Give Us The Floor (GUTF) is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization. We help teens deal with distress through unique, peer support groups that leverage social media to provide constant contact and anonymity in a safe teen-only community, breaking the isolation and shame cycles. Trained teens facilitate confidential, Supportive Group Chats and members help each other with common mental health and social issues such as depression, isolation, anxiety, body image, discrimination, bullying, relationships and identity.
“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.
Our format creates a safe community online where teens can learn how to share and listen both to each other and to their own emerging voices and identities. GUTF members who actively participate in a Supportive Group Chat report an increased sense of connection and belonging— After 1 month, 94% say their group chat has helped them feel less lonely and 97% say their group has helped them improve the way they feel about themselves.
- Members communicate as often as they wish (usually at least daily) via closed group chats hosted on Snapchat
- They share daily life struggles, insights and accomplishments, encourage each other and provide non-judgmental feedback without fear of stigma, taboo or shame
- All members are verified to be teens and groups are organized by age and primary discussion topic to keep the chats relevant and relatable
- Teens who need adult help are quickly identified and referred to appropriate professional services.
INSPIRED BY FACTS & BASED ON SCIENCE
- Approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder
- Many mental health disorders emerge during adolescence
- Between 20% and 30% of adolescents have one major depressive episode before they reach adulthood
- 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
- Suicide affects young people from all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic groups
- 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
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.
The struggles that youth face can push them into anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, bullying, physical health issues or suicide. 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
GUTF Supportive Group Chats help teens 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
If teenagers 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.
To create and support a safe, non-judgemental and trustworthy community where teenagers know that whatever challenge they struggle with, they will find peers that have faced or are facing the same challenges - a community where teens encourage each other and understand they're not alone.
MEDIA CONTACT & MATERIALS
Thank you for your interest in Give Us The Floor. Please contact Tami Kelly of Brazer Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-640-9997, 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.
Click here for Valerie's blog
Chief Operating Officer
Nicolle's background as a Marketing Director brings over a decade of experience creating and executing integrated marketing campaigns for private-sector and non-profit organizations. In December of 2017, Nicolle accepted the role of Community Manager with Give Us the Floor. She was then promoted to Chief Operating Office in January 2019 and oversees personnel and day-to-day operations. Nicolle is the mother of a five-year old son and lives in Southern Oregon.
Courtney Madison Roo Beck
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. Before joining GUTF, she served in various roles at a Bay Area educational organization, Ames Tutoring and Test Prep. Courtney is expected to be awarded a masters degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in integral psychology by the California Institute of Integral Studies in May 2020 and is currently seeing patients for her practicum. She earned a bachelors degree in feminist studies and minor in history of art and visual culture from University of California, Santa Cruz. Courtney uses the personal pronouns of she and her.
Dr. Kacie Flegal is a Family Chiropractor Specializing in pre and postnatal care and pediatrics. She has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with a Minor in Psychology. Dr. Kacie has been in practice for over 10 years and is passionate in working with kids and teens, inspiring health and wellbeing through a unique holistic approach. Dr. Kacie is a mother of 2 boys and is excited to expand her care modality through the GUTF platform.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Rob believes that we have a historic opportunity to design new ways for people and organizations to make the world a better place. His career includes experience in business development, communication design, and project management that spans the private, nonprofit, and civic sectors. In 2015, he led the development of the Founders Pledge program for Full Circle Fund, where he created programing and resources for a community of startup founders that have pledged company equity to nonprofits. Recent experience also includes marketing and communications for HealthRIGHT 360 during multiple mergers and the launch of a $15MM capital campaign. His civic engagement includes continued volunteer service as the director of Please Touch Garden, an interim use project in San Francisco that has transformed a blighted Civic Center lot into a thriving arts garden.
Social Media Manager
Amy’s skills and training from building more than one successful business have given her the background and expertise to create deeper, more meaningful connections via many different social media platforms. As a social media manager, she has managed the social profiles on behalf of many brands since the inception of Facebook. She believes using these tools to bring teens together, with a supportive team like GUTF to facilitate the conversations, is a powerful way to start making small shifts for the future leaders of the world. Amy lives in Southern Oregon and is a mother to a teenage son and an adult daughter, who is married and raising a family of her own.
Melissa holds a B.A in Humanities and Philosophy from the College of Santa Fe. She is a retired cosmetologist and farmer and is passionate about the well-being of children and animals. Melissa is organized, efficient and thrilled to be being part of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping teenagers and all people in general. While she’s an artist at heart, Melissa’s key professional strengths are business development, networking and bringing people together.
Humanitarian at heart, she is passionate about human rights for all. She has been a caregiver and advocate for multiple demographics. She enjoys working in the background making sure all the tasks get accomplished and that things are flowing smoothly. She enjoys efficiency and solving problems.
Board of Directors
Honorary Board & Advisors
Harriet is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. National leader in her profession, she is the President-elect of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), past President of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) and Past Chair of APsaA’s Committee on Psychoanalytic Education. She is a 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. She also is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. 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
Barbara Varenhorst is 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. In 1970 she founded the first Peer Counseling Program. She is the co-founder of the National Peer Helpers Association and served as President of the California Association of Peer Programs. 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. Currently she serves on the non-profit Vesper Society and as Chair of the Corporate Members. 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. She continues to provide training and consultations to school Districts and colleges around the Country.
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
Deb was Founder of Internet Sexuality Information Services (now YTH) and served as the organization’s Executive Director from 2001-2014. She has been a thought leader at the intersection of technology and health behavior change efforts since creating Go Ask Alice at Columbia University in 1993. Under her leadership, YTH moved the field of sexual and reproductive health into the digital age with award-winning projects such as Circle of 6, STDTest.org and inSPOT. In partnership with San Francisco Department of Public Health, she launched the first application of SMS text messaging for public health behavior change in 2006, as documented in the American Journal of Public Health two years later. Deb is the current Executive Director of the Center for the Developing Adolescent. Deb is known as a fierce pioneer in the field and is a renowned public speaker and media darling, as reported in the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, LA Times, NPR, Huffington Post and VICE, among others. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including a Jefferson Award for Public Service, a White House challenge award, and a Pop!Tech Social Innovation fellowship. She has authored over 25 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals.
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.
Amy is the Founder and Managing Partner of Laughlin Legal, PC, specializing in California Family Law. Motivated by her passion for others, Amy strives to help her clients unlock their inner strength and become their own greatest advocate during the divorce process. Integrity, innovation and excellence have propelled Laughlin Legal to be one of the largest and fastest-growing Family Law practices in San Mateo County. Amy is a committed and active member of the community having served in positions of leadership throughout the Bay Area, including the boards of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School, Legal Services for Children, the San Mateo Public Library, and Today’s Youth Matter. Amy attended the University of Michigan Law School and graduated with honors. She has two sons and resides in San Mateo.
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.
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.