Maricruz Contreras, 17, of Wilmington, Del., a junior at Delaware Design-Lab High School, plays a leadership and advocacy role in several organizations to support LGBT+ youth and educate the public about the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “Seeing and experiencing firsthand the lack of knowledge and support for the LGBT+ community, I realized that it had to change, and that was when I knew that the idea of me being an advocate was key to my personal growth as a gay adolescent,” said Maricruz.
Maricruz has served as a mentor and leader in their high school’s Pride Club, teaching staff and students about the difficulties faced by LGBT+ students and how to foster a more supportive school environment. As a member of the national student council of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Maricruz writes blog posts, plans and assists with yearly events, and led the network’s Latinx Heritage Month activities last year. Maricruz also is involved in educational outreach in conjunction with LGBT+ History Month, and promotes safe-sex education as a member of Planned Parenthood of Delaware’s teen council. Most recently, Maricruz helped teach lessons at an annual anti-bullying conference and performed a stand-up comedy routine on LGBT+ stereotypes. “I take pride in who I am, and want to instill that in others,” they said.