Student Advocate of the Year Announced

California Student Laila Al-Shamma Named 2013 GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year Presented by AT&T

Andy Marra
Public Relations Manager

NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network is excited to name Laila Al-Shamma of Carlsbad, California as the 2013 GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year. Laila will be honored alongside leading global, award-winning entertainment company Lionsgate; Emmy/Golden Globe award-winning producer Linda Bloodworth Thomason; and Emmy/Golden Globe award-winning actor Jim Parsons and partner Todd Spiewak at GLSEN's ninth annual Respect Awards - Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Friday, October 18.

GLSEN's Student Advocate of the Year honors an outstanding young person whose efforts have helped ensure a safe learning environment for all students -- and have served as a voice of change in their school and community.

"Laila is an inspiring example of how students can positively change their school community for generations to come," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "Laila has demonstrated outstanding leadership at her school and community, which is precisely what we seek to honor in the GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year. She has a promising future ahead and I am confident her leadership will continue to inspire those around her."

"I'm so honored to represent GLSEN as its Student Advocate of the Year," said honoree Laila Al-Shamma. "This award inspires me and my peers to keep moving forward and help others create safe schools for all LGBTQ youth. Thank you to GLSEN for the encouragement and support you give to students like me across the country."

A half-Iraqi and one quarter Hispanic lesbian teen, Laila joined her high school's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) when she was a freshman. She quickly became a part of the student club's leadership resulting in her successful coordination of GLSEN's Day of Silence and Transgender Day of Remembrance.

With help from her GSA, Laila later went on to spearhead a Safe Space Campaign designed to engage school personnel about the importance of safe spaces for LGBT students at school. Educators were offered a packet of information and asked to display a Safe Space sticker in their classroom. Laila will soon begin making presentations about the campaign to both middle schools in her school district.

Laila created two public education campaigns about LGBT issues for her high school campus, including the online "Care Campaign" focused on crisis prevention and the "Words Hurt" initiative challenging students to pledge not to use homophobic language.

In addition to her GSA activities, Laila is heavily involved in her larger school community. Laila is in two choirs, serves as drum major of her school's marching band and has a job tutoring other high school students. She also wrote two op-eds for her school's newspaper about LGBT issues with one editorial winning her the newspaper's Press Freedom Award.

Laila is currently a high school student at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California. She will graduate with the Class of 2015.

The 2013 Student Advocate of the Year was selected through a nationwide search. Four finalists for the national student honor include:

Tristan Lindekugel
- Gretna, Nebraska
Eddie Morales - Portland, Oregon
Skyla Liam Spear - Amity, Connecticut
Rayna Tyson - Potomac, Maryland

"This year GLSEN is proud to partner alongside AT&T to present our Student Advocate of the Year Award to Laila Al-Shamma," said Dr. Byard. "We are grateful to have the support of AT&T to honor this student leader who is making a tremendous difference in her community."

The Student Advocate of the Year award will be presented on-stage in addition to three honorees at the Respect Awards - Los Angeles:

Chairman's Award - Lionsgate
Lifetime Achievement Award - Linda Bloodworth Thomason
Inspiration Award - Jim Parsons & Todd Spiewak

The ninth annual gala in Los Angeles is to benefit GLSEN and honor the individual and corporate leaders who have helped propel GLSEN's vision to make school safe for al students. Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington, star of the hit ABC-TV series Scandal and feature films Django Unchained and Ray, and openly gay LA Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers will serve as Honorary Co-chairs for this year's gala. They will be joined by a host committee that consists of an impressive line-up of supporters, including Betsy Beers (Executive Producer – Scandal; Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice); Dan Berendsen (Creator/Executive Producer – Baby Daddy; The Nine Lives of Chloe King); Greg Berlanti (Executive Producer – Arrow; Brothers and Sisters, Golden Boy; Political Animals); Linda Bell Blue (Executive Producer, Entertainment Tonight); Matt Bomer (Actor - White Collar, Magic Mike); Kevin Brockman (Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group); Donald De Line (Film Producer – Pain & Gain; Green Lantern; I Love You, Man); Robert Greenblatt (Chairman, NBC Entertainment); Simon Halls (Partner, Slate PR); Dave Karger (Chief Correspondent, Fandango); Carlos Lopez (Events and Special Projects Manager, The A List); David Phoenix (Interior designer); Shonda Rhimes (Creator/Executive Producer – Scandal; Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice); and Chip Sullivan (Head of Publicity, DreamWorks Studios).

In addition to the evening gala, GLSEN has opened a charityBUZZ online auction where individuals can bid on onece-in-a-lifetime experiences to support GLSEN's efforts in K-12 schools nationwide. On October 9, visit charityBUZZ to view a complete listing of auction items and bidding information. Online auction bids close on October 30. To learn more, visit:

Follow GLSEN's Respect Awards - Los Angeles on Twitter! Sign up for our tweets at @glsen. Use the Twitter hashtag #RespectLA.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.  Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit

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