Supporting and Uplifting LGBTQ Youth
July 30, 2019
MPH alumni launch a nonprofit serving the LGBTQ community.
Hope Dehnert, MPH with a minor in Global Health ‘19, department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), and Larissa Kmetz, MPH ‘19, department of Community Health and Prevention at DSPH, graduated and wasted no time taking on a major public health issue — suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. They opened their nonprofit — Sean’s Legacy — during Pride Month in June. The organization is dedicated to supporting and uplifting LGBTQ youth and educating friends, parents, and loved ones about suicide prevention.
The organization is named for Dehnert’s childhood friend, Sean Myers-Wright, who took his own life at age 13. “Sean’s vibrant spirit lives on through his loved ones and those in support of the LGBTQ community. He is the driving force behind our mission,” says Dehnert.
Dehnert serves as the president and co-founder of Sean’s Legacy in her hometown in Central Pennsylvania. She began developing the vision for Sean's Legacy while pursuing her MPH at DSPH. Kmetz, a central Illinois native now living in San Diego, is Vice President of the nonprofit. The pair met at DSPH and connected over their passion for LGBTQ advocacy.
Over the summer, Dehnert and Kmetz have launched the Sean Myers Leadership Scholarship for students across the country who have demonstrated leadership and/or involvement toward the advancement of LGBTQ equity and inclusion in their community. Once they have the capacity, they will launch a mentor program designed for LGBTQ middle and high school students. Students will be paired with LGBTQ mentors based on their hobbies and career interests.
Though there have been many advances in the LGBTQ fight for equality, the work is far from done. According to a Human Rights Campaign report, 4 in 10 LGBTQ students report that they experience physical harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “The LGBTQ community still needs our support because of the systematic oppression and discrimination that continues to occur in this country every day,” says Kmetz. “It’s essential that we provide resources to assist communities in becoming more inclusive so that LGBTQ youth will feel safe and accepted growing up in their own neighborhoods.”
In the future, Dehnert and Kmetz look forward to expanding and maximizing their reach. “We hope to grow the mission and make a positive impact on many LGBTQ youth in the form of inclusive education, scholarship programs, and motivational speaking in schools all while bringing people together who share the same passionate energy and enthusiasm for helping this population thrive,” says Dehnert.
To support Sean’s Legacy or become a mentor, visit their website.