For Women’s History Month 2013, we are celebrating young women leadership in the Pennsylvania LGBTQ community. The KSV editorial staff have selected 13 young women who have become trailblazers for LGBTQ youth in our state for this three-part series. The youth selected provide deeply valued strength, resilience, and courage across our Pennsylvania community – who will surely continue to make headlines in the advocacy they lead. Last year, for the first time, we selected 12 women in 2012 who shine on as our key adult women LGBTQ community leaders. Thank you to all of the courageous young women leaders throughout the Keystone State who help lead our communities to be better places for all people. Click here to visit Part 1 of this series.
Christina Zappa is a member of Gannon University LIFE, the school’s LGBTQ community organization. Next year, Christina has expressed interest in taking over the position of public relations director, which she is heavily involved with now. Christina works to make LIFE more visible on campus and throughout the Erie community. Christina is involved with organizing the university’s Day of Silence event and their LIFE week, which educates the campus on LGBTQ issues. Christina is also a member of the mental health organization Active Minds, which she has helped partner with LIFE to bring speakers about mental illness and depression to campus for Day of Silence events. She is a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau, and is working with her sorority to join in an “It Gets Better” video in conjunction with LIFE.
Christina’s advice for young women who want to become involved with the LGBTQ community is to “keep your eyes and ears open,” and to be open to meeting all types of people. “There are several people who are a part of our community who are straight, and you wouldn’t automatically know that they’re part of LIFE.”
Nichole Mahoney is a student at University of Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition’s Director of Operations. She became involved in PSEC while completing an internship at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh for her social work program. Her supervisor recommended that she attend the 2012 Creating Change conference along with PSEC, where she became connected with the coalition. As the Director of Operations, Nichole works with larger community organizations in Western Pennsylvania, such as PFLAG, GLSEN, PERSAD, and others. She additionally manages the organization’s staff and internal functions, oversees official publications, and represents PSEC at community and advocacy events. Nichole strives to professionally represent PSEC in a way that galvanizes others in importance of the organization and the common goals of Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth.
She advises girls who want to become involved within the LGBTQ community to get started by volunteering and looking for your closest LGBTQ community center. “The LGBTQ community is everywhere. Even if you volunteer with a shelter, you will end up working with the LGBTQ community.”
Carolyn Pandolfo is a senior at University of Scranton and has served as the President of the university’s LGBTQ group, Scranton Inclusion, for two years. Carolyn is also a Board Member of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Rainbow Alliance and a recipient of their 2013 Rainbow Award for an outstanding youth leader. As president of Scranton Inclusion, Carolyn helps plan meetings for the LGBTQ community at Scranton, and organize educational events on LGBTQ issues for the campus. The club provides resources and information for students and faculty. They emphasize the importance of education and ally behavior. Carolyn is also the President of Scranton Local #1, an affiliate organization of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, where she works in forming internal policy and executing advocacy projects. Through PSEC she connects Scranton Local #1 students with LGBTQ campus organizations at other schools. As a key leader in developing PSEC’s Northeastern PA Region for nearly two years, she helps students become engaging and contributing leaders in the larger NEPA LGBTQ community. As she graduates this spring, she is committed to further supporting a new generation of LGBTQ youth advocates in NEPA.
Carolyn advises young women going into university to not be afraid to join LGBTQ groups, and to become involved within your own comfort level.
Maria Aghazarian (Havertown, PA)
Bryn Mawr College ’13, LGBTQ Student Coordinator and Former Rainbow Alliance Co-Head
Maria Aghazarian is a student at Bryn Mawr College, and the LGBTQ Student Coordinator of the school’s Multicultural Center. During her time at Bryn Mawr, Maria has served as co-head of the school’s Rainbow Alliance group during her sophomore and junior year, and was one of the founding members of Spectra, a student group which facilitates discussion on gender and sexuality across the campus community.
While co-head of Rainbow Alliance, Maria worked to expand the organization’s activities, which lead to the school becoming a member of PSEC. She planned weekly meetings and helped organize the group’s largest events: an OUT week in the Fall semester, and the Day of Silence during the Spring. As of July 2012, Maria has been the the LGBTQ Student Coordinator of the Pensby Center, Bryn Mawr’s multicultural center. In this position, she met bi-weekly during the summer and fall semester with a working group of students and staff, which led to the creation of the group Spectra. Maria says Spectra’s goal is, “to support Bryn Mawr College’s LGBTQ+ community, and to facilitate discussions and events about gender and sexuality that include everyone.”
Maria advises young women who want to become involved in LGBTQ activism and advocacy to join your schools GSA, or to work to form one if your school doesn’t have one. “Find your allies, whether that’s teachers and staff within the school, parents, or people involved in local GLSEN or PFLAG chapters… Even if it doesn’t feel like you can effect change now, with growth and support (and some confidence, and knowing your legal rights) you can even revisit your middle school or high school later. Later might mean during college, or after.”