Last February, to celebrate what would have been the 190th birthday of our founder, we awarded the Levi Strauss Legacy Grant to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.
With the $25,000 grant, the HRC Foundation was able to continue funding their Youth Ambassador Program which helps amplify the voices of LGBTQ advocates, ages 13 to 22, as they address the most pressing issues facing their communities.
“For us to be able to go the extra mile with the support of Levi Strauss, build a program that elevates the voices of young people and utilize HRC’s platform to ensure those young people are having an impact – it really means everything,” said Carmen Miller, Director of Foundation Relations at the HRC.
Over a two-year term, the 15 members of the Class of 2019 will polish their advocacy skills – taking workshops on messaging and public speaking – and ultimately learn how to use storytelling as a tool for changing hearts and minds.
According to research conducted by the HRC Foundation, LGBTQ teens overwhelmingly reported feeling stressed, rejected, depressed and unsafe in their own classrooms. More than half surveyed have heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
Given the unique challenges LGBTQ youth experience at home and in their communities, their voices are critical to the conversation on equality.
“Part of this work is addressing adultism,” Vincent Pompei, Director of the Youth Well-Being Project at the HRC Foundation, explained. “We’ve had a history of individuals making decisions for vulnerable populations without them at the table.”
And their voices pack a punch. When Ellen Kahn, Director of Children, Youth and Families Program at the HRC, spoke to the National Association of School Superintendents on the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive schools last month, she recalled that her data-driven presentation paled in comparison to the personal narratives shared by the young ambassadors.
“Many of the superintendents said to me, ‘We really appreciated what you shared, but once the young people brought their stories forward everything just landed in a different way,’” Ellen said.
With courage and empathy among our core values, LS&Co. strives to champion inclusiveness in and out of the workplace, from publicly endorsing non-discrimination legislation like the Equality Act to ensuring our stores are Open to All. That’s why we are proud to support these LGBTQ ambassadors as they inspire their peers to live unapologetically and spark change in their communities.
“Someday, the LGBTQ community will be accepted and be the norm,” Youth Ambassador Nicole Talbot told the HRC. “I don’t know if that’s going to be tomorrow or in a hundred years, but if we love ourselves, then the hate can’t win.”
Learn more about LS&Co.’s history supporting LGBTQ rights here.