Our 2021 Transformational Leadership Initiative recipients



Grace Wickerson

Grace is an engineer, organizer, and educator working to help young people critically evaluate structural injustices and design interventions to re-imagine our current systems. They are a recent graduate of Rice University, where they received their B.S. in Materials Science and Nanoengineering and were a Point Foundation Scholar, Buick Achievers Scholar, and Trustee Distinguished Scholar. While at Rice, they served as Student Body President, and sought to re-think the way the University administration, faculty and the student body approached diversity, equity and inclusion, financial inclusion, sustainability, and engagement with the larger Houston community. For their work, they were recognized as one of the Outstanding Seniors of the Class of 2020, an honor only awarded to ten students in a +1000 person class. They also initiated the only class on design and social good at Rice University, working with +30 students over three years. Now, as a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, Grace is utilizing their engineering knowledge to design biodegradable, biocompatible therapeutic medical devices for chronic diseases and working to increase access to innovative, cutting-edge healthcare interventions. They are continuing their work in design education, founding Design for Equitable Systems to research educational methodologies that show young people how to understand the way a system is constructed to then understand how they can redesign them for a more equitable future. Their future goals are to create a think-tank for collaboration across fields of expertise on addressing systemic challenges in healthcare, education, the environment, etc.

Jia Hurd

Jia (They/She) is a Black non-binary femme from the South Bronx of NYC. They are a suicide attempt survivor, a creative, Mental Health advocate and community organizer. She is pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Social Work at CUNY Hunter College. She is a New York Transgender Advocacy Fellow for 2020. Jia has 7 years of non-profit program management + 4 years of Mental Health advocacy experience. She trained as a holistic wellness practitioner at The Reciprocity Foundation and an end of life hospice volunteer with New York Visiting Nurses Services. Jia has 7 years on successful social justice movements for LGBTQ+ and Black liberation with Black Trans Media, The New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Hetrick-Martin Institute, Cookies’s Joint, The Audre Lorde Project, BUFU, Equality 4 Flatbush, Sadie Nash Feminist Foundation, Black Lives Matter, BYP 100, and F2L.

Alec Fischer

Alec Fischer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, digital content creator, TEDx speaker, and nationally featured LGBTQ+ advocate based in Minneapolis. At age 17, he created a short documentary titled “Minnesota Nice?” addressing the rising suicide rates of high school students in Minnesota. The documentary led to legislative changes throughout the state and was screened in schools across the world.  As a sophomore in college, Alec was named a Dalai Lama Fellow for his advocacy work and has since been featured by sites including MTV, Buzzfeed, The Washington Times, and USA Today. Now a 27 year-old digital influencer and founder of the media company Fischr Media, he continues to use storytelling as a catalyst for conversation and change. His latest documentary-series, Covid Confessions, highlights stories from more than 100 workers across 15 industries impacted during the pandemic.

Mirandy Li

Mirandy grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This inspired her to go to medical school, after witnessing the health and resource disparities that resulted from the storm. She attended Emory University, where she studied biology and global health.

After graduating, Mirandy returned to New Orleans as an MD/PhD student at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). As the only queer woman of color in her medical school class, she joined, led, and created organizations that focused on student activism. As co-president of Tiger Pride, Mirandy organized community seminars on PrEP, and regularly volunteered to test individuals for HIV and Hepatitis C at local homeless shelters. In her second year of medical school, Mirandy established the Diversity Advisory Committee at LSUHSC, through which she facilitated a monthly “Social Justice Talk,” where students discussed issues of social justice on campus and in the community. Mirandy was also co-president of LSUHSC’s chapter of Medical Students for Choice (MSFC), where she organized student trainings on IUD insertion, contraception counseling, and abortion. For her work, she was selected as a MSFC Reproductive Health Extern in 2017, and was awarded the Women in Medicine Leadership Award in 2018.

Mirandy decided to pursue her PhD in public health, where she could research health disparities that marginalize vulnerable populations. Her dissertation focuses on smoking cessation strategies for LGBTQ populations. After graduating with her MD/PhD, she plans to continue her health disparities research, while also being an abortion provider.

Liana Giangiuilo


Liana Giangiulio is a white nonbinary playwright and performance artist from Philadelphia. Their writing breaks down the conventional barriers placed gender, culture, language, and sex as means to cultivate an American society where multiplicities of experiences are welcomed, prioritized, and celebrated. Their plays have been workshopped and performed by Reground Theatre Collective (Love in the Valley of Mexico and Camp Out), and featured in Vintage Soul’s Quick Quarantined Festival (Round 5), and Dysfunctioning Just Fine and Shea Theater Art’s Queerantine Virtual Fringe Festival (To Be Out and Unafraid). Previous Boston performance credits include the world premieres of The Nestwives of the Cretaceous (Boston University), Dead House (Boston Playwright’s Theatre), and Make Way for Ducklings (Wheelock Family Theatre). For their senior thesis, Liana wrote a new collection of trans centered monologues for the BU Trans Monologue Workshop, for which Liana won two school sponsored grants to facilitate and execute.

Follow Liana on Instagram @liana_tcg to see their love of fitness, food, and Latin dance.

Yabundu Conteh

Yabundu Conteh is a proud Sierra Leonean-American from The Bronx, NY. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Sociology and Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College where she is set to graduate in May this year. She aspires to use artistic mediums to connect and educate young people about the numerous social issues affecting our world today. Outside of her time in school, Yabundu enjoys exploring global perspectives through the worlds of film, fashion, music and creative writing.

Hao Zhou

Hao Zhou is a filmmaker and photographer from a rural district in southwest China. Often informed by personal experiences, Hao’s work centers on LGBTQ+ people resisting marginalization. Hao has produced several short films as well as a feature film and play. After working in Europe and Asia, Hao moved to Iowa, where he is pursuing graduate degrees in filmmaking and photography. Hao has continued to carry out LGBTQ+ media projects in Iowa, focusing on BIPOC and immigrant LGBTQ+ communities. Hao’s latest project, funded by Art With Impact (AWI), explores queer immigrant mental health and has been featured in AWI’s public mental health workshops. In addition to creative work, Hao is passionate about advancing inclusive, accessible education. With support from the University of Iowa’s Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Hao is developing a new diversity-centered course and workshop. Hao has also won a UIowa Libraries grant to create open-access course materials aimed at reducing educational costs.

Yeshiva University Pride Alliance

The Yeshiva University Pride Alliance is an unofficial group of undergraduate YU students hoping to provide a supportive space on campus for all students, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, to feel respected, visible, and represented. Our goal is to foster awareness and sensitivity to the unique experiences of being a LGBTQ+ person in YU and the Orthodox community, and to advocate for their unconditional inclusion and acceptance. Our space will promote open dialogue for all, regardless of religious views and political affiliations.


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2021 Transformational Leadership Initiative


Selected participants will be announced by March 25th, 2021

The Transformational Leadership Initiative will begin on April 1st, 2021 




Transformational Leadership Initiative


Part 1: Social Impact Grants

Part 2: LGBTQ+ Mentorship

Part 3: EMERGE+ Leadership Training

For our first year of this program, ten, emerging LGBTQ+ leaders will be selected to participate in The Pride Network's Transformational Leadership Initiative–– a year-long, three-part leadership initiative that aims to cultivate heart-centered leadership and provide participants with the resources and opportunities they need to create change within themselves and in our communities.





Mentors will be assigned by March 20th, 2021

Grant/Mentor program will begin on April 1st, 2021 



Connecting LGBTQ+ professionals with emerging young leaders for guidance and professional growth.


In addition to receiving a Social Innovation & Impact Grant & The Pride Network's EMERGE+ leadership training, students selected for the Transformational Leadership Initiative funds will also be awarded a professional mentor.

Mentors will be proven, effective LGBTQ+ & straight/ally professionals who can offer meaningful encouragement, guidance, and professional skills development as their mentee designs and executes their one-year-long social impact project and prepares for their future post-college.

Over the course of the year, The Pride Network’s staff will work to help mentors connect more deeply with their mentees to build rewarding, personal relationships. While mentors will inevitably serve as role models for the grant recipients, each mentor will also find that their mentees are sources of great inspiration and gratitude. from working with such talented, passionate individuals.

Mentors will enrich their own lives, the lives of their mentees, all while contributing to the building of The Pride Network’s intergenerational support network of mentors, students, and alumni.

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The Pride Network Awards 2020

Join us for a spectacular evening, honoring five of our community's leaders and celebrating our culture together via Zoom. Featuring a silent auction, entertainment, and important opportunities to invest in emerging LGBTQ+ leaders, this year's Pride Network Awards will be one of our best events yet!

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