Leadership changes come to NJ LGBTQ advocacy org

Leadership changes come to NJ LGBTQ advocacy org

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Garden State Equality, a New Jersey-based LGBTQ advocacy and education organization, welcomes an interim deputy director and bids farewell to its director of policy.

Aaron Potenza stepped down from his position as director of policy June 21. This summer, he’ll start a new role as special initiatives program manager at the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a group dedicated to ending sexual violence.

Potenza represents Garden State Equality on New Jersey’s Transgender Equality Task Force, a coalition of organizations, advocates and medical and legal professionals that informs policy impacting the LGBTQ community. He will continue to serve as chair for the organization until September, when the rank concludes.

“Serving New Jersey’s LGBTQ community at Garden State Equality has been an honor, and a time of tremendous professional growth,” Potenza said in a statement. “As a member of NJCASA’s robust policy team, I’ll be focused on issue-based, data-driven research that directly impacts the LGBTQ community alongside strategic planning around political and policy issues. Nothing could have better prepared me for this next professional challenge than my time working with Garden State Equality.”

Potenza joined Garden State Equality in May 2015 as an anti-bullying organizer, overseeing advocacy and policy work in New Jersey’s public schools. After moving up to director of programs, Potenza committed to expanding programming to make LGBTQ-inclusive schools, increasing access to queer-inclusive healthcare and protecting the rights of older community members.

He led Garden State Equality’s push for transition-related healthcare coverage by New Jersey insurance plans, implementing statewide guidelines for interacting with transgender students and passing the Babs Siperstein Law, which nixed a “proof of surgery” requirement for changing the gender denoted on a birth certificate and created a nonbinary option.

Christian Fuscarino, Garden State Equality’s executive director, called Potenza’s departure from the organization a “bittersweet moment.”

“Aaron has been a pioneer for LGBTQ equality in New Jersey, and his mark will be felt for years to come,” he said. “We are fortunate that we will continue partnering together through the Transgender Equality Task Force and NJCASA’s intersectional work.”

Alisha DeLorenzo, who has worked in the education and social justice fields in New Jersey for more than 16 years, will take on the role of interim deputy director at Garden State Equality beginning July 1.

DeLorenzo is a licensed professional counselor trained in an integrative mental health model. She specializes in working with LGBTQ individuals and their families, focusing on trauma, grief and mental illness.

The deputy director role is new for Garden State Equality. DeLorenzo will oversee the group’s development, policy and health, wellness and school programs. The length of her tenure is not yet determined, DeLorenzo said.

“As the organization expands, it’s helpful to have leadership that has the skills in a spectrum of different components,” she added. “We have great experience and policies and practice, and we have great experience in communication. Bringing the education component and my history with mental health and the healthcare system, it just expanded our expertise and resources.”

The organization is focusing on providing resources to support the state’s upcoming LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, training healthcare systems to work with both LGBTQ youth and elderly community members, and extinguishing prejudice and bias at all state levels, she added.

“My hope is that this work and the expansion we’re doing at Garden State Equality lets the LGBT community know that they’re supported, know that they’re included and that their voice is important,” Delorenzo added. “That means recognizing how policies, procedures and practices impact them and making the changes necessary so their lived experiences are meaningful and they know that and feel that and feel connected.” 

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