WHO WE ARE
Give Us The Floor (GUTF) is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization. We provide LGBTQ+ youth in distress with the peer-positive human connection that they are too often missing. We help LGBTQ+ youth deal with distress through inclusive, innovative and unique online peer Supportive Group Chats that provide constant contact and anonymity in a safe youth-only community, breaking the isolation and shame cycles they are experiencing. Trained youth facilitate the confidential groups and participants help each other with prevalent mental health and social issues such as depression, isolation, anxiety, identity, discrimination, bullying, relationships, domestic violence, and body image.
“Youth have the power to make a real difference in the lives of people around them. When young people have troubles, frustrations, concerns, worries, or life events that affect them, they often turn to peers rather than adults for help.”
~ Barbara B. Varenhorst, Ph.D.
If LGBTQ+ young people can share freely and safely with peers the difficulties they go through, stigma and taboo are removed. They feel better and are able to believe in themselves and in the future.
PROVEN MODEL FOR IMPACT
Our format creates a safe community online where youth can learn how to share and listen both to each other and to their own emerging voices and identities. GUTF participants who actively participate in a Supportive Group Chat report an increased sense of connection and belonging.
- Participants communicate anonymously as often as they wish via closed group chats - no one-on-one communication is possible
- They share daily life struggles, insights and accomplishments, encourage each other and provide non-judgmental feedback without fear of stigma, taboo or shame
- Groups are organized by age and primary discussion topic to keep the chats relevant and relatable
- Youth who need more help are quickly identified and given resources to help them.
WHY LGBTQ+ YOUTH NEED SUPPORT
In April 2022, the CDC released the findings of a survey of 7,700 teens conducted in the first six months of 2021, and warns of a steep decline in teen mental health. They have called this a “public health crisis,” stating that more than 4 in 10 teens reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 1 in 5 reported that they have contemplated suicide.
More grim data from other sources:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2016 CDC WISQARS)
- More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED
- Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,041 suicide attempts by young people grades 9-12
- 13.84% of youth (age 12-17) report suffering from at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year (increased by 126,000 from last year’s dataset)
- 60% of youth with depression do not receive any mental health treatment** (2021 The State of Mental Health in America - MHA)
LGBTQ youth are suffering even more (National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021 - The Trevor Project)
- 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth
- Only 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth find their home to be LGBTQ-affirming
- LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide
Brain science explains why adolescence is a vulnerable period. We now know that adolescence is a period of high brain plasticity (the other one being the first few years of life). The brain will never again be as “malleable” as it is during adolescence. Brain malleability is a great opportunity but it also means that the brain is more vulnerable to psychological harms like stress and trauma or physical damages, like drugs or environmental toxins.
- Many mental health disorders emerge during adolescence (NCCP)
- 25% of mood disorders like depression emerge during adolescence
- Between 50% and 75% of adolescents with anxiety disorders and impulse control disorders develop these during adolescence
- Existing mental health problems become increasingly complex and intense as children transition into adolescence
- An estimated 67% to 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder
We can’t miss this second chance to help our kids become happier and healthier.
"Adolescence is probably the last real opportunity we have to put individuals on a healthy pathway and to expect our interventions to have substantial and enduring effects".
~ Laurence Steinberg. Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence
INSPIRED BY SCIENCE
GUTF Supportive Group Chats help youth feel less lonely and better about themselves while helping them develop the social skills needed to meaningfully connect with others in real life and online. Our method is based on four scientifically proven factors:
- Positive Peer Support improves social integration and self-confidence -Read more- and mitigates transactions between depressive symptoms and peer victimization Read more
- Sense of Belonging is critical for maintaining physical and emotional health as well as resiliency: "The connection between belonging (or its absence) and suicidality has been established for a number of diverse populations, including young adolescents, college students.” Read more
- The Sharing Effect: knowing that a friend is experiencing the same emotion makes humans feel better than they would if they experienced the situation alone Read more
- Helping Others: builds relationship skills and promotes well-being Read more
MEDIA CONTACT & MATERIALS
Thank you for your interest in Give Us The Floor. Please contact Katharine, Katharine@giveusthefloor.org, with questions or interview requests.
A team of adults who really understand how little they understand
Founder & Executive Director
Valerie is an experienced advertising and television executive with an entrepreneurial itch and deep expertise in engaging teenagers. After studying teen behavior, reflecting on her own struggles as a young adult, and helping her daughters through those torturous years, Valerie had an epiphany: teens are uniquely able to help each other deal with distress and reduce stigma. She founded San Francisco-based nonprofit Give Us The Floor in 2015 to help teens in distress. Previously, Valerie founded and led StoraLab, a company specializing in online and mobile experiences for teens and tweens. She also created and served as CEO and executive producer of Tipitina Films, a Paris-based joint venture with The Artists Company, an American production company. For more than 10 years, Valerie’s Tipitina Films team produced award-winning television commercials for advertisers, including L’Oréal, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Kraft Foods, and Samsung. Valerie was born to an Algerian Muslim father and a white Catholic mother and grew up in a diverse neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris. She studied physics at the University of Paris Jussieu.
Senior Supportive Group Chat Adult Advisor
Courtney feels a profound need to promote transparency and honesty as a mental health care professional and loves working with adolescents. Since 2018, she has worked to support and manage the supportive group chats with the adult team, while leading the crisis prevention and intervention responses for GUTF. She earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology and works with individuals for a non-profit agency.
Supportive Group Chat Adult Advisor
Kelsie has acquired extensive experience working with at-risk youth in both residential and clinical environments for several years. Her passion and dedication in assisting this particular demographic, who are grappling with severe emotional and behavioral challenges, has provided her with invaluable insight, experience, and skillsets to facilitate and assist young people of all ages in the coping, management, and resolution of everyday difficulties and life lessons. Kelsie received her Bachelor's in Psychology and is currently working towards gaining a Master's degree in mental health counseling.
Supportive Group Chat Coordinator
Humanitarian at heart, Kimba is deeply passionate about human rights for all. They have been a caregiver and advocate for multiple demographics and enjoy working in the background, making sure all the tasks get accomplished and that things are flowing smoothly. Kimba takes great joy in efficiently solving problems and is happy to bring their talents to Give Us The Floor to serve teens.
Technical Project Director
Adrian has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a minor in Business. Directly out of university, he was tasked with starting a computer repair education program for at-risk youth at Tongue Point Job Corps. After the successful launch of that program, he taught there for a year before he and his wife moved to Japan for nearly 4 years. There he taught English, managed English teachers, created technological solutions for his employers, and produced videos for international exchange programs. After his return to the States, he earned credentials in security, networking, and cloud services. He designed and implemented projects, created and taught technology classes, and enjoyed supporting faculty, staff, and students at Southern Oregon University. Adrian’s background in multiple different technology fields, project management, and his time living in other countries and amongst other cultures allows him to efficiently coordinate with people from disparate backgrounds and diverse communication styles. In March 2020, he accepted the role of Technical Project Director at Give Us The Floor and is very happy to be here.
Strategic Partnership Manager
Katharine is an Inclusive Community Builder and Disability and Neurodiversity Advocate who is passionate about utilizing the power of empathy and compassion inherent in all of us to move toward true equality. She is Queer, Neurodivergent, Disabled and brings her lived experience to her work when applicable. She was the original Program Architect and Community Manager of the GUTF Supportive Group Chats (SGC). She has extensive professional experience in human services as a Sexual Violence Crisis Advocate, Behavior Technician for autistic kids, Mental Health Counselor for adults with severe mental illness and more. Her academic experience in Psychology and Social Science includes coursework and training in counseling psychology, infant mental health, lifespan development, multicultural counseling, and socio-emotional learning. In the last couple of years, she transitioned to the world of business development for early-stage tech companies. Most recently, she completed her CMX Community MBA and has steered her professional focus to Community Building and Partnerships Management.
Social Media Manager
Kat is an enthusiastic, values-driven creative producer with over 15 years of experience in digital marketing and brand communication. With a passion for purpose-driven marketing, Kat has led top-selling projects that support positive change in book publishing, nonprofit, fashion, health and wellness among other industries. Additionally, Kat is passionate about ethical, sustainable, and inclusive fashion, and contributes her time as a personal stylist and writer, supporting inclusive fashion initiatives such as Equality Fashion Week, the LGBT Center of Los Angeles trans fashion day, and more. Her work has been seen on the Emmys and Oscars red carpets, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and more. She lives in LA with her tiny, ancient dog, Millie.
Eva Lynn (They/Them)
Social Media Assistant
Eva Lynn is a student studying social work and psychology. They have been a part of Give Us the Floor in some capacity since high school. Outside of Give Us the floor Eva Lynn is involved in dance and they help lead F.R.E.E (Fellowship of the Revolutionaries Empowering the Enslaved). They enjoy the outdoors and love to participate in activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Junior Adult Advisors
Julia is a university student studying Physics. She has worked as a Give Us the Floor facilitator since high school and currently works as a Junior Adult Advisor where she manages and facilitates multiple group chats on the app. Outside of Give Us the Floor, she currently is involved in cosmology research at her institution and enjoys writing and reading science fiction in her free time. She also loves helping her friends when they're having a rough time and talking openly about mental health and self-care strategies.
Kaitlyn (She/Her, They/Them)
Kaitlyn is currently pursuing a B.S. in Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, hoping to combine both her love and passion for marine research with sharing it visually through film photography. They are an amateur surfer, ocean-lover, and film photographer who enjoys going outside and living life to the fullest. Working with GUTF since 2018, Kaitlyn has been active in a plethora of groups, especially mental health and LGBTQ+-focused groups. Currently, as an RA, she has experience dealing with life problems, day-to-day inconveniences, and relationship-building with her residents, helping her know how to interact with teenagers 13-19 in a variety of ways. As someone who has utilized what GUTF has to offer, Kaitlyn hopes to provide the same help she was offered many years ago.
Board of Directors
Honorary Board & Advisors
Harriet Wolfe, M.D. is President of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), Past President of the American Psychoanalytic Association and Past Chair of APsaA’s Committee on Psychoanalytic Education, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, past President and immediate Past Chair of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis where she is a Training and Supervising Analyst. Harriet understands, teaches and advocates for the importance of interpersonal relationships and social support systems for optimal human development. She is excited to join Give Us the Floor in offering teenagers a platform for both giving and receiving help within their peer group.
Barbara B. Varenhorst, Ph.D.
In Memoriam June 4, 1928 - February 23, 2021
Give Us The Floor honors Barbara Varenhorst. We are grateful for her many contributions to our organization.
Dr. Varenhorst has been acknowledged as the “mother” of the peer helper movement, a founding member of the National Peer Helpers Association and served as President of the California Association of Peer Programs. Her impact has been far-reaching and will continue to touch others for years to come. Barbara was a former secondary teacher, counselor and psychologist in the Palo Alto, CA School District. She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Stanford in 1964. Her teaching has included at Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins and San Francisco State. She has been on the Boards of St. Olaf College, The College Board and Search Institute. Her publications include Curriculum Guide for Student Peer Counseling Training, Real Friends: Becoming the Friend You’d Like to Have; Peer Ministry Training: The Basic Training and Peer Helping Training. She co-authored Deciding and Decisions and Outcomes for the College Board and from 1985-1995 she wrote a column “Youth Ask Barbara” for Group Magazine.
Board of Directors
Carolyn is an accomplished visionary, high-energy relationship builder. She has over 15 years of experience in executive search and talent strategy. Currently, she is the Managing Director at The Leadership Group, a boutique executive search firm with offices in the Bay Area and New York. Carolyn specializes in working with senior leaders and building executive teams for companies poised for high-grown or turn around. As an entrepreneur and expert in understanding people, she founded a successful event production company focused on high-profile events and organizations such as the 2000 X-Games. Carolyn also founded The San Francisco Summit for Women, a 5,000-person event that was held annually in San Francisco. Carolyn worked with high-profile speakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Suzie Orman and Madeleine Albright. Carolyn began her career at PeopleSoft/Oracle in software sales. Carolyn has two children, lives in Mill Valley, CA and is passionate about mentoring, traveling, running and spending time with her kids.
Silicon Valley executive and serial tech entrepreneur and strategy consultant for both startups and more mature companies. A graduate from l'Ecole Normale Supérieure in France (doctorate in philosophy), Marylene started her career in France as the founder of ACI (now 4th Dimension) and launched the first bestselling relational database on Macintosh. One of the first European women to start a company in the Silicon Valley, she co-founded ACIUS with Guy Kawasaki in 1987. She then became the CEO of Exemplary Software (spin off from HPLabs), a lean supply chain management system acquired by Persistent Systems, of Brixlogic, a platform for the native implementation of XML Schemas acquired by Diebold, and co-founded TalentCircles of which she was the CEO for four years. She has helped about 30 companies as a board member or consultant. She has translated books by Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin and Hugh McLeod into French, as well as written prefaces for these books and others. Earlier in her career, she authored several books on the history of fashion and fragrance.
Valerie Grison-Alsop (Chair)
Founder & Executive Director
Valerie is an expert in how to engage teenagers. Following her passion, she decided to create Give Us The Floor. She is an experienced advertising and television executive, founder and CEO of StoraLab, specialized in creating experiences for teens and tweens. Its main project, TBQE The Best Question Ever, was a curiosity-driven social app for young people.
Previously to founding StoraLab, Valerie enjoyed a successful career in the advertising industry in Europe. She was the Founder and Executive Producer of Tipitina Films, a production company specializing in award-winning television commercials. Valerie produced international films for advertisers including L’Oréal, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Kraft Foods, and Samsung. She has also held finance and operational leadership roles. Her business success led to the acquisition of Others, a B2B advertising agency by Gyro, a global firm headquartered in London.
Rodger has spent most of his 20+ year career working in entrepreneurial environments, most recently as a founding partner of R&K Consulting LLC, where he enjoys advising entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Working closely with the founders and management teams of various startup companies, Rodger has been successful in assisting them in their fundraising, which includes both venture funding and venture debt. He has worked with companies such as WhiteHat Security, Immunet (acquired by Sourcefire), Sigaba (acquired by Proofpoint), iSEC Partners (acquired by NCC Group), TargetX, StoraLab and 28msec. Rodger holds a B.S. Business Administration, from the University of California, Berkeley
Michael, a pianist since age 4, started to freelance as a graphic designer while only in his teens. In the early 90s, he landed an opportunity to create an all-new digital design department at Clorox and served on one of Mr. Gore’s Internet Initiatives through Clorox. He built MUDHAUS, a San Francisco design and photography studio, to serve the startups created by the dot-com boom. In 1999, he met Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry and they hatched the .method brand of household cleaners. He met Rea Ann Silva in 2004 and they created the beautyblender brand, a project that would extend over the next 15 years. Both method and beautyblender are brands that created new categories. And this is the particular joy Michael finds in the blank slate. The opportunity to start from a place that doesn’t yet exist and bring it into the world. In 2019 Michael joined the relaunch of OLIKA, a hand sanitizer start-up which was acquired by Amyris, a public biotech company. Michael now provides creative for OLIKA and other Amyris consumer brands. Michael was very happy to be able to pro-bono help Valerie Grison-Alsop brand Give Us The Floor. He was inspired to create a simple mark without the usual style guide, so that it could be handed over to the teen GUTF participants to do with as they saw fit.
Board of Advisors
Tim Conroy-Stocker (Chartered Psychologist, BAHons, MEd, CPsychol, AFBPsS)
Tim is an experienced Psychologist and Counsellor, with expertise in the areas of Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Mental Health and Child Protection. Currently, Tim is Head of Counselling for Chinese International School in Hong Kong. He is a Chartered psychologist, and Associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, with 25 years experience of working with secondary school students both as a teacher and a psychologist. Most recently Tim Worked for the English Schools Foundation in Hong Kong coordinating their wellbeing and therapeutic support to schools. Prior to this Tim worked as a Senior Educational Psychologist for a local Authority in the UK, where he led large scale Mental Health Projects. Tim has expertise in the areas of Mindfulness, Positive Psychology Child Protection and Solution Focused working with students, and is an inspirational trainer with students and teachers. He is an innovator and instigator driving positive change in schools.
Ken is Writerguy, a creative director and consultant for innovative and socially relevant games and experiences. He has long been interested in the positive social effects of collaborative experiences and open-ended, creative play. He is the creator of the award-winning FutureCoast and Giskin Anomaly, co-creator of participatory works Zorop and Ruination, and the creator of the landmark collaborative narrative World Without Oil. He has designed games professionally for over 20 years.
Matt is CEO and Founder of Oji Life Lab, which creates hands-on and online learning experiences that help employees gain vital skills for life and work. Oji Life Lab focuses on life literacy, the array of ideas and skills that allow us to thrive, from finding purpose to finding business opportunities, from managing teams to managing emotions. Matt’s career in high-tech companies includes starting and selling companies to Apple and Microsoft; running MSN.com and other businesses at Microsoft; and serving on the Board of Directors of public and private companies. He currently serves on the Board of Thrive Networks, a Bay Area non-profit and advises several tech startups. Matt lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Scott B. Price, CPA
Scott is principal at Scott B. Price & Company Certified Public Accountants San Francisco. He manages a staff of twelve professionals in the tax and accounting departments, reviews and prepares tax returns, projections, and gives advice regarding tax matters for non-profit organizations, closely held corporations, partnerships, fiduciaries, and individuals. He does final reviews of audit, review, and compilation engagements for compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Statements on Auditing Standards, and Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Engagements. Scott is the treasurer of Rainforest Action Network, Inc. and Perinatal Medical Associates, a board member of Cedars of Marin and a member of advisory council at Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco.
Yaya Ren PhD/JD
Dr. Ren is a cultural and medical-legal anthropologist. She is passionate about bringing the social science of human interactions to a wide variety of projects and fields. She works to translate academic research into real world applications. She is also co-founder of PreeMe+You, a social benefit start-up researching and creating meaningful digital health solutions that improve quality of life and health outcomes for preemies and their families. She has conducted extensive fieldwork on the intersection of biology and cultural influences as a Fulbright scholar. She is at present conducting research on the impact of digital health on patient quality of life. She is excited to join GUTF to share her anthropological perspective with teens and hear their stories.
Neil is a Managing Partner in the San Francisco office of Boyden and leads the firm's Technology Practice Group in the Americas. Neil's career in executive search has historically focused on leading edge technology and innovation. His clients include Fortune 500 multinationals along with early-stage and mid-cap companies. He has worked closely with founders and venture investors on new business concepts as well as provided the leadership necessary to attract senior executives to global opportunities with large, multi-national companies.
Today, along with projects in online search and advertising, mobile devices and applications, big data, cloud computing and security, Neil is building a practice expertise in the emerging Cleantech category. He is leveraging the synergies of a career devoted to the rigors of scientific research and entrepreneurship.
Neil has a well-established reputation for delivering key thought leadership and targeted skill sets to his clients.
Robin Stern, Ph.D.
Robin Stern, Ph.D., is the co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale. She is a licensed psychoanalyst with 30 years of experience treating individuals, couples and families. Robin is the co-developer of RULER (an acronym for the five key emotion skills of recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions) an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that has been adopted by over 1,500 public, charter, and private pre-school to high schools across the United States and in other countries.
Robin regularly consults with schools nationally and across the globe. She also consults with large companies, including Facebook and Google on best practices for integrating the principles of emotional intelligence into training and product design. With Facebook, she has co-developed a number of products, including a social resolution tools to help adults and youth resolve online conflict and the bullying prevention hub to support educators, families, and teens.
Robin is the co-founder of Star Factor Coaching, a model of leadership coaching anchored in the skills of emotional intelligence and was a founding member of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, where she spent 15 years creating and facilitating professional development programs for aspiring women leaders. In 2014-15 Robin was a fellow in the Yale Public Voices Fellowship, and her work is frequently published in popular media outlets, such as Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, Time.com, The Washington Post, The Hill, Harvard Business Review. She has been a guest on many local and national radio shows and has traveled widely to lecture on emotional intelligence, women in leadership and on relational bullying.
Robin is a member of the Emotional Intelligence Consortium for Research in Emotional Intelligence and serves on the advisory board for several organizations including UN Women for Peace, Crisis Text Line, I’ll Go First, Think Equal and HerWisdom.
Robin is the author of The Gaslight Effect and Project Rebirth.
She lives in New York City and treasures her relationship with her son, Scott and daughter, Melissa who are each following their own passions.
Dr. Peter Zandan
Global vice chair and worldwide research practice group leader at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a leading WPP communications firm with 90 offices in 52 countries, Dr. Zandan founded IntelliQuest and served as its chairman and CEO for 15 years. The company provided brand, marketing, and media research to companies such as Apple, IBM, and HP, became the fastest growing market research company worldwide and was publicly-traded on the Nasdaq (IQST). He was the founder and CEO of Zilliant, a leading provider of price-optimization solutions, named one of the top 50 venture-backed companies by The Wall Street Journal. Dr Zandan was selected by Interactive Week as one of the “Unsung Heroes of the Internet,” awarded Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year,” and named to Holmes Report “Top 25 Innovators List” in 2013. He is a member of the Presidents’ Circle of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine in Washington D.C.