About Us


In 1984, local youth service professionals and community activists organized a conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth issues after an LGBTQ-identifying youth was hospitalized. Through this conference, advocates founded SMYAL to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.



By creating leadership development opportunities, after-school programs, and counseling services designed to empower LGBTQ youth and educate their local community. Our organization strives to help these young leaders build advocacy skills and access crucial resources they need to succeed. We also provide education and training programs for youth service providers working in schools, housing programs, local government agencies, and hospitals.

Committed to social change, SMYAL continues to build, sustain, and advocate for programs, policies, and services that serve LGBTQ youth as they grow into adulthood.


Mission Statement

SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. Through youth leadership, SMYAL creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills, and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. Committed to social change, SMYAL builds, sustains, and advocates for programs, policies, and services that LGBTQ youth need as they grow into adulthood.

Staff & Board

Meet Our Staff

Erin Whelan

Executive Director

Elly Bludworth

Director of Youth Housing

Brittni Dash, MSW, LICSW

Director of Clinical Services

Jason Laney

Development Director

Tim Saxton

Director of HR & Operations

Hancie Stokes

Director of Communications

Athen White

Director of Youth Development & Community Engagement

Victoria Alves

Youth Housing Clinical Case Manager

Allie Giza, MSW, LGSW

Youth Housing Case Manager

Connor Hegel

LGBTQ Services Liaison

Ty Kitchen

Little SMYALs Program Manager

Sharifa Love-Schnur

Development Manager

Kevin Majoros

Accountant and Grant Manager

India Mercedes

Youth Housing Case Manager

Jhirbron Tonge

Drop-In Programs Manager

Mariana Velazquez

Youth Housing Case Manager

Our Board Members

Rob Cogorno
Board Chair

Billy Fettweis

Lisa Manley


Contact Us

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