Youth Leadership Teams
Napa - Santa Rosa - Calistoga - Sonoma

LGBTQ Connection is building an intergenerational community movement in the North Bay fueled by youth and young adult leadership. Our Youth Leadership Teams (YLTs) empower youth to take action now, to identify and prioritize LGBTQ needs and to facilitate a community response. The teams are a critical part of a pipeline of leadership development and are core to sustaining efforts that are connected and matter. If you are an LGBTQ or ally youth or young adult in Napa, Santa Rosa, Calistoga or Sonoma (or nearby!) and are interested in being part of our LGBTQ Youth Leadership Teams, get more information here!


Photo by Mitchell Findley

IAN STANLEY POSADAS
PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Pronouns: he/him/él

As Program Director, Ian is responsible for leading the vision and implementation of LGBTQ Connection's overall program development, evaluation, marketing, outreach, fundraising, staffing, and volunteers across all of LGBTQ Connection's sites. Ian directly develops and manages relationships with community advisors, facilitates the Napa seniors discussion group, best practices workshops, policy/advocacy, and public relations..

Who is someone you admire, and why?
My mother--and not just because I'm supposed to say that. My boldness, entrepreneurial spirit, nurturing, push for connection and meaning seeking (and my obsessive attention to detail and special moments) all come from her example and inspiration.

If you could trade lives with a mythical, scifi, or fantasy character, who would it be and why?
I always wanted to be Evie Garland from the 80s TV series, Out of this World. She could stop and restart time as needed and talk to her dad on another planet through a special cube.

What would be impossible for you to give up?
A good internet connection.

What inspired you to found LGBTQ Connection?
I grew up here in Napa and didn't know of any "out and proud" LGBTQ people, didn't see any LGBTQ community here, and never seemed to hear anyone talk about LGBTQ people in a positive way. Coming out of the closet as gay didn't seem like an option, and I was not able to be open to any of my friends, loved ones or caring adults about that part of my identity until my late 20s. Later, most of my professional career has been community-oriented work and after starting an LGBTQ support group at VOICES Napa a few years back, I felt compelled to take this work to the next level and LGBTQ Connection was born!

What’s your favorite kind of candy?
Dark chocolate with salted caramel center.


Photo by Mitchell Findley

JESSIE HANKINS
PROGRAM & EVALUATION MANAGER

Pronouns: she/her/ella

As Program and Evaluation Manager, Jessie implements all of the evaluation components of the program. Additionally, she oversees the program site at VOICES in Santa Rosa and at the new site in Sonoma Valley, while ensuring LGBTQ Connection is visible and engaged within the Sonoma County community. 

What would be impossible for you to give up?
Snowboarding. Even though I’ve only been going a couple times a year recently, it still is just a huge reset and release for my soul. 

What’s your patronus?
Birds- specifically predatory birds like hawks, vultures and owls. I always notice them in the sky and they tend to show up for me at significant moments. 

Who is someone you admire, and why?
My parents- for always believing in me and for teaching me to live with integrity in all my interactions.
My dog- for waking up happy every morning and loving me unconditionally.
My partner- for her organizational and planning skills.

What inspired you to work with LGBTQ Connection?
After living in Sonoma County for seven years, I felt a real lack of connectedness within the local LGBTQ community. I saw various groups of LGBTQ folks without a common thread connecting all of them. I believe that strong communities can save lives and accomplish amazing things, so I was so excited for the opportunity to build a stronger LGBTQ community in Sonoma and Napa Counties. 

If you could trade lives with a mythical, scifi, or fantasy character, who would it be and why?
Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones- because she gets to ride dragons and is [spoiler alert] about to take over the Seven Kingdoms, but she is also a just and fair ruler. 

What inspires you?
Young people who have overcome adversity, others around the world involved in social justice movements.


Reyanna Kipers
PROGRAM COORDINATOR Sonoma County

Pronouns: she/her/ella

Reyanna is responsible for the development, training and support of LGBTQ Connection's youth leadership teams in Sonoma County. The Youth Leadership Teams work with the coordinator to implement community events, advocate for policy change, host youth events, facilitate regular LGBTQ youth get-togethers (Queer Café at VOICES Sonoma and Queer-ish in Sonoma Valley), train schools and districts to support LGBTQ students, empower and network middle and high school-based Gay Straight Alliance club student leaders and teacher advisors, connect struggling families to critical information and supportive resources, and develop a Latino-culturally competent training and resource kit for our Spanish-speaking and Latino communities and providers.

What’s your patronus?

A butterfly. I’ve always strongly identified with butterflies. I admire their ability to start as one thing and completely transform into beauty and strength. I have found that any time I’m having a difficult day, a butterfly always finds its way to me as a subtle reminder that I will persist.

Superman vs. Batman – who wins?

I definitely was not the girl growing up who enjoyed watching Disney princesses or playing with Barbies. I was the one who was slightly disappointed that my first car was a 4Runner and not the Batmobile.

What inspires you?

People being unapologetically themselves. If you’ve ever listened to someone talk about something they truly love and being truly authentic, it’s a beautiful and fulfilling thing to be a part of.

What would be impossible for you to give up?

My cat son, Beaux. When I found him, he was dumpster diving in Santa Rosa and was the smallest little fluff I’ve ever seen. I thought I was adopting a sweet little tabby kitten, but two years later, he’s nearly a full grown Maine Coon who thinks he’s a dog and king of the planet.

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?

There are so many incredible people to look up to, but I would have to say, for me, Sylvia Rivera. I so admire her dedication to LGBTQ people of color and the bravery and authenticity it took to be a major figure of the Stonewall Riot.


Stephanie Ramirez
PROGRAM COORDINATOR Napa County

Pronouns: she/her/ella

Stephanie is responsible for the development, training and support of LGBTQ Connection's youth leadership teams in Napa County. The Youth Leadership Teams work with the coordinator to implement community events, advocate for policy change, host youth events, facilitate regular LGBTQ youth get-togethers (Q*Youth at VOICES Napa and Rainbow Room in Calistoga), train schools and districts to support LGBTQ students, empower and network middle and high school-based Gay Straight Alliance club student leaders and teacher advisors, and connect struggling families to critical information and supportive resources.

What’s your favorite kind of candy?

It really depends on the season: In the spring I love to eat sour gummy worms. On a hot summer day I love to eat paletas from the local Mexican market. During the fall you can’t go wrong with chocolate, it’s cold enough to not melt the chocolate but they melt just enough to lick your fingers. Winter, it’s bulking season. Anything goes.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I really admire my mom. I think everyone always says this, but not one day goes by that I think about her raising her two kids on her own and I find no excuses to keep going. She was in the U.S alone with her two kids, and still managed to get an amazing job and give me the opportunity to attend a University. I love her with all my heart, and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be half the woman I am now.

If you could trade lives with a mythical, scifi, or fantasy character, who would it be and why?

I always wanted to be a Powerpuff Girl. Probably Blossom because she’s the leader and always had the voice of reason. They lived in a super cool house with their super cool dad, and always saved the day. I’d say, that’s living the dream right there.

What would be impossible for you to give up?

Intellectual Answer: My Mexican Culture; Real life answer: Conchas and Naps

What inspires you?

My tiny family: My mom, because not once has she ever complained about being a single parent and putting my brother and I through school. Showing her full support, even though she may not agree, giving us the benefit of the doubt and being there for us when we most need her. My little brother, because I am his role model. I am the only one in my family to have attained a B.A from a university, and I hope he follows my foot steps. My dog, because she loves me unconditionally and lets me smother her with love.


Youth Advocates Sonoma County

The Sonoma County Youth Advocates are responsible with our program coordinator for co-coordination and development of the Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley Youth Leadership Teams, especially in regards to planning, outreaching for, and facilitating the twice monthly LGBTQ youth events at VOICES Sonoma and Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley. The youth advocates assist with developing and forming Santa Rosa and Sonoma youth leadership teams, as well as offering drop-in support for youth and others looking for LGBTQ-affirming resources.

ISAMAR ALAMILLa

Pronouns: he/him/él

What’s your patronus and why?

My patronus is probably a cat. Cats are just sleepy, peaceful creatures, and I feel like I can relate. While I like dogs, I am definitely a cat person.

What inspired you to work with LGBTQ Connection?

The need for community first drew me to LGBTQ Connection’s youth leadership team, and I just enjoyed being part of the team and helping with the Queer Cafe so much that when I was asked if I wanted to work here, it was like a dream come true!

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?

My favorite LGBTQ celebrity is Aydian Dowling because watching his videos helped me understand what I was feeling, and gave me the courage to come out to myself. His organization also helps trans people in need. I got to meet him at Sonoma County Pride the same year that I publicly came out and he remembered me from instagram we had a whole conversation and it was just really cool. :)

What inspires you?

Hope and community inspire me. The fact that there is hope even when things seem bad, we can always do something about it. When we work together, we can make change happen, and that is especially important now. There’s a part of a song that lights up a fire in me: “the odds are against us, this won’t be easy, but we’re not gonna do it alone!”. Anytime I go to a march or a rally or a protest, I feel it. I feel both hope and community coming together and it’s powerful.

What would be impossible for you to give up?

Music would be impossible for me to give up. I just get really into it, the bass, the beat, the rhythm and cadences. I could survive without art, movies, or books, but music is one of those things that makes life complete.

FELIX Santiago

Pronouns: they/them/elle/ellx

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I admire Mexican Artist Gloria Trevi, she writes/sings songs about empowerment, encouraging folks to live their most authentic life, that you were made to inspire folks in your own way.

What would be impossible for you to give up?

Something that would be impossible to live without would be my siblings. Even though they finish up all the food in the house, they bring out my inner child that I wasn’t allowed to be growing up. I love them for that.

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?

Rebecca Sugar creator of Steven Universe is my favorite LGBTQ celebrity.

What inspired you to work with LGBTQ Connection?

I was inspired to work with LGBTQ Connection because its exactly the career I want. Helping those in my community, young and old get the resources, support and friends they are looking for.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself working on my master Degree in UCSB and eating some fries at the beach.


Jude Orozco
Youth Advocate Napa County

Pronouns: he/him/él

Jude co-coaches the Napa Youth Leadership Team and helps plan, outreach for, and facilitate the Q*Youth and Transcend Napa events. Jude is usually found at the Napa center assisting with drop-ins, trainings, graphic design and other special projects. Additionally, Jude is leading development of LGBTQ Connection's first American Canyon specific efforts.

What inspired you to work with LGBTQ Connection?
I started interning at LGBTQ Connection for an internship class at the college that I randomly decided to take. Ever since then I’ve began to grow in ways that I didn’t think I could including confidence and happiness. I’ve always wanted to find a way to help out youth like me who need support and LGBTQ Connection gave me a voice to do that.

What’s your animal persona or patronus?
My patronus would probably have to be a sea otter. I’ve always enjoyed being in the water and swimming. Overall they’re just really cute animals but they could also crack open shells which I think is really cool and metaphorical.

What would be impossible for you to give up?
Something that would be impossible for me to give up is music. Music has always been something that’s been important part of my life, I was in choir in high school and play ukulele.

Who is someone you admire, and why?
I really admire my dad for the work he puts in to everything that he does. He’s always been my number one support system and is super understanding, even when I mess up. He also does everything he can for me and my sister no matter what.

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?
My favorite LGBTQ celebrity is Rebecca Sugar, who wrote Steven Universe and also identifies as bisexual. I really appreciate how she’s able to bring serious, important topics in to her show in a way that younger audiences can relate to. A lot of adults in charge of shows don’t think that kids would understand topics that are more serious, but in Steven Universe it really gets into topics like identity which are important to teach younger audiences.


Fernando Espinoza
Program Assistant

Pronouns: he/him/él

Fernando coordinates training logistics and implements a variety of program projects in order to multiply the program’s impact in the north San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

What’s your favorite kind of candy?

My favorite kind of candy is specifically the strawberry flavored Nerds. I raid my little brother’s Halloween candy for those.

If you could trade lives with a mythical, scifi, or fantasy character, who would it be and why?

I would trade lives with the Doctor from Doctor Who because he travels all over the universe to help those in need. Also he regenerates and practically lives forever.

What inspires you?

My mother is my main source of inspiration. She pushes me to be a nicer, more patient person.

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?

My favorite LGBTQ celebrity is Neil Patrick Harris because he is an amazing actor with an inspiringly adorable family. He is also involved in the theater community and I love to attend and be in plays as well.


Photo by Mitchell Findley

Gwendolyn Dean, LCSW
Mental Health Counselor
County of Napa Mental Health Division

Pronouns: she/her/ella

(At least) twice a week, Gwendolyn Dean offers no-cost, LGBTQ-friendly counseling at our Napa community center, without any restrictions. Gwendolyn has more than 20 years of experience working with LGBTQ communities including as an activist, organizer and founder of a university-based LGBT resource center. Gwendolyn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is happy to support people exploring a wide range of mental health topics including, but not limited to, advice, exploring sexual orientation and/or gender identity, coming out, relationships, dating, stress, civil rights, discrimination, worries, problems (at home, school, work, family, faith community, anywhere), gender, family, complaints, anything you want to know about queer (or straight) sex, self discovery, and much more.

What’s your animal persona or patronus?
I would like to believe that my spirit animal is the tiger but if I am truthful, it’s the sloth.

Who is someone you admire, and why?
Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States, in 1872 as the Equal Rights Party candidate, with Frederick Douglass as her running mate. I admire her because she had the imagination to envision a different world than the one she lived in and was courageous enough to act to bring that world into being.

What’s your favorite kind of candy?
Neuhaus truffles.

Who’s your favorite LGBTQ celebrity or major historical figure?
Gloria E. Anzaldúa, who wrote and thought brilliantly about multiple axes of difference and who called for differences to be honored and cherished.

If you could trade lives with a mythical, scifi, or fantasy character, who would it be and why?
Lyra Belacqua, from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, because I yearn to have a dæmon and an armored polar bear warrior for a friend.

What inspires you?
Words of courage and humor: “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.” -- Molly Ivins


Dennis reno, Ph. D.
Mental Health Counselor

Pronouns: he/him/él

Den began seeing a psychologist in high school about coming out issues. Now, being a licensed psychologist himself for over 30 years, helping individuals grow in self acceptance matters to him a great deal.  Currently, an individual and group supervisor for mental health interns at Pacific Center in Berkeley, Den has also facilitated Grief Groups for LGBTQ seniors in San Francisco at Openhouse. Den devotes Monday afternoons for no cost psychological consultation at VOICES Youth Center in Santa Rosa.

What's your animal persona or patronus?
My favorite animal persona is English Sheep Dog.  I am drawn to their easy loving and lazy ways.

Who is someone you admire, and why?
Barack Obama is my choice.  He is principled, openhearted, hip, and enjoys being funny.

Who's your favorite LGBTQ historical figure or celebrity?
Ram Dass is one of my favorite LGBTQ teachers. His book, "Be Here Now" helped me to focus more on today than tomorrow.

What inspired you to work with LGBTQ Connection?
My draw to be part of the LGBTQ Connection is being in a community where truth telling and genuine caring add to my sense of meaning and purpose.

What inspires you?
What inspires me is when other people face their suffering and later find meaning and joy as a result.

What would be impossible for you to give up?
Music.