It would be easy to take the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) for granted. From HIV testing and counseling services; to programming for youth; groups for aging populations, women and the trans community. It’s hard to remember a time without The Center. While there is something to be said for a community taking ownership of a physical space, it is the people who make (or break) a community organization. Just as love makes a house a home. People make the programs at The Center. As March begins a monthlong celebration of women, we celebrate some of the remarkable women shining bright at The Center.
Holly Reese Community Engagement Manager She, Her, Her’s
Holly Reese has been a valued team member at The Center since 2014. Her role is expansive and includes the management of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion training, program development as well as relationship and community partner management. Reese also manages the Victims of Crime Advocacy and Pivot programs.
She has a passion for problem-solving and is most excited for The Center to build its family services in 2020. This includes updates to the Pivot program, which is celebrating three years this month and The Center Advocacy Network (CAN), which will be launching an awareness initiative later this year to reach more potential victims of domestic violence.
Reese is most inspired by the participants and facilitators of Pivot program. “Pivot supports families who have a child coming out as LGBTQ+. Participants are parents who love their children but are overwhelmed by the unknown and need support,” Reese said. “The youth are the bravest individuals I have ever known. Being able to sit with these families as they grow stronger together is the biggest privilege of my life.”
AJ Huth Youth Programs Manager and PREP Coordinator She,They
AJ Huth has been with The Center for five years and manages the youth group, Qvolution. In addition to twice-weekly meeting for ages 13-17 and 18-24, Huth manages major events year-round such as the Youth Prom and the Thanksgiving celebration.
They encourage community members to stop by The Center to connect, get support and access to resources, get tested, volunteer or simply have a little fun. Huth is most inspired by youth who frequent The Center.
“Our youth continuously inspire me and the resilience of the young people in our community is astounding. The tendency is to think that this generation is soft,” they continued. “They are not. They are under tremendous pressure and coming into a world of great socio-economic inequality, yet there are times when they manage adversity better than I do.”
Vanessa Gotti CAN Advocacy Specialist She, Her, Her’s
Vanessa Gotti began as a volunteer at The Center in 2014, assisting with the SWITCH! Program that she now coordinates. SWITCH! is a clothing program, which provides a safe, judgement-free space for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals to explore their personal style in a safe, welcoming environment. Gotti transitioned to the role of advocacy specialist but still enjoys volunteering weekly for SWTICH! Free to participants, the program has provided over 120,000 articles of clothing to date. One of her proudest moments came when helping a community member preparing for a job interview. “This person had an interview scheduled for the following day,” she said. “I helped them choose an outfit for the interview and the next day they came to tell me they received a job offer.” She said she will never forget the ear-to-ear smile on that face. “The client was boasting and smiling. That moment resonates within my soul to this day. In our community, jobs and housing can be extremely hard to come by. The fact that I was able to help someone feel their best was a reward within itself.”
Ashanté Herring Youth Resource Specialist She, Her, Her’s
Ashantè Herring began at The Center as a volunteer in 2016 and recently transitioned to her current role as youth resource specialist this year. Herring is responsible for youth programming including the development of engaging and relevant content. She regularly engages with Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other LGTBQ- aligned clubs in Clark County to provide information about resources and services available through The Center. She is most excited to create robust services by building on the existing foundation. “AJ has already laid an excellent foundation and I am honored to have the opportunity to build on that,” she said. “I am excited to get into the community more and help The Center become better known among young people as a place where they can be themselves without fear.
Herring believes The Center is a truly amazing space. “When you walk through the doors, love, hope and positivity envelop you, “she explained. Herring draws inspiration from her time spent with program participants. “When I see our youth use the skills they’ve learned to self-advocate, I am affirmed in my belief that while the future can sometimes seem bleak, there is a new generation of changemakers to continue the charge for justice,” she said with a smile. “I am thankful that I get to engage with them every day.”