LGBT non-profit organization Live Out Loud is hosting its 12th annual Young Trailblazer’s Gala featuring young professionals in the LGBT community on Tuesday, April 30th. Live Out Loud aims to inspire LGBT youth by connecting them with successful, established professionals in the community.
“The Gala recognizes a diverse group of prominent and inspiring leaders of the LGBT community,” Live Out Loud’s Marketing Associate Jeff Hagan told 429Magazine. “The Gala is an occasion to recognize the achievements of LGBT youth and encourage their development into strong, confident leaders.”
Hosted in New York, the gala will celebrate leaders of the LGBT community in the categories of culture, business, politics, arts and religion.
Past honorees include Alan Cumming, Daryl Roth, Ralph Rucci, Hal Rubenstein, and Stuart Elliot with special guest hosts from BD Wong, Michael Urie, Cheyenne Jackson and Nick Adams.
“Honorees have set themselves apart from the rest of the community as trailblazers in their fields and role models for future generations,” said Hagan.
Past attendees also include Lisa Lampanelli, Donny Deutsch, Thom Browne, Ariel Foxman, Michael J. Fox, and Sandra Bernhard.
Live Out Loud’s mission has always been “to empower, energize and enable Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth to live the life of their dreams through the celebration of the richness and diversity of our shared experience, the visibility of role models and the dissemination of information.”
The ceremony will also present the Live Out Loud Youth Scholarship, which presents funding provided by the organization for exceptional youths who have contributed to society.
“We award scholarships to five LGBT high school seniors who have demonstrated remarkable leadership in their communities,” said Hagan.
The project was conceived in 2002 and awarded collegiate scholarships to LGBT youths from the New York tri-state area. This year, Live Out Loud will present 5 awards of $5,000 each during the gala.
“[The winners] give a speech and are given the opportunity to meet a diverse network of professionals who can mentor them and help in their professional development,” said Hagan.
Aside from the upcoming gala, Live Out Loud is widely known for the Homecoming Project. Conceived in 2008, the project is a successful grassroots initiative that recruits successful LGBT professionals back to their respective high schools to share their stories with the next generation.
“The Homecoming Project inspires youth by connecting them with a real-life role model who walked in their shoes,” said Hagan. “It shows these youth the possibilities for their futures and supports them at this challenging point in their lives.”
For almost 5 years, the organization has recruited 500 LGBT role models from spiritual leaders, fashion designers, corporate powerhouses and grassroots activists to their respective high schools and universities.
According to a study by Lambda Legal, “LGBT students are far more likely than their non-LGBT peers to run away from home, experience academic problems, and to struggle with substance abuse, low self-esteem, and depression.”
The general student bodies range from 200 students or more with past speakers like Gay Rights Activist Neil Guiliano, “Milk” Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and NBC Metrologist Raphael Miranda.
The organization was founded by Leo Preziosi, Jr., who was inspired by a 2000 Metro Source article of two LGBT students who committed suicide because of isolation, ostracism, fear and hostile school environments. Ever since, he saw the need to bridge the gap between LGBT youth with positive role models and an open dialogue.
“Despite all the progress we’ve made in the LGBT community, students still struggle with lack of support – this program fills a very important gap at a critical time in their lives,” said Preziosi in a press release. “People in our community can make such an impact just by sharing their wisdom, skills and experience.”
Gay It Forward, their first national PSA campaign created by Deutsch A Lowe and Partners Company, inspired the LGBT community to participate in the Homecoming Project.
With accompanying images and videos similar to the “It Gets Better” campaign, the initiative has recruited people like Actor Alan Cumming, IKONS’ Editor-in-Chief Tiq Milan and Comedian Lisa Lampanelli.
“The ‘Gay It Forward’ PSA campaign has amplified the visibility of Live Out Loud’s Homecoming Project,” said Hagan. “It features real LGBT role models and their lessons learned.”
The campaign started in 2012 and will continue through 2015 and has recruited over 40 LGBT professionals.
Throughout its conception, Live Out Loud’s main goal is to empower the next generation of LGBT youth.
“Live Out Loud aims to inspires self-confidence and help them become agents of change in their communities, and to create cross-generational solidarity,” said Hagan. “We envision a future where LGBTQ youth are confident, equal, safe, proud, and strong.”