Thursday, January 7, 2016

Non-Profit Spotlight: Live Out Loud


Many of us are inspired by the stories we read about the bravery of those who blazed the trails to create a movement of equality. Many organizations have risen out of the needs to help the community due to crisis on demand. However, very few organizations have been created with the express goal to be strategic about a way forward for the next generation at the high school level while engaging multi-generations of the LGBT community. This year’s first feature is an organization doing just that.

Live Out Loud is the product of a desire to help students. Leo Preziosi, Jr. founded the organization after learning of young people committing suicide due to a hostile school environment. His vision was “to create a world where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth live PROUD, live OUT and live FREE”.

Leo Preziosi, Jr.
Founder and Executive Director
Live Out Loud

Since starting Live Out Loud, Leo has demonstrated that there are many ways in which to reach students. In his case, he gathered LGBT professionals to speak at High Schools and Universities about their careers and being LGBT in their respective industries. His organization has also helped many in the LGBT community reconcile their own ‘growing up gay’ by empowering many LGBT constituents to go back to their own high schools and share their stories.

For the last 15 years Live Out Loud has worked to develop programs and services to assist students to learn about themselves and each other as well as how they may collaborate to make their environments inclusive, respectful and enriching. In doing so LOL has designed programming content to facilitate conversations with the next generation about the issues that they face today at home and school. The content has become essential to educators dedicated to assisting the LGBTQ population in the public school system as they establish and develop gay straight alliances (GSAs) in their respective High Schools.

As the LGBT community moves forward there is daily evidence that the LGBT civil rights movement still has a long way to go. Based on the daily reporting of the hostility and bodily harm with which LGBTQ face. Live Out Loud provides a respite as well as resources to youth needing support. Leo took time out to share his story of starting Live Out Loud and what we can expect as it expands in 2016.

What was the catalyst that inspired you to start Live Out Loud?
I read an article in Metro Source magazine titled “The gun in the closet” by Emily Travinsky. It talked about two young men who were bullied and subsequently took their lives. It really had a great impact on me. The article discussed what interested the young men. One young man was passionate about music, theater and play writing. It got me to thinking about what would have happened if he had gone on to live his life. What would have been the impact? Would he have been the next Neil Patrick Harris? The other young man was into magic and activism and I wondered if he would have been the next Bayard Rustin or Harvey Milk? That’s when it really hit me. The idea that these young men’s dreams never got fulfilled. I thought, if only we can just connect the younger generation to great people in the community. People who’ve been through what they’ve been through and be able to go through their journey and create a wonderful life for themselves, show what can happen.

That became the focus of our mission; connecting LGBTQ youth to great people, role models, mentors, leaders in the LGBT community through a variety of programs. We have been bringing generations together to learn from one another. We as the elders have a lot to share and we also have a lot to learn from the next generation. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement sharing our stories and inspiring the next generation to Live Out Loud. I think a conversation we are not having is what are we doing for the next generation on a consistent basis that will impact the lives of the younger generation and not to wait for tragedy to happen. We need to be proactive.

What would you say were some of the challenges of starting this type of non-profit?
The first step was to create these programs. Deciding what it was going to look like and connecting to the different schools, colleges to make it happen was the first big challenge. At the beginning, it was panel discussions of professionals from different industries, sharing their journey and also their careers trajectory and that morphed into creating different education lesson plans on a variety of topics that are of interest to today’s younger generation. It was really about getting things in order. Getting people on board to helping you create the actual programming, connecting with the schools, fundraising to make these programs happen, creating a board to help make these things happen.

You have this great idea; how did you bring it to market? How did you get schools to agree to do this or were schools hungry for this content and to connect with an organization like yours?
Originally, we started by offering these programs to colleges, like Fashion Institute of Technology, New York University, The New School and Columbia University. The program made its way to private schools and later we found the biggest need was in public schools. Once we connected in certain schools, teachers heard about us and started connecting us by making recommendations and referrals to counselors. Quite a bit of networking. They welcome us because we go in with a focused topic of interest to LGBT youth. We handle it, we are there to support teachers or advisors of GSAs

What was your biggest driver?
The most import thing for us is to be present on school grounds, in the classrooms, to be in conversation with the younger generation and to present different ideas and topics, to expand their perspectives and giving them new possibilities. Giving them a new mindset and we knew it would take boots on the ground to make that happen.

How do you go about delivering the content?
Our High School program is our core program. We work with 15 High schools on a monthly basis. We bring structure to discussing issues.  We offer lesson plans, topics of issues that are important to younger generations. This facilitates conversations so that students can learn from others as well as share their point of view. Through sharing they learn that they are not the only ones going through issues or experiencing challenges.

On alternating months, we bring in speakers to talk with students about different topics and share their point of view and what they have been through, speakers share their journey. Often times, this helps students open up to the fact that it is a journey and that it can’t happen in a text message moment. One thing we really want them to start thinking about is, what their strategy for dealing with problems look like for them.

What has been powerful for us is helping to expand their thinking about the resources at their disposal. Listening to them and helping them manage what they are going through. To be able to have conversations about the types of supportive community that they are building. Being able to ask them “who are you talking to? Are you connecting with your peers, are you connecting with your teachers, guidance counselors or your siblings?” Who are the people you can talk to, that can help you when you are in crisis or challenged? Getting them to think about where to turn when something comes up.

What can we expect for the year ahead?
2016 is our 15th anniversary, and there is a lot of work ahead of us.
In 2016 we will be giving out three $10k scholarships at the annual LOL GALA
The Deustch advertising agency has been working with us for the last 8 years and they are creating new marketing campaign to further expand exposure for our organization.
Our goal next year is to increase our outreach by 30%. We would love to get a dozen new speakers to participate in the new year. 



Speaking of the your 15th Anniversary, how do you select scholarship winners for the Annual Young Trailblazer Gala?
The most important thing we look for is what are students initiating in their communities or at their high schools that is having an impact on their community. We are looking for students who are initiating projects that are moving the community forward, students that are helping the community. These students are doing amazing things. It’s really important these students get to share their journey and what they have done and/or created. I think that it is good for the community to see what the younger generation is creating and that is the heart of our Gala.

What can we, the membership, at nglccNY do to help to support your programs?
Learn more about us through our website. Volunteer through Live Out Loud as a speaker at a local high schools in the city, participate in the homecoming project and go back to your High school, become a cornerstone donor, sponsor the Annual Young Trailblazer Gala.


We also do a program called Live Out Loud Behind the Scenes, where we take students to companies to meet “out” employees. We have been hosted by corporates like NBC and NY Times. We want to bring students into companies and spaces where they get to meet people from our community and learn from them. This is about giving students access. If your company is interested in hosting us to learn more about your industry or what it is like to work at your company email me or call me to schedule a date.


Google hosted a “Role Model Social”, could you tell me more about that event?
Google hosted us to walk through the process of volunteering at a Live Out Loud High School Program or the Homecoming Project. We are actively looking for 3 or 4 companies to host a Role Model Social at their place of business to learn more about getting involved with the Live Out Loud Programs. 

Is there a message that you would like to put out to the universe?
My message is that we as a community need to step forward, we need to play an active role in the lives of this younger generation, our stories can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. I think we should be part of a young person’s life, mentor a young person.

What inspires you?
I have always admired people who have the courage and freedom to stand in front of a group, share and facilitate conversations and tell their stories. People who inspire me to step outside of my comfort zone, work to overcome my fears.

Leo left me with one of his favorite quotes, “Leap and the net will appear."

Leo and his team may be reached at the following or you may chat with him at the January 2016 M3.

For sponsorship inquiries, please contact:
Leo Preziosi, Jr.
Founder, Executive Director
212.378.4095
leo@liveoutloud.info

For information about high school programs, please contact:
JD Valladares-Williams
Manager of Youth Programming
212.378.4091
jd@liveoutloud.info

For information about Homecoming Project program, please contact:
Erika Astarita
Homecoming Project Program Manager
212.378.4092
erika@liveoutloud.info

To learn more about Live Out Loud go to liveoutlould.info
Like them on Facebook
Follow them on Twitter
Subscribe to them on YouTube


Written by Ingrid Galvez,
Chair, Diversity & Inclusion, NGLCCNY
Organizational Development Consultant, Strategic Remedy Group


Interested in being featured? Please contact me at Ingrid@NGLCCNY.org.






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