SMU freshman and Woodrow Wilson High School graduate Luis Veloz has been named the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s 2012 Student Advocate of the Year. Veloz will receive the honor on Friday, Oct. 5, at a gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

Veloz said he knew he was in the running for the award but was surprised after being chosen out of 500 people nominated.

“Many, many thank yous to those that have impacted my life!” he wrote on Facebook. “There are too many to count, but you know who you are! Thank you from the bottom of my heart and let us continue the mission of love together!”

In high school, Veloz helped create Gay Straight Alliances in his own school and others, served on two boards at Resource Center Dallas and worked as an intern at Lambda Legal. When the GLSEN Greater Dallas chapter formed a year ago, Veloz became its youngest board member, focusing on supporting efforts to establish Gay-Straight Alliances at schools throughout the Dallas area.

“He did phenomenal work,” Lambda Legal community educator Omar Narvaez said. “He brought us the idea of creating the Youth Empowerment Summit.”

The summit brought together students from across North Texas in April for a day of workshops on issues, including education and civil rights. The youth left with tools to make a difference in their schools and communities.

At RCD, Veloz worked on a committee that helped DISD change and implement its new anti-bullying policies. At SMU, he’s already working with the LGBT group SPECTRUM to create programs for LGBT youth of color.

“We are incredibly proud of Luis and his tireless commitment to create opportunities for LGBT youth to become leaders in their schools and communities,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said in a release. “This young man’s potential knows no bounds and I look forward to watching his career take off as he continues to serve others.”

Veloz and his family arrived in Dallas from Mexico four years ago. He is attending SMU on a full academic scholarship. He has been given a Carole and Jim Youngfellow Fellowship, usually awarded to graduate students to mentor other students.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 5, 2012.