ABOUT SAMEER JHA & THE EMPATHY ALLIANCE
After being bullied throughout elementary and middle school for being too feminine, Sameer founded The Empathy Alliance at age 14 to make schools safer for LGBTQ+ youth.
Sameer started by doing research on the school climate in 24 Bay Area schools and was distressed to learn that a vast majority of queer students were subjected to name calling and bullying based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Schools lacked programs to support LGBTQ+ students' needs, and teachers were either ignoring or contributing to the harassment. Determined to make a change, Sameer started with his old middle school where the term 'gay' was only ever used as an insult, no initiatives existed to specifically protect LGBTQ+ students, and LGBTQ+ topics were not covered in the curriculum. Sameer was able to engage the counselor, principal, and many of the teachers and student leaders in his vision to transform the school. Together, they created the first GSA club in school history, added safe space stickers to classrooms, stocked the library with queer friendly books, and encouraged all youth serving adults to take Gender Spectrum training. Sameer's efforts soon expanded to include the entire school district serving over 42 schools & 35,000 students.
To scale faster, The Empathy Alliance decided to focus on 'educating the educators'. A nonprofit that started with one school in one city has grown into a national entity that has reached over one million people across America with a message of love and empathy. Sameer educates on LGBTQ+ topics through keynotes, workshops, op-eds, radio shows, panels and events throughout the year. He has also collaborated on special LGBTQ+ projects with numerous organizations like Gender Spectrum, ACLU, GLAAD, and Frameline Films. He is now distilling his learnings into a book for teachers to help them create more inclusive classrooms.
AWARDS & RECOGNITION: For his work with The Empathy Alliance, Sameer was honored as the 2017 Youth Grand Marshal for Oakland Pride, and was awarded a Congressional Silver Medal. Sameer has been featured in publications like the The New York Times, NPR, MTV News, The New York Magazine, and Mercury News. He also holds leadership roles within the Human Rights Campaign, GLSEN, The Tyler Clementi Foundation, Trikone, GSA Network, and serves on the Mayor of Oakland’s LGBTQ Task Force. Sameer has been named one of the top 10 trans youth activists of color in America, and recently made a 30 under 30 list for international activists that included change-makers like Malala. Sameer's dream is to create an inclusive world where all students feel comfortable being who they are in school--so a need for The Empathy Alliance no longer exists.
ORGANIZATIONS WE WORK CLOSELY WITH
While many organizations support the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth, listed below are ones that Sameer Jha & The Empathy Alliance have worked with closely. Their training, resources, and mentorship have helped grow The Empathy Alliance, and made Sameer Jha a more effective activist.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
America's largest LGBTQ civil rights organization
The Human Rights Campaign organizes an annual Time To THRIVE conference (co-presented with the National Education Association & American Counseling Association) to share the latest research, tools, and training with educators and youth serving professionals from across the US. Sameer Jha is a National Youth Ambassador for HRC, and speaks and facilitates workshops at the conference.
Championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education since 1990
GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for LGBTQ students. They conduct original research, author educator resources, advocate for inclusive school policies, and support GSAs & student led initiatives to create change. Sameer Jha serves on GLSEN's National Student Council.
THE TYLER CLEMENTI FOUNDATION
Working to end online and offline bullying in schools and communities
The Tyler Clementi Foundation was born out of the urgent need to address bullying faced by vulnerable populations, especially LGBT communities and other victims of hostile social environments. They focus on prevention programs in schools, workplaces, and faith communities. Sameer Jha was the founding member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation's Youth Ambassador Program.
The world's oldest South Asian LGBTQ group
Founded in 1986, Trikone serves queer people who trace their ethnicities to countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tibet etc. Sameer is Trikone Bay Area's youngest member, and proud to serve as Trikone's Youth Ambassador.
THE GSA NETWORK
Uniting trans and queer youth for racial and gender justice
Founded in 1998 to empower youth activists to start GSA clubs to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools. GSA Network now serves over 900 GSA's in 40 states. Sameer Jha served on the Norcal Youth Council for GSA Network.
Changing the world through queer cinema
In addition to running the longest, largest international LGBTQ+ film festival, Frameline also distributes +250 films globally, and creates film based curriculum for schools in all 50 states. Sameer serves on the Youth in Motion Collaboration Team, bringing queer films to local schools and communities.
In addition to these organizations, The Empathy Alliance has also worked with the following SF Bay Area entities on special projects and advocacy: The Mayor of Oakland's Office, The City of Fremont, Gender Spectrum, ACLU NorCal, Safe Alternatives For Violent Environments (SAVE), Compassionate Fremont, Fremont's LGBTQ Task Force, The Fremont Main Library, and Rewire Community.