GLSEN student leaders all over the country continue to make a difference even after they graduate from high school. One former Ambassador has brought his story to a national public service campaign to help students across the country who have faced similar challenges.
Characters Unite is USA Network's public service program advocating for an end to social injustice and cultural intolerance. The campaign invites athletes, actors and other public figures to speak about causes that matter to them, such as religious tolerance, diversity, and ending violence and hate crimes.
In a recent video for the campaign, Joey Kemmerling, a former GLSEN Student Ambassador, sits down with NFL player Victor Cruz to talk about the bullying he faced for being gay. Kemmerling, 19, tells Cruz about coming out in middle school and facing harassment from his peers, particularly in locker rooms and in school sports, and how school administrators didn't take any actions to help him.
"When I was 13, I knew that I was gay and I told about five people, but overnight it went from five people to the entire school knowing. I didn't realize that until I walked into the locker room and everyone stopped and stared at me," he tells Cruz. "After I came out, the locker room was the last place I wanted to be."
Cruz, a wide receiver for the New York Giants, faced discrimination growing up for his mixed-race heritage. He gave Kemmerling a tour of the Giants' locker room, and the two talked about how it felt to grow up feeling cast aside from their peers -- and how speaking out has helped them overcome problems from their pasts.
"It means so much more to me now to know that I'm here and to know that I can share this moment, which makes it that much better," Kemmerling says. "I found a voice and I overcame it, and I'm taking the next step on my journey."
Cruz was clearly touched by Kemmerling's story.
"More and more players want to make a change and want to step out and be a voice," he tells Kemmerling. "Hearing your story honestly has changed my life and changed my outlook."
We're so proud to work with Joey and see how far he's come. Make sure to check out the video!