SMYAL Names Erin Whelan as New Executive Director

Rob Cogorno, chair of the SMYAL Board of Directors, today announced the appointment of Erin Whelan, LPC-S, LCCA as the organization’s new Executive Director, effective September 1st, 2022.

SMYAL's Executive Director Erin Whelan poses for a headshot. She is standing with her arms corssed in front of a very green tree. She has curly hair that hits just about shoulder length. She smiles while wearing a blue v-neck blouse and geometric necklace.

Erin Whelan (she/her) is a creative and innovative strategist with nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, cultivating teams, program development and oversight, and community collaboration. Erin comes to SMYAL from LifeWorks, an organization that provides housing and services to thousands of youth each year based in Austin, Texas. She most recently served as the director of their $11.5 million Housing and Homeless Services program. 

SMYAL’s programs, staff, and budget have grown exponentially throughout the last five years, areas in which Erin has demonstrated experience supporting sustainable growth, assessing current structures, and conducting strategic planning. Erin also brings a deep commitment to promoting anti-racism and equity within the programs she oversees and amongst her staff. Erin’s experience working in the Homeless Response System in Austin and the National Movement to End Youth Homelessness provides her with deep expertise in convening stakeholders, influencing leaders, and working with various partners to develop opportunities for impactful results. As the leader of LifeWorks’ housing program, Erin was responsible for growing her division budget from $6M to $11.5M, launching 4 new programs, and increasing staffing by 40%.

“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” Board Chair Rob Cogorno shared. As SMYAL prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2024, Erin’s appointment is part of an exciting chapter of growth and evolution for the LGBTQ youth-serving organization. Cogorno added, “I could not be more proud of the tremendous growth in services for our LGBTQ youth and of the SMYAL staff’s hard work that made that growth possible. Erin’s extensive experience in service to youth in need and her passion for that work will help guide SMYAL in continuing its excellent work in this challenging time for LGBTQ youth in our region and across the country.”

“I am beyond excited and honored to join SMYAL as the new Executive Director. My work has been committed to understanding and seeing the world through the lens of the most marginalized youth and young adults and being a fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth,” Erin shared of her appointment. In addition to her extensive experience leading nonprofits, Erin’s passion for SMYAL’s mission was clear as she added, “I believe all LGBTQ youth deserve an opportunity to build a life they love and a chance to feel celebrated and affirmed for exactly who they are and strive to be.  From the moment I stepped into the SMYAL community, it felt like exactly where I wanted to be.  SMYAL creates a community for queer and trans youth where they can feel radically accepted and safe to step into their true selves.”

As LGBTQ youth face unprecedented national political and legislative attacks on their identities, SMYAL’s comprehensive, affirming, and empowering programs and services for queer and trans youth is more vital than ever. Erin’s demonstrated organizational leadership, deep understanding of direct service, commitment to collaboration and innovation, and dedication to the LGBTQ community will be key to advancing SMYAL’s work.

Community members will have the opportunity to meet Erin Whelan at SMYAL’s annual Fall Brunch on Saturday, September 24th. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Fall Brunch is SMYAL’s largest fundraising event of the year and features a silent auction, a seated 3-course brunch, and inspiring youth and community speakers. The Fall Brunch will be held at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit

August 4, 2022