Post submitted by Charlie Girard, Former Digital Organizer 

HRC Foundation’s sixth annual Time to THRIVE Conference in support of LGBTQ youth commenced on Friday in Anaheim, CA with an opening plenary featuring advocates, award-winners, special guest speakers and musical entertainment.

Transgender actress Josie Totah, Chicago school counselor Brian Coleman and Judy and Dennis Shepard were presented with Upstander Awards. 

Judy and Dennis Shepard have been tireless allies and LGBTQ advocates since the horrific murder of their son, Matthew Shepard, in 1998. The couple’s work through the Matthew Shepard Foundation continues to inspire, bringing hope and support to LGBTQ people around the world who are striving to be who they are, often in the most difficult of circumstances. Judy Shepard has served on the HRC Foundation Board of Directors since 2001.

Brian Coleman is the 2019 American School Counselor Association School Counselor of the Year. He also supports the school’s LGBTQ student group and a mentorship program. In 2018, he was named both the Illinois High School Counselor of the Year and Illinois School Counselor of the Year by the Illinois School Counselors Association. 

Josie Totah, who starred in the NBC sitcom “Champions,” came out as transgender in a powerful op-ed for Time. She explained that watching transgender teen and former HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings share her journey on her “I Am Jazz” reality television series provided a powerful model for her. At the time, both Totah and Jennings were 14.

 

Other speakers included Becky Pringle, Vice President, National Education Association; Richard Yep, Chief Executive Officer, American Counseling Association; Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign; Sarah McBride, Press Secretary, Human Rights Campaign; Betty DeGeneres, LGBTQ Advocate and Mother of Ellen DeGeneres; Rey Ocañas, Executive Vice President, Director of Communications and Responsible Business, BBVA Compass, Sara Cunningham, parent-advocate & founder of FreeMomHugs & HRC Youth Ambassadors Seth Owens and Ashton Mota.

OneUp, a musical duo comprised of couple Adam Bastien and Jerome Bell, closed out the evening with an incredible performance.

Time to THRIVE is held in partnership with the American Counseling Association and the National Education Association, with AT&T, BBVA Compass and Toyota as presenting sponsors. In its sixth year, HRC Foundation’s premier national event addresses safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ and questioning youth, and brings together youth-serving professionals to discuss best practices for working with and caring for LGBTQ youth and their families in schools, community centers, health care settings and beyond. The conference is taking place Feb. 15-17, 2019 at the Anaheim Marriott in Anaheim, California.


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