Roslyn is the Community Educator & Organizer for the Queer Unity Empowerment Support Team.
Roslyn Cecilia Sotero (she/her/hers) is a bisexual, Boricua community educator and organizer based in the city of Waterbury. She believes in the power of collective healing through education and relationship building as primary strategies for achieving equity and, ultimately, liberation for historically oppressed communities. For the past five years, Roslyn has prioritized liberation work with Brown and Black communities across New England on matters close to women of color, queerness, education equity, youth-led activism and Boricua history & independence.
Roslyn began her career while completing her undergrad education at the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus, developing and, eventually directing, the LACE Youth Leadership Program – a state-funded, identity-affirming after school program that catered to the holistic development of Puerto Rican youth. As of April 2018, she serves as the Community Educator & Organizer for the Queer Unity Empowerment Support Team (QUEST). Her work at QUEST focuses on creating healthy, equitable and safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community in the Greater Waterbury area. In less than a year, Roslyn has spearheaded QUEST’s action plan to provide trainings and workshops to the public and its institutions, facilitate joyful and healing spaces via public events and community-led projects, act as a community liaison between community members and positive and affirming service providers in the youth development, medical and mental health fields, and advocate for the socio-political needs of LGBTQIA+ folks identified by the queer community itself.
Roslyn is also an active blogger for My Reflection Matters, writing on best practices for bringing conversations of race, gender and sexuality into the classroom. She heads the Waterbury Chapter for CT CORE, a black-centered, POC-led anti-racist state-wide organization. She is also an artist. Her paintings highlight the beauty, divinity and diversity of human sexuality, specifically for femme-identified bodies. She spends her free time twerking in any and all public spaces, laughing obnoxiously with loved ones as a form of healing, and irresponsibly running up her TJMaxx bill with decorations for her new apartment!
All members of the Executive Board are volunteers with personal and professional experience in advocacy work and LGBTQ-centered organizing.
Robin P. McHaelen, MSW
Robin P. McHaelen, MSW is the Executive Director of True Colors, Inc. She has co-authored two books and several articles on LGBTQ youth and is a nationally recognized thought leader. Robin is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 CCSU Women of Influence Award, the 2014 HRC Upstander Award, the 2011 UCONN Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; 2008 National Education Association’s Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights and the 2008 Social Worker of the Year (NASW, CT Chapter). In 2017 she was named the Advocates’, 50 States; 50 Heroes for Connecticut.
Bilal Tajildeen joined Connecticut Community Foundation in 2017 as a program coordinator and oversees youth programming and grassroots initiatives as well as assists in the Foundation’s community leadership efforts. His duties include grant-making, facilitating community conversations, and working with Waterbury, CT residents on developing their grassroots projects. In addition to serving on the executive committee of QUEST, he is also on the community council of Waterbury Bridge to Success, a city-wide cradle to career and collective impact collaborative. He is currently working on his master’s thesis from Central Connecticut State University, focusing on post-colonial and queer theory.
Len Discenza is a founding member and current president of the Waterbury PFLAG Chapter; a member of Stonewall Speakers; a Co-Leader of Open Hearts LGBT ministry at St. Patricks–St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church; and a member of the greater New York City LGBT Inter-parish Collaborative. He is an out bisexual male. He has three biological children and a foster son. He lives in Town Plot with his partner.
Joel Gonzalez graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2015 with a Bachelors in Social Work. While in his senior year, he interned at True Colors and facilitated the construction of the Queer Unity Empowerment Support Team (QUEST) of Waterbury, which works to educate, spread awareness, and create programs that center the lives of LGBTQ people in Waterbury. Currently, he works at StayWell Health Center in Waterbury as an HIV Prevention Navigator overseeing the outreach of PrEP and PEP for at risk populations in the community. In his spare time, he loves watching scary movies and meeting new people.
Jill Schoenfuss is the Youth & Community Strategy Director at StayWell Health Center in Waterbury. She has over 25 years of experience in the health and human service field, working primarily for youth serving organizations and programs. She has a strong commitment to serving youth and others in need in the community. Jill holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Connecticut and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University. She lives with her husband and a misunderstood wheaten terrier in Middlebury, where they raised their two daughters. Jill’s personal interests include professional knitwear design for knitting books and magazines and being a science fiction nerd.
Chemay Morales-James, is a social liberation eduvist (education activist). Chemay believes real conversations around racial liberation cannot happen without exploring how gender, sexuality, and other identities intersect, which is why the work of QUEST matters to her. After teaching in Waterbury public schools, she spent a decade working as an equity coach for NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Equity and the Transformation of Schools, lead by Dr. Pedro Noguera. After NYU, she left to create My Reflection Matters (MRM)–an online warehouse for educators and parents searching for educational products and services that affirm Black and Brown brilliance. Through MRM, she facilitates workshops for educators and parents looking for ways to support children of color in developing healthy racial and ethnic identities and is a product creator for organizations or individuals seeking culturally relevant or socially conscious educational materials. Chemay is co-founder of Decolonizing Education Publishing and co-author of the children’s book, The ABCs of the Black Panther Party. In addition to serving on QUEST’s executive board, she also co-chairs Waterbury Bridge to Success’s Equity Matters think tank and leads My Reflection Matters in CT Home Education–a local network of families un/homeschooling Black and Brown children in our state.
You can learn more about Chemay at myreflectionmatters.org
Deb is the founder of Annie C. Courtney Foundation in Waterbury. Deb manages a regional community coalition of foster care agencies and concerned community members which she has done for over 12 years. She is a proud adoptive mother of 3 boys adopted through the CT foster care system. Deb’s passion is helping older youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, find and maintain permanent connections. Deb has served as a board member for other CT community organizations and local commissions and enjoys giving back to the community.
Carlin Hayes organized and coordinates the local youth LGBTQ+ Social and Support group in Waterbury, where she was born and raised. She identifies as pansexual/queer. Although she earned her Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and Bachelor’s degree in Psychological Science, she continues to educate herself by actively listening to marginalized groups and is always accepting book, podcast, and documentary recommendations.