"A Night in Havana" :: Prideline Youth Services 8th Annual Gala
Pridelines Youth Services, South Florida’s oldest LGBTQ service agency, is proud to announce its eighth annual gala to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth on August 10.
One of the most anticipated themed parties of the year will take attendees back to the excitement and allure of A Night in Havana during the 1950s. This year’s honorees, The Miami Foundation and Josue Santiago, have been selected as a result of their unparalleled dedication to both the LGBTQ community and the youth served by Pridelines throughout South Florida.
"We’re thrilled about this year’s honorees," said Victor Diaz-Herman, executive director of Pridelines Youth Services. "The Miami Foundation and Josue Santiago are both essential parts of Pridelines’ history. They are two of the main reasons that we’re still operating today and are the perfect honorees to follow last year’s founding honoree members."
The Miami Foundation has been a source of consistent and considerable support for South Florida’s LGBTQ youth for many years. Established in 1967, The Miami Foundation has helped hundreds of people create personal, permanent and powerful legacies by establishing customized charitable funds. With foundation expertise, fund holders have fostered the arts, awarded scholarships, championed diversity, taught kids to read, and provided food and shelter for the hungry and homeless. Pridelines will honor The Miami Foundation as this year’s recipient of the LGBT Youth Community Sentinel Award.
"We are privileged to support organizations like Pridelines that are so dedicated to creating safe and equitable communities for LGBTQ youth and adults," said Charisse Grant, senior vice president for programs at The Miami Foundation. "We are honored to receive this year’s LGBT Youth Community Sentinel Award."
Josue Santiago was a former youth member and became the youngest board chair in Pridelines’ history. Under his leadership and vision, Santiago helped keep the organization’s doors open throughout its most trying times. For his leadership at Pridelines and his dedication to the South Florida community through his work with other organizations, Pridelines will honor him this year as the PYS Rainbow Circle Award recipient.
It was a pleasure to sit down with my very good friend, Josue Santiago (although I call him Josh, or sista sometimes), for a mini-interview:
How did you discover Pridelines as a youth?
The first time I attended Pridelines was to support a friend of my boyfriend at the time who had accepted a formal role with the organization and it was his first time conducting the meeting. I found it to be such a great experience. I had just come out myself and it was a great place to meet other young people with similar interests outside of the club scene. I found a home that connected me to other people and other great organizations and causes.
What made you decide to step on the board and then eventually Board Chair?
During my time at Pridelines, I had the privilege of serving as the voice of the youth on the board. Once I "aged out" of the program, the board asked me to join as an official member. While I was in prior board meetings, there were several issues I wasn’t privy to. When I joined as an official board member, I realized just how in trouble the organization was. When the Board Chair resigned and there weren’t very many viable options to step up, I threw my name in the hat and the board elected me. Knowing firsthand the impact that Pridelines made in my life, my goal was to do my very best to ensure that Pridelines remained opened.
What was your experience like being Board Chair?
It was incredibly challenging! Pridelines was a long-established organization and I think that in several meetings with my peers from other organizations, they just thought it was a "cute" idea that such a young person was board chair. I had to prove my mettle. And, through solid mentors like Jim Pepper and Steve Herbits that provided me such outstanding guidance, I was able to do so. Finally, despite the ups and downs throughout the years, the board that remained and joined afterwards was incredibly supportive and hands-on. Pridelines is still around today thanks to a big group of people who took an interest and did what it takes to keep the doors open.
What would you say was the best program/service you implemented while Board Chair?
Because we were working towards keeping the doors open, there weren’t very many new programs implemented at Pridelines during my tenure as Board Chair. However, I think the turning point for the organization came when two things happened: When we hosted a town hall to get new blood into the organization, and when we joined other youth organizations to formalize our network of services for Miami-Dade LGBT youth.
This resulted in a new entity, the Alliance for GLBTQ, that helped manage that collaboration and it was funded by the Children’s Trust. Being one of the people that helped lead and found that initiative was very rewarding. It still exists today to the benefit of the youth and the participating organizations, including Pridelines.
What is your perception of the organization since you stepped off the board eight years ago?
The organization has done wonderfully and has continued to grow! Quite honestly, there is no greater honor than that. I feel that the subsequent boards have done a marvelous job with responding to tough economic times, meeting the ever-changing needs of the youth and growing the organization. In particular, the current Executive Director, Victor Diaz-Herman has my utmost respect for his leadership and a vision that I know he will achieve in the near future.
How excited are you to receive the Rainbow Circle Award?
I was incredibly moved by the honor. When Victor called to "talk to me about something important," I thought the worst because that wasn’t language he normally used. However, after being moved to tears, the first thought that came to my mind was all the people that were a part of my life. I am the sum of their influence in my life. I was and continue to be successful thanks to them and ultimately, that was why I accepted the award... for them.
This year’s gala will be hosted at The Westin Colonnade Coral Gables on Saturday, August 10 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. in the hotel’s historic rotunda. Tickets are $100 for general admission and $150 for VIP and are available online at Pridelines.org. VIP admission includes a private bar, casino gaming and special giveaways. Special entertainment for the evening will be a performance by the fabulous Marytrini.