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 1. SMYAL—Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders—is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that supports and empowers LGBTQ+ youth ages 6 through 24.
Whelan is a creative and innovative strategist with nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, cultivating teams, program development and oversight, and community collaboration. Whelan 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 Whelan has demonstrated experience supporting sustainable growth, assessing current structures, and conducting strategic planning.
“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” says Board Chair Rob Cogorno. “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.”
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 continue to be vital. Whelan’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.
“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.”