The HRC Foundation Youth Ambassadors help raise awareness about its programs to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth at home, at school, at work and beyond.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Youth Well-Being Program is pleased to announce the 2022 class of HRC Youth Ambassadors: Lucy/Luke Chacko, Mya Daniele, Alise Maxie, Ve’ondre Mitchell, Katie Paff, Ash Silcott, Adrian Smith, Jalen Smith, Kei Smith and Lucía Torres-Espinoza.
As Youth Ambassadors, these LGBTQ+ advocates will represent the HRC Foundation, adding their voices and experiences to raise awareness about the most pressing concerns facing LGBTQ+ youth and our programs that promote well-being for LGBTQ+ youth, including All Children - All Families, Welcoming Schools and the Youth Well-Being Program, as well as our ninth annual Time to THRIVE Conference in February.
Five members of the cohort will begin their first year as Youth Ambassadors: Mya Daniele, Katie Paff, Adrian Smith, Kei Smith and Lucía Torres-Espinoza. Luke Chacko, Alise Maxie, Ve’ondre Mitchell, Ash Silcott and Jalen Smith were named Youth Ambassadors in 2021.
“This program is designed to amplify the important voices of teens and young adults, and engage them in helping HRC Foundation improve the lives of LGBTQ+ youth at home, at school, at work and beyond,” said HRC Foundation’s Director of the Youth Well-Being Program and the Time to THRIVE Conference Dr. Vinnie Pompei. “These youth have real and meaningful contributions to make to HRC’s work and the LGBTQ+ movement.”
We would like to thank Nico Craig, Armando Hernandez Jr., Molly Pinta, Joseph Reed and Nakiya Lynch for their service as Youth Ambassadors. These incredible advocates will complete their two-year term as Youth Ambassadors in February.
For more information on the HRC Foundation’s Youth Ambassadors Program, contact Pompei.
MEET THE HRC FOUNDATION YOUTH AMBASSADORS
Lucy/Luke Chacko (they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his)
Chacko is a 16-year-old Gender-Fluid, Queer, Singer/Songwriter, and advocate from Arlington, Texas, who became a viral internet sensation after a performance on stage with Idina Menzel at the Verizon Theater. This moment landed them a spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and gave them a platform to share their experiences with bullying and discrimination. It also provided them the opportunity to perform all over the country for the Boys and Girls Club of America and other charitable organizations. Chacko is passionate about using songwriting as a tool to help others. At age 11, they wrote their first song entitled “King,” that tells their struggle with bullying and how they overcame it. A forthcoming EP, entitled “The Color Movement,” addresses their struggles with being stereotyped, anxiety, feeling accepted in the world, and their battle with mental health. Their hope is to encourage other individuals to be leaders and to empower and support the LGBTQ community through their music and advocacy.
Mya Daniele (they/them/theirs, no pronouns)
Mya Daniele is a 15-year-old biracial non-binary artist from Peoria, Arizona. Currently in high school, Daniele is pursuing art in various forms and is focused on character design.
Raised in a close-knit home by their mother and father, their parents are loving and accepting of Daniele’s whole personhood. Both encourage Daniele to explore the world on their terms, ensuring that their home will always be a safe space. With their support, Daniele joined the Arizona organization One-N-Ten in the hopes of finding others with whom they share common interests.
In late 2020, Daniele was selected to join the One-N-Ten Youth Advisory Council, where they now work to make transformative change within the organization and the LGBTQIA+ community. Their hard work was profiled at the One-N-Ten “Fresh Brunch” fundraising event in the spring of 2021. They continue to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ BIPOC discrimination as they strongly believe in amplifying the voices of those often silenced while using art and storytelling to spread love, awareness and representation.
Lucía Torres-Espinoza (she/her/hers and they/them/theirs) Los Angeles, California
Lucía Torres-Espinoza is a 19-year-old Latinx, Chicanx and Indigenous lesbian from Los Angeles, California, currently finishing up their degree in political science from Cal Poly Pomona with focuses in law, minority advocacy and public health. Through their own experience being marginalized as a young, queer woman of color in professional spaces across legislative advocacy, non-profit management and public health consulting, they have committed to uplifting young, queer voices of color and facilitating inclusion efforts in these professional spaces. These efforts are all rooted in their community organizing and activism background within the Chicanx, Latinx and queer communities as they constantly strive to uplift marginalized voices within each of their communities.
Alise Maxie (they/them/theirs, she/her/hers)
Alise Maxie is a 20-year-old student, activist and organizer from Houston, Texas. They are a non-binary lesbian currently pursuing a marketing and legal studies degree at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. After encountering a negative experience being outed to their family during their sophomore year of high school, Maxie made it their goal to not only be a voice for LGBTQ youth, but to create a support system for LGBTQ youth in low income and minority areas. Although their activism journey has just begun, Maxie is working to become the proud LGBTQ role model they wish they had in their community growing up, and is already known on and off campus as a strong, positive force in the community. Within the last year, Maxie has led their first protest, partnered with HRC Foundation as an organizing committee member for the HBCU Program, created a series of sex health video blogs (vlogs) geared toward minortities and implemented a self-run kindness initiative program on their campus.
Ve’ondre Mitchell (she/her/hers)
Ve’ondre Mitchell is a 17-year-old proud Black/Latinx trans woman of color. She is currently in her junior year of high school and is a fierce advocate on social media. Since she was a child, Mitchell has been driven to unapologetically live her truth, and she finds innovative and creative ways to educate and lift up the voices that need to be heard! Mitchell’ shines a light on popular topics of interest by sharing her experiences, giving advice and hopes and demonstrating self-confidence and self-love by sharing educational videos to a large online audience. To make changes and spread awareness in her school and her community, Mitchell strongly believes in trans visibility. She demonstrates this by singing in school assemblies, coaching her school dance team, participating in the Black Student Union, doing enlightening interviews and marching and protesting against racial and gender inequality.
Katie Paff is a 20-year-old LGBTQ+ advocate. Paff was born in Russia but was adopted at 11 months old. Paff is a former high school GSA president, straight-A student and past member of the school’s LGBTQ youth advisory council. During senior year, Paff attended a youth group and applied to be a little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. From there Paff’s big sibling HRC Director of Strategic Outreach and Engagement Nik Harris ignited and fostered a passion for advocacy work. At that point Harris and Paff started to do advocacy work together. Paff is now on the HRC South Florida Steering Committee, with the goal of making schools a safer place for fellow LGBTQ+ youth.
Ash Silcott (they/them/theirs)
Ash Silcott is a 16-year-old non-binary person from Wyoming. Silcott’s story started when they were little and their mom took them to their first women’s march and pride march. Although they have a supportive family, Silcott still had trouble understanding themself. Their peers started using ‘gay’ as an insult and made Silcott feel unwanted. This continued until Silcott got to eighth grade and became a member of their school’s GSA. Not long after, a group of kids in Silcott’s grade put up racist and anti-LGBTQ posters in their school. Silcott quickly acted to defend their fellow students and went to every school board meeting, despite being the only student from the school there. But instead of helping the students who were the victims, the school decided to ban rainbows in an attempt to stop the controversy. Instead of giving up, Silcott decided to do something bold and returned to school the next week with dyed rainbow hair. Not long after, one of the kids behind the posters was suspended, and the school began to become more inclusive by hiring new staff members to do acceptance trainings. Silcott continues to advocate for the LGBTQ community and Black lives.
Adrian Smith (he/him/his)
Adrian Smith is a 17-year-old fiery activist who made history at his Catholic high school as the first transgender man to ever openly transition. After being censored from his high school’s newspaper his freshman year and told LGBTQ+ content was unacceptable, Smith worked all four years of high school to grow his school’s GSA threefold, re-introduce LGBTQ+ library books that were previously banned and organize workshops and trainings to give the staff the tools they need to fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. He now also leads the student-run newspaper and the “Tellus Zine” editorial board in Cincinnati, retaliating
against the oppression he faced in creative expression in literary spaces and forging a safe space for his entire community. Smith's numerous obstacles and mental health struggles have inspired him to fight boldly for equality in LGBTQ+ health care and he aspires to become an openly transgender medical professional.
Jalen Smith (he/him/his)
South Pasadena, California
Jalen Smith, a 20-year-old transgender man from South Pasadena, California, is a queer rights activist currently studying political science. After undergoing hormone replacement therapy, he decided to live as his authentic self in the spring of 2019. After being misgendered and judged in silence, Smith sought to better educate those around him through partaking in his own social advocacy. As a member of the Angels of Change cohort under Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Smith’s work consisted of empowering trans and gender-nonconforming youth and further promoting trans visibility. As a result of his work, he was awarded by Los Angeles City Council in 2019 on behalf of the city for demonstrating the strength and resilience of gender diverse youth. This milestone made Smith feel ready to share his story. And now having had the pleasure of speaking with journalists and state legislators across the country about the struggles faced by LGBTQ+ youth, Smith has gone on to lobby for monumental bills like the Equality Act, intern for the United States Senate, and even model for queer-inclusive rap group Brockhampton. And as an HRC Youth Ambassador, he works to not only help others like him feel valid in their identities, but help them understand the importance of living their story and their truth.
Kei Smith (any pronouns)
Kei Smith is a bisexual woman from the suburbs of Chicago, and is a proud community college student. After receiving affirming mental health treatment in high school, Smith felt validated enough to come out. Since then, she has vowed to advocate for communities of color to get the same affirming care she received. On her journey to do so, Smith became the co-founder and president of the first LGBTQ+ Youth Advisory Council at the Kenneth Young Center. Through her work at the Kenneth Young Center, Smith has spoken to local and state lawmakers about requiring LGBTQ+ trainings for counselors and the importance of being accepted by those that are meant to help you. She hopes to continue to destigmatize conversations about mental health and queerness, especially in the Asian community, and be the representation she has always wanted.