With a staff of only eight people GSE has ambitious plans for this year and next
Garden State Equality is New Jersey’s largest LGBT organization. GSE works to educate and advocate for the LGBT community. With a staff of only eight people they are able to provide an array of programs and initiatives that reach thousands all over New Jersey.
GSE estimates there are approximately 500,000 LGBT individuals in New Jersey. And that is why they extend their organizational reach as far across New Jersey as possible. They offer various resources that are vital to the diverse LGBT population, including school-based and youth-centered program, healthcare advocacy initiatives, community outreach, and more.
GSE’s Director of Programs, Aaron Potenza, works on the legislative and policy portfolio. He is a member of the new Transgender Task Force, the first statewide inter-agency task force of its kind in the country. On the new TTF, he will be pushing for statewide data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, updated LGBT Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections policies and for state agencies that oversee insurance to issue affirmative-coverage bulletins regarding transition-related care. In addition to his work on the TTF, Aaron is working with allies in the state legislature on bills that will streamline the name change process for transgender people, mandate LGBT-inclusive social studies curriculum in the states schools, and more.
Safe schools are a priority at GSE
Ashley Chiappano is the Safe Schools Coordinator for southern New Jersey. She advocates for LGBT youth and their families at schools. It’s Chiappano’s mission to develop and implement programs that help community members, school administrations, educators, and others gain a better understanding of the issues faced by the LGBT community. GSE’s Teach and Affirm initiative offers multiple programs that help accomplish this goal. The Youth Caucus Leadership and Advocacy Program mobilizes youth to engage in social justice driven advocacy. The Educator for Equality Alliance provides a space for LGBT educators and their allies to help change school climate for themselves and their students. And GSE’s new Library Series offers LGBTQ 101 and Gender Identity 101 Workshops, so that communities have access to accurate information about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
In August, Tyree Oredein joined Garden State Equality as the organization’s Safe School Coordinator for northern New Jersey. Her first order of business was under the Teach and Affirm initiative, delivering professional development training to principals, social support staff, nurses, teachers and administrators before the start of the school year. She also promoted and advocated for LGBT inclusive curricula and programming. She will continue working with school districts in the northern part of the State. In her short time with GSE, Oredein has spoken to Public Health students at Monmouth University as part of a Transcultural Health initiative, and she has presented to corrections officers and educators at the annual New Jersey Juvenile Detention Association Conference in Atlantic City. Her work with the juvenile system continued with training for the Juvenile Justice Commission staff to help create safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in all areas of life.
LGBT Health Initiatives
GSE’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, Bianca Mayes, addresses disparities for sexual and gender minorities across all age groups, under the Map and Expand Program. Map and Expand addresses the demands of finding LGBT affirmative healthcare services in New Jersey. Having LGBT competent providers will keep people from traveling to Philadelphia or New York to fulfill their basic health needs. The Pledge & Protect initiative addresses the unique needs and challenges LGBT older adults face, including access to culturally competent healthcare and social services. Bianca currently has focus groups in most of New Jersey’s counties to assess the needs of LGBT older adults.
To connect more broadly with the community Community Outreach Coordinator, Kayvon Paul conducts County Meetings. The meetings are organized all across the State and allow attendees to discuss issues, learn about GSE’s programs, meet staff, and engage with fellow members of the community. The events are important and productive said Paul. They provided safe spaces for open dialogue about all of the important topics affecting LGBT New Jerseyans. Many organizations and interest groups have large memberships and supporters, but lack the medium needed to foster authentic interactions between them says GSE.
Ucoming ways to be a part of Garden State Equality
GSE is gearing up for their Annual Equality Walk, which is now in its 9th year. This year to underscore the role as a “statewide” organizations, they will host three walks, representing the three regions of the State: Montclair (north Jersey), Asbury Park (central Jersey), and Atlantic City (Southern Jersey). Equality Walk Weekend will take place on October 13th-14th.
Funds raised at the Equality Walk Weekend will support the work of GSE. Corporate and small business sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact Director of Development, Denise Rodriguez: firstname.lastname@example.org.