible for other students who are LGBTQ, especially if they are not comfortable living openly.

With the right training and support, school staff have the potential to improve school culture and make bullying a thing of the past. HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools offers professional development training for elementary school educators to learn how to prevent bias-based bullying.

What inspired you to become an HRC Youth Ambassador?

Since I came out at a young age, it’s important to me to support young LGBTQ people because I know firsthand how difficult it is. I hope that the work I do as a Youth Ambassador will contribute, even just a little, so that maybe someday kids like me won’t have to fight to be themselves like I did.

What’s been one highlight of your experience as an HRC Youth Ambassador?

As a Youth Ambassador, I’ve educated myself and others on the impact of being supportive. I’ve had the honor of being a part of a group of some of the most inspiring people from all walks. It’s given me hope for myself and for the future of the LGBTQ community.

This month, HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is shining a light on the impact of bias-based bullying as kids head back to school. Have you experienced bullying at school?

Coming out at a young age isn’t easy, and I was bullied for most of middle school. A lot of the kids didn’t understand the choice I was making, and they singled me out for it because I was different. I still experience ignorance as an openly transgender male in the K-12 system, but I’ve grown a lot. I chose to use my hardships to educate others that there still is still a lot of transphobia everywhere.

What’s your message to other kids experiencing bullying based on their identities?

I want to let you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are important and you are loved -- even when you feel like you are all alone. I’ve been there. Once you start working on not caring what other people think, the right people will be with you on your journey.  

What’s your message to teachers who want to support LGBTQ youth, but might not know where to start?

The best way to start to support your students is to be open and let students and parents know that you are a safe resource. If you use your trans students’ preferred names and pronouns right off the bat, it’s reassuring and shows that you are willing to be an ally for youth in schools. Try to find LGBTQ spaces outside of school to expand your own knowledge about your students. If you don’t have any LGBTQ spaces in your community, look into creating one for your school.

Housed by the HRC Foundation, Welcoming Schools and Time to THRIVE are national programs designed to help LGBTQ youth succeed. Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier professional development program providing LGBTQ and gender inclusive resources to schools to reduce bullying behavior and establish a positive school climate. Time to THRIVE is an annual national conference that brings together K-12 educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency to better support LGBTQ youth.

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