The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition elected Ashish Kalani, 20, as convener and Faith Elmes, 19, as assistant convener earlier this month.
According to PSEC executive director Jason Landau Goodman, both members are highly qualified.
“They’re all very committed individuals with a great deal of experience with the coalition and the LGBTQ movement we’ve awakened in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I believe they will bring a great deal of insight and action to our program.”
Kalani, a biology pre-med major at Villanova University, will graduate in spring of 2014. He was previously vice president of the coalition and got involved in LGBT advocacy this past summer when he interned in Washington, D.C., with OCA, a national organization that advances the political, social and economic well-being of Asian-Pacific Americans.
He is a strong advocate for Pennsylvania’s Safe Schools Act, which PSEC drafted.
Kalani said that as convener, he is in charge of overseeing the coordinating committee, and his duties include arranging meetings and keeping members involved and informed — something he plans to do through weekly memos and emails.
Although Kalani said he likes to conquer tasks one by one, he already has goals for what he hopes to achieve in his new position. His first is to allow other members to share in the responsibility and decision-making, and his second goal follows one of his favorite mottos from President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
“As a leader, I want to make sure things are delegated. My future hope is to make PSEC more of an organization that not only forms a coalition of students but a coalition that means something,” he said. “We are not here to discuss things but do things — I want to make us more of an action-oriented organization.”
Elmes, a biochemistry major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was the school’s representative on the coordinating committee. Along with Kalani, she also lobbied for the Pass Act.
As assistant convener, she is in charge of making sure the annual Youth Action Conference is run smoothly. She will work closely with Kalani to ensure the coordinating committee members are informed of the goings-on in the coalition.
Elmes said she hopes to inspire youth in her work with PSEC.
“I really like that PSEC was founded on the idea that youth can make a difference, and so I guess what I want youth across the state to know is that they can do something important,” she said. “It is exciting for a child to know they can do something important.”
According to Landau Goodman, PSEC works as a grassroots organization and is completely youth-led. The coalition consists of LGBT and ally high-school and college leaders.
The coordinating committee, comprised of representatives of LGBT youth organizations and gay-straight alliances that are affiliated with PSEC, elected Kalani and Elmes to the positions. They can be re-elected in six months.
Landau Goodman said the coalition has had a successful year so far and has been active in advocating locally for policies.
“We have assisted rural youth in starting GSAs and held numerous statewide conferences and forums to coordinate and build youth power in Pennsylvania. We have also worked in Harrisburg on safe-schools issues,” he said.
The coalition will host the 2013 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference from Feb. 1-3 at the University of Pittsburgh. The conference was held last year at the University of Pennsylvania and Landau Goodman said it was a huge success.
Planning for the conference has gone well, Landau Goodman said, adding he expects double the attendance from last year’s conference, which drew100 students, including from locales like Erie, Pittsburgh and Scranton. The conference will offer a variety of events, sessions and speakers.
Landau Goodman said he hopes the conference will help fortify the future of PSEC.
“We hope to formally strategize the next steps as a coalition in terms of elevating our agenda in Harrisburg, as well as take a serious look at our local advocacy work in rural communities in Pennsylvania,” he said.
The theme of the conference is “Let the Circle Be Unbroken,” which will link youth-led civil-rights movements from the past with the LGBT-equality movement in the present and future.
Although the identities of this year’s speakers are still under wraps, Landau Goodman assured that the organization is seeking to secure high-profile, effective leaders.
For more information on PSEC, visit www.pennsec.org; for more on the conference, go to www.yac2013.com.