Educating the Educators: The Impact of HRC’s Time to THRIVE Conference

by Emily Simeral Roberts

Each year, Reyes takes lessons he learns and puts them into action to create a more inclusive and welcoming school culture back home in California.

Dr. Eduardo Reyes is a high school principal and elementary school board member from California who is always looking to expand his knowledge and grow professionally — particularly when it comes to supporting his LGBTQ students.

A straight, cisgender ally, Reyes has attended HRC Foundation’s Time to THRIVE Conference every year since its inception, taking lessons he has learned and putting them into action to create a more inclusive and welcoming school culture back home in California.

The premier national conference to promote safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth, Time to THRIVE engages a broad audience of youth-serving professionals, including K-12 educators, mental health providers, pediatricians, recreational athletic coaches, religious leaders, youth development staff and more. Time to THRIVE provides a comprehensive opportunity to build LGBTQ awareness and cultural competency, learn current and emerging best practices and gather resources from leading experts and national organizations in the field.

HRC spoke with Reyes about what he’d like you to know about Time to THRIVE’s impact on LGBTQ students in his schools, and why all youth-serving professionals should register.

Why did you decide to attend the conference in its inaugural year?
I have always been an advocate of LGBTQ youth and I thought I had all of the information to help our students. But I was faced with a few situations where I realized I didn’t have the tools, information and resources to truly support our students. I also felt that within the school culture there were instances where our LGBTQ students were not being acknowledged. I needed to find the resources to ensure we had a school culture that fully embraced everyone.

Our 2020 conference will be your seventh. What brings you back year after year?
Time to THRIVE is where I recharge my batteries. There are so many workshops and great guest speakers — it’s never the same. I routinely get new information and enjoy sharing experiences with and hearing from other educators and leaders about what they’re doing and what challenges they have been able to overcome. It’s inspiring to continually learn new skills and gain new resources I can then transmit to an entire school community.

How has implementing those resources improved your school community?
If you make equality a priority, it becomes a priority — and it has to start from the top, and students see that. You have to be a model for creating change and be outspoken about the fact that when you are responsible for creating a safe environment for everyone, that means everyone, not just one group. I’ve seen students who are free to be themselves — they’re no longer hiding. I’ve watched students push back on ignorance and biases.

Why is Time to THRIVE so important for youth-serving professionals?
There are still a lot of beliefs and misconceptions that do not support, but rather isolate and discriminate against, LGBTQ youth — they could be faith beliefs or cultural biases or a number of other reasons. I truly believe to have an inclusive environment, it cannot be just one person, it has to be everyone. And I believe you start by informing and educating the educators. This conference is extremely important for every educator, as well as anyone who works with students, because you must have the information to support, embrace, respect, acknowledge and celebrate differences within our student population. This work is literally saving lives.

Time to THRIVE will be held February 14-16, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Register now at, take a look at this year’s lineup of speakers, special guests and workshops and watch highlights from previous conferences.