By Desi Rubio, November 2015 Issue.

For the past 25 years, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), has served as one of the nation’s leaders in promoting LGBT awareness, inclusion, safety and respect in schools nationwide.

What started in 1990 as a small but dedicated group of teachers, who came together to improve an education system that frequently allowed its LGBT students to be bullied, discriminated against and/or fall through the cracks, has grown into the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

Together, GLSEN and its supporters have made it their mission to ensure that “each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.” GLSEN’s mission statement goes on to say, “Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike.”

With more than 40 chapters nationwide, GLSEN works with grades K-12 and has developed a foundation for academic leaders, students, educators and parents to turn to in order to educate and empower change as a visible ally in the community.

Image courtesy of GLSEN Phoenix.

The Phoenix chapter’s has been a part of education institutions throughout the Valley for 15 years. They serve as the main resource for gay/straight alliances (GSAs) clubs in schools and, most recently, launched monthly professional development workshops open to educators, community allies and even attorneys.

“We are successful because we work directly with everyone in schools,” said GLSEN Phoenix Co-Chair Ricardo Martinez. “We have our ear to the ground and know what is really happening.”

In celebration of that 25th anniversary, the GLSEN Phoenix chapter will be hosting its first ever Sparkle, Glitter, GLSEN, an awards ceremony and cocktail reception in honor of the 25th anniversary.

According to Martinez, the event’s name represents a celebration of being your truest and most authentic self and being at peace with your identity.”

“Our former Board Member Michael Mazzocco actually came up with the name a long time ago. We held on to the name until it was fitting [and our] 25th anniversary seemed like the perfect event to use it,” he said. “Everyone should Sparkle, Glitter and GLSEN.”

The event will be dedicated to honoring local individuals who have made a positive impact on the community through their dedication and contributions.

“GLSEN is primarily led by volunteers, so this will be a chance to celebrate everyone who shares a small part of GLSEN,” Martinez said. “We [also] want to celebrate people that champion our mission in their own unique ways [with our awards].”

Three types of awards, chosen specifically by the GLSEN internal board, will be given during the event: The Ally Award, The Legacy Award and The Safe Schools Award.

The Ally Award will be presented to Phoenix’s first lady Nicole Stanton in recognition of her service and leadership on anti-bullying initiatives within the LGBT community and beyond. The Legacy Award will be presented to Matthew Heil. Dr. Eileen Yellin, a GSA advisor at Tempe High School, will be presented the Safe Schools Advisor Award.

Image courtesy of GLSEN Phoenix.

The event will also include a silent auction benefiting GLSEN.

According to Martinez, auction items will include one-night getaways, a variety of gift baskets and many other items.

“We hold many fundraising events throughout the year, but we hope this event will bring in even more people,” Martinez said. “It should be a neat and empowering evening.”

In recognition of the 25 anniversary, tickets are $25 and include appetizers and an open bar. Tickets available here, as well as at the door.

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