- September 12, 2017
The 2017 HRC Youth Ambassador cohort is a group of 16 inspiring young people, ages 15-22, from across the country. Young people are invited to participate in the Youth Ambassador program because of their courage in sharing their own stories, and their demonstrated commitment to speaking out about issues facing all LGBTQ youth. As Youth Ambassadors, they represent HRC Foundation and add their voice to help raise awareness about HRC’s youth-focused programs.
HRC recently sat down with Weston Charles-Gallo, a Youth Ambassador from Liberty, Missouri.
Weston entered the foster care system at age 14, and after several placements, found his forever family with his two dads and six siblings. In high school, Weston was a competitive cheerleader, and was involved with the Youth Speak Out Team (YSO), which works to raise awareness of the experiences of foster youth and the challenges they face. Weston was also a member of the Diversity Council, Family Career Community Leaders of America, and the yearbook staff, where he captured stories of his student body. Weston enjoys spending time with his friends and family, and writing poetry.
What inspired you to become an HRC Youth Ambassador?
After overcoming adversity, I knew that I had a story to tell and a unique one at that. I was a part of a Youth Speak Out team that focused on raising awareness for youth in the system, and I knew at that time that there was not a lot of youth advocates fighting for the rights of LGBTQ youth in care. I knew that opening up and sharing my story would inspire and hopefully build up the voices of LGBTQ youth in the system.
What’s been one highlight of your experience as an HRC Youth Ambassador?
Attending the last Time to THRIVE conference, and meeting so many like-minded people who understand that there’s a problem, and won’t give up until there’s no fight left. It’s incredible to see such strong and determined educators, counselors and others collaborating and fighting for one cause: “Equality for All.” It was an experience and opportunity that I will never forget and I highly recommend those who work closely with youth to attend the next conference in February.
What part of HRC’s work do you connect with the most?
I connect with the All Children – All Families program the most. This program essentially found my forever family with my two dads. As a prior LGBTQ youth in the system, I know firsthand the obstacles that are fought to find a gay-affirming family. Without amazing programs like this, many LGBTQ youth would remain homeless and never have the opportunity at a second chance, something they desperately deserve.
What’s your message to LGBTQ youth?
Never allow how you identify yourself to define who you are. As Lady Gaga said, “You are born this way.” Embrace the fact that you are queer and stand true to your authentic self. You have a voice that can potentially change the world. We need you, we want you, and we look forward to the next generation of LGBTQ youth.
HRC Foundation's Youth Ambassador Program is made possible by a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation. To learn more about HRC Foundation’s work with LGBTQ youth, visit our Children, Youth and Families program, our Campus and Young Adult program, and our Youth Ambassador resource page.