KNOW OF SOMEONE WORTHY? USE THIS LINK TO OFFICIALLY NOMINATE THEM FOR THE 2021 AWARD! WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED AT THE EMPOWERMENT FORUM BEING HELD ON SATURDAY, JUNE 5TH THROUGH ZOOM.
2020 Grit Award Recipient
Alexis is a 16-year-old junior at Leroy High School. She is currently the President of Leroy Pride and Allies Official Club. She has been a part of various events and activities at school and in her community including:
• The Gaily Bugle
• High and Low of the Week
• Create a Safe Space
• Out Alliance Member
• Elba LGBT Community Planning in 2019
• Attends the Annual Consortium
Alexis is currently a member of the GO Out! Board and is the Student Advisor and leads the Youth Committee as well.
Alexis Hellermen’s love of makeup and fashion led her to become interested in drag queens initially on television shows, but later that evolved into her attending drag shows in Rochester NY. Alexis was drawn to the art of the drag queen (makeup, fashion, drama, performance). She began to develop friendships that gave her opportunities to expand her knowledge around makeup and fashion. Alexis became close friends with some of the drag queens and became a part of the community.
Fast forward to late May 2019; Alexis heard from her music/theatre teacher Jacqi McLean that GO Out! was planning a Gay Pride Parade in Batavia and was ecstatic! She started connecting with the various drag queens she knew and was able to bring several individuals to both march in the parade and perform on the stage. The presence of the drag queens sent a powerful message to all who attended: love is love, and Gay Pride is a beautiful thing! We thank Alexis for helping make the first Gay Pride Parade in Batavia such an amazing and liberating day.
Alexis would like to thank Mrs. McLean who is her music teacher, an advisor in Pride & Allies, and a member on the GLOW Out! board. Mrs. McLean has always pushed Alexis to be her best and has been a positive force and inspiration in Alexis’ life. Alexis would also like to thank Mr. Kusmierczak who is also an advisor for Pride & Allies, for also being very positive and supportive of her. Alexis’s mom, sister & entire family have been supportive and loving from the beginning; she is forever thankful for them. Last but not least, she’d like to thank her friends for always being there for her and being the best friends she could ask for.
2020 Grit Award Recipient
Sara Vacin, who hails from the Washington D.C. area, began her career celebrating diversity and inclusion as a high school drama teacher and director. Later, after relocating to WNY, she stepped into higher education, teaching in the Health Studies and Human Services Departments at Niagara Community College before joining Genesee Community College at the Batavia campus and in the Attica Correctional Facility College Program. She is the first full-time person at Genesee Community College to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Hired under the SUNY Diversity and Inclusion Performance Improvement Fund, she now draws upon her 20 years of experience as an educator in fostering greater cultural competence on campus and in the community. She was thrilled to utilize her theatre skills in the creation of The Case of Good Fit, an implicit bias awareness video now being used to train employee screening committees. She earned a certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University, as well as an M.S. in Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College, and a B.S. in Theatre Arts from Towson University.
Sara would like to thank her wife Candice for her fierce and unwavering love and support and her inspiration as a social justice champion! Sara would also like to thank the ultimate female energy, the Earth Mother, for continuing to heal, nurture, and teach us. May we learn from Her strength and resilience!