Courtesy of GLSEN Phoenix, November 2017 Web Exclusive.
GLSEN Phoenix, the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, will be honoring four individuals and groups for their contributions toward making Phoenix-area schools more inclusive for LGBTQ students and their allies.
The third annual Sparkle, Glitter, GLSEN, a silent auction and awards ceremony hosted by Olivia Gardens, will take place Nov. 16 at the Heard Museum.
Michael Mazzocco, president of The Herb Box Catering and Events, long-time donor, supporter and former board member of GLSEN Phoenix will be presented with GLSEN’s Legacy Award in recognition of his generous contributions that continue to touch the lives of the LGBTQ youth across Maricopa County.
Mazzocco’s relationship with GLSEN began 13 years ago when he was living in New York. He attended a local GLSEN event with a friend, which is where he first learned about the organization’s work with student-led Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs in schools. Remembering his own painful and unsupportive high school experience, he was immediately compelled to get involved.
“Hearing about the amazing support these kids were receiving from GLSEN through their GSAs moved me deeply on a personal level,” he said. “I remembered how difficult high school was for me, and it made me so happy to know that I could be part of an organization that helps young LGBTQ people feel accepted and become comfortable with themselves – something that wasn’t available to me when I was in school.”
In 2008, Mazzocco relocated to Arizona and immediately sought out the GLSEN Phoenix Chapter. After a period of volunteering he was nominated to join the board and has since served the chapter consistently as both a board member and a dedicated ally.
“Each year, we present the Legacy Award to a former GLSEN Phoenix board member or volunteer in acknowledgement of the incredible dedication and leadership they have shown towards helping us develop school communities that affirm, value and respect all students in K-12 schools,” said Ricardo Martinez, GLSEN Phoenix chair. “Michael Mazzocco’s many years of unyielding service and support make him a most worthy recipient of this award.”
Thom Brodeur will receive the GLSEN Phoenix Ally Award. Deeply committed to serving youth and the broader Phoenix community, Brodeur is a donor and strategic supporter of GLSEN Phoenix, serves on the board of local LGBTQ non profit one•n•ten, and is a former board member of the Southwest Center for HIV/Aids and Make-A-Wish Arizona.
“As a man who remembers being bullied in school for being ‘different,’ and not quite understanding what ‘different’ meant then, I knew that helping youth – LGBTQ youth in particular – would be part of my personal and community work in the future,” Brodeur said about his passion for working with youth. “If there is any way that I can be involved meaningfully in helping young people find their way to who they’re meant to be and the purpose they’re meant to serve, then I am honored to bring whatever support, influence or value I can.”
The GLSEN Ally Award is presented annually to a local leader who has notably used their influence, experience and the platforms they have available to them to support local efforts and specifically elevate dialogue around the urgency and importance of addressing the ongoing anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in K-12 schools in the greater Phoenix area
“We are so proud to be honoring Thom Brodeur with the Ally Award,” Martinez said. “His contribution to the youth of our community is significant and we are delighted to have him as one of our strategic advisors. The sustainability and effectiveness of an organization is dependent on the long term investment of people that intimately understand its mission. Thom believes in what we do and has partnered with us to ensure we are impacting even more LGBTQ youth in even more schools across greater Phoenix.”
In recognition of the late Dr. Eileen Yellin of Tempe High School, the Dr. Eileen Yellin Safe Schools Advisor Award is presented to a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Advisor who has gone above and beyond to foster safe and inclusive spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth in schools. The Safe Schools Advisor Award recognizes outstanding leadership as well as a long-standing commitment to ensuring LGBTQ youth can reach their fullest potential.
Katie Fizz has gone out of her way to provide an incredible, effective safe space for all LGBT+ students at her school. She advocates and enforces equality and doesn’t hesitate a second to jump on discrimination whether it be from students or staff, tolerating absolutely none of it. Miss Fizz is always there for her students, offering an ear to listen or finding outside resources that they can go to for help. She actively seeks fun, enriching and interesting opportunities and events for her students and GSA members. In all, Katie Fizz has personally helped students become better leaders, accept themselves for who they are, and shown them how to be strong and stand up for what’s right. She is a leader, a role model, a great mentor, and a teacher in every sense of the word.
Sierra Linda High School
In acknowledgement of his incredible contribution towards shaping GLSEN Phoenix’s student organizing work with student-led clubs across Maricopa County, the Sean Nonnenmacher GSA of the Year Award is presented to the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club which represents the ideals of GLSEN Phoenix and our mission to ensure that each student in every K-12 school is valued and treated with respect, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This award honors an outstanding group of young people whose efforts have helped ensure a safe learning environment for all students—and have served as a voice of change in their own school community.
Over the last year Sierra Linda GSA has been an incredibly active group focused on realizing change within their school community in partnership with GLSEN Phoenix. The students organized a ‘Think Before You Speak’ campaign that focused on ending bullying. As part of the campaign, GSA members hung up flyers, distributed bracelets, and made a PSA video including a wide variety of students which aired to all Sierra Linda students.
The students, led by president Ky, also worked hard to ensure the GSA was part of the school’s Homecoming festivities.
Recently, Sierra Linda’s GSA organized “Outfest 2017”. This celebration was held in the school’s cafeteria during both lunch periods. They had music, and decorations, and students made “Ally Week” frames that non-GSA students could hold up while getting a Polaroid of themselves. At this event, the GSA also held a powerful open mic activity, where GSA members shared their stories to the entire student body. This courageous activity resulted in a great bonding moment for the student body – all attendees were clapping and encouraging.
The GSA has also been hard at work addressing name changes on school ID’s and in class rosters to make schools more affirming for transgender youth.
Celebrate these community heroes with GLSEN Phoenix at the third annual Sparkle, Glitter, GLSEN. Tickets ($55) include a free drink, appetizers and free parking. All proceeds go directly toward GLSEN Phoenix’s work to ensure safe and affirming school environments for all.
Sparkle, Glitter, GLSEN
6-9:30 p.m. Nov. 16
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix