ALSO Youth celebrates 30 years

ABOVE: ALSO Youth leadership and supporters at Sarasota Pride 2022. Photo by Dylan Todd.

SARASOTA | ALSO Youth will celebrate three decades of advocacy, leadership, support and outreach Nov. 9 at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens with “Now, More Than Ever,” the organization’s 30th Anniversary gala.

The celebration will highlight the organization’s work to create inclusive communities in and around Sarasota. Their efforts in recent years include a merger with Prism Youth Initiative and the introduction of ALSO, Jr., which has allowed them to reach more youth than ever before.

“The 30th Anniversary gala will affect attendees in ways that allow you to leave feeling inspired, uplifted and more comfortable knowing that even with all the political rhetoric out there, ALSO Youth had been here serving our community for 30 years,” ALSO Youth Secretary and Event Chair Craig Kaplan says. “We will continue to do so as we are needed ‘Now, More Than Ever.’”

Kaplan says the gala is designed to give attendees hope. It will be filled with insight about ALSO’s programming and services – from their peer support groups to their celebrated LGBTQ prom – and inspirational speeches.

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith will serve as the evening’s keynote speaker. Tyler Alvarez, the LGBTQ actor known for his roles on Nickelodeon’s “Every Witch Way” and Netflix’s “American Vandal” will also offer insight in a special video message.

“Here in Sarasota, while the town considers itself a progressive cultural icon on the Gulf Coast, the fact is the services of ALSO Youth are needed now more than ever,” Kaplan says. He cites the political landscape in Florida, one impacted greatly by the state’s most recent legislative session and election.

“The school system has become a beacon of politics, not for the sake of children’s’ education but for closed minded people making uneducated decisions,” he continues. “These kids who are so impressionable are made to feel like they are something less than compared to their straight classmates. This will increase bullying and effect the self-esteem of many of our LGBTQ+ youth. ALSO is here to support them!”

Kaplan points to a message the organization received from a mother of one such youth.

“ALSO was there for my daughter when she came out as trans,” she told the board. “She spent a few years before that, due to bullying, pretending to be a boy. The first time she attended an ALSO event, I saw a light in her eyes that I’d missed for so long.

“ALSO was a lifeline for her,” she continued. “They started the Transgender Support Group because of her and I don’t know what she would have done without it. Thank you so much, ALSO.”

“This is why we do the work that we do,” Kaplan says.

ALSO Youth’s 30th Anniversary gala will be held Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota. Due to availability, tickets for the event have moved to a waitlist for attendance. For more information about ALSO Youth and its upcoming celebration, visit

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