Derek Shaye shares his story, advocates for Zebra Coalition ahead of the Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: Derek Shaye performs on stage in CFC Arts’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie” this past summer. (Photo courtesy of Derek Shaye)

Six years ago, Derek Shaye ran away from home. After years of struggles — including homelessness and trafficking — Shaye found help with the Central Florida LGBTQ youth organization Zebra Coalition. Now, 23-year-old Shaye is ready to tell his story.

Shaye grew up in Washington with a very religious family. He referred to his home as “unstable and abusive,” especially as an LGBTQ person.

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LGBTQ youth to connect, be educated at Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: City of Orlando’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Senior Specialist Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez gives a speech at last year’s Orlando Youth Summit. (Photo by Melanie Ararat)

ORLANDO | The City of Orlando, Zebra Coalition and LGBTQ organizations across Central Florida will be celebrating and educating LGBTQ youth with the upcoming Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit.

The fifth annual summit will take place at Valencia College’s West Campus on Oct. 19 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The event is free of charge.

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PHOTOS: Come Out With Pride kicks off its 2019 week of events with Drag Race 5K

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Come Out With Pride kicked off its week-long Pride celebration with the second annual Drag Race 5K at Lake Baldwin’s Harbor Park in Orlando Oct. 6.

The participants lined up to walk, run and sashay their way around lake Baldwin after starting the festivities off with a good old pep rally.

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Central Florida gay man named AT&T Community Impact Award winner, donates $10K to Zebra Coalition

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: Kristian Cosme, recipient of the AT&T Community Impact Award. (Screenshot from YouTube)

ORLANDO | A Central Florida call center manager was awarded $10,000 to donate to a charity of his choice for his volunteerism by employer AT&T and chose to donate it to the Zebra Coalition in Orlando.

Kristian Cosme, who is an out and proud member of Orlando’s LGBTQ community, has worked for AT&T for 17 years. Cosme worked through the AT&T Aspire Mentoring Program to create mentoring opportunities with various organizations which led to him being named one of the finalists for the AT&T Community Impact Award.

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LGBTQ youth who are making a difference: Gabriell Rush

By : Jeremy Williams
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24 | Bisexual | She/Her/Hers

Gabriell experienced homelessness at the age of 20. She was involved in a domestic violence situation and even though she had nowhere to go she knew she couldn’t stay there.

“I was in a transitional housing program with another youth-related homeless group but I aged out when I turned 21,” Gabriell says. “By that time I wasn’t getting anymore services and I was not ready to be out on my own, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have a stable job. I was dealing with depression, so someone told me to go to Zebra Coalition.”

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LGBTQ youth who are making a difference: Ian Siljestrom

By : Jeremy Williams
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27 | Gay | He/Him/His

Ian has made his way around Florida. Born in Cocoa Beach, he left for the University of Florida in Gainesville and then settled in Jacksonville where he was a science and health teacher for fifth graders.

“So I didn’t ever want to [work in the LGBTQ community]. It wasn’t ever of interest to me. I was all science everything. I studied sustainability in college. I intended to be an elementary school teacher to get my kid excited about science. And that’s what I did and that’s everything that drove me,” Ian says.

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LGBTQ youth who are making a difference: Kristian “Kris” Aponto

By : Jeremy Williams
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19 | Transgender Male | He/Him/His

Kris has known two truths about himself since a very young age — that he wanted to join the Navy when he was older and that he was transgender.

“I was 14 when I came out,” Kris says. “My parents sat me down and asked if I was transgender.”

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Support builds as LGBTQ groups call on Orange County to ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: (L-R) Heather Wilkie, Andrew Chang and Eric Rollings are among the community leaders helping to ban conversion therapy in Orange County. (Photo by Jeremy Williams)

ORLANDO | A petition calling for the ban of so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in Orange County has been launched on the website Change.org.

The petition, which can be found at ConvertToLove.org, has the support of local, state and national LGBTQ organizations including Equality Florida, Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA), One Orlando Alliance, The Trevor Project and the Zebra Coalition.

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The Pride Chamber honors LGBTQ professionals, community leaders at the 2019 Pride in Business Awards Gala

By : Jeremy Williams
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The Pride Chamber, formerly known as MBA Orlando, recognized LGBTQ business professionals and community leaders at the 2019 Pride in Business Awards Gala, presented by Two Spirit Health, at Hard Rock Live at Universal’s CityWalk in Orlando Aug. 3.

Hosted by Spectrum News 13’s Eric Levy and the legendary Miss Sammy, the evening featured a VIP reception, live entertainment and an epic after party in CityWalk.

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Come Out With Pride announces theme, events for 2019 celebration

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Come Out With Pride board members (L-R) Marc Espeso, Nate West, Karen Brown, Clayton Altman, Jeff Prystajko, Blue Star and Joyce Almeida at the 2019 events announcement July 31. (Photo by Jeremy Williams)

ORLANDO | Come Out With Pride (COWP) announced its official theme, entertainers and list of events during a press conference at The Venue in Orlando July 31.

“2018 was a spectacular year. The weather was perfect and we had a lot of changes; the layout changed, we added a new stage, we added a huge new Marketplace, the energy level was absolutely incredible and we want to keep that going,” said COWP Board President Jeff Prystajko during the press conference.

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Petition launched in Central Florida demands Orange County ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | A petition calling for the ban of so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in Orange County, Florida has been launched on the website Change.org.

The petition, which can be found at ConvertToLove.org, has the support of local, state and national LGBTQ organizations including Equality Florida, The Trevor Project, Zebra Coalition, Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA) and One Orlando Alliance.

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Youth Pride Prom 2019

By : KathleenHarper
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Join us for Zebra Coalition’s first ever Youth Pride Prom for youth ages 14-20 on Saturday, June 22 at the Orlando Museum of Art from 6-10 pm. There will be drag performers, a lip syncing contest, lite bites, photo area and lots of prizes!