We had the good fortune of connecting with Sharon Herrera and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sharon, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Saving lives. In September 2010, several publicized suicides of LGBTQ youth reminded me of my pain, fear and suicide attempt at the age of 16. Working for a school district and working with youth I knew things had to change and that we needed a community where all children are safe. I also knew that with peer and community support we could save lives and build a network of passionate and caring individuals to help LGBTQ youth and their allies in Tarrant County. LGBTQ SAVES (Students, Allies, Volunteers, Educators, Support) was born.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
LGBTQ advocate: The first LGBTQ SAVES meeting was held in my backyard. SAVES volunteers and I funded the organization out-of-own pocket while hosting meetings and events where we could. Initially, it was difficult finding a space that would host an organization helping LGBTQ youth in Tarrant County. We hosted our first event, an LGBTQ Youth prom, in winter 2011 at Celebration Church. During the same year, we worked in collaboration with Tom Anable, David Henderson and Jon Nelson, gay activists and leaders of Fairness Fort Worth, to challenge my employer, Fort Worth Independent School District to add a Non-Discrimination Policy. We prevailed and championed equity for staff and students! I started this organization without any idea ‘how to’ with a vision and mission to save lives! Our youth needed, not only a safe space but also a brave place to be themselves and thrive. We eventually had enough money to attain our very own 501c3 status and became official May 2016. Was it easy? No! I have received warnings and threats both personal and in the workplace and every time it happened/happens, I am reminded of my two favorite quotes and my life quotes as well: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow firm there, firm as weeds among stones.” -Charlotte Bronte and “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human. beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiese
My story: Show, don’t tell. Words mean nothing without action! .My new Assistant Director, Amanda Sims recently updated our website and added a PRESS tab and VOICES tab. Ten years of history, ten years of hope (90% of the youth we serve have contemplated or attempted suicide) and hundreds of emails, text and calls from parents and youth along the way. We are saving lives!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Would plan trip around our Youth Pride event or Quarterly Dinners to share what we do and meet our youth and volunteers. We would visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance. Eat from local Mexican Food Trucks, Asaderos Mexican food restaurant, and a must stop at Amy’s for menudo. Definitely include Benbrook Horse Stables horseback riding and the Oakmont Park Trails. Enjoy home cooking, margaritas, memories and laughter. Summer: swimming pool and lounging. Winter: fireplace and libations.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Aunt Margaret for saving my life at 16 with seven words- stopped my suicide attempt and stated: “I know mija, you don’t life boys.” (just one accepting adult can save an LGBTQ young person’s life) and Alex Loesch and his grandmother, Cynthia Loesch. Cynthia was at the first LGBTQ SAVES meeting in 2010 and Alex started as a youth in our program the same year. He is now a Program Leader, giving back to the program his grandma helped start. Alex’s grandmother passed in 2019.