About - Mission

Founded in 2009, Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. (YO) is the only youth advocacy and leadership non-profit organization in the region solely dedicated to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, asexual and allied (LGBTQIA+) youth ages 11-20 in Western North Carolina. Based on 2010 U.S. Census figures, it is estimated that there could be more than 4,000 LGBTQ youth in our 18-county region.

We engage and support LGBTQIA+ youth ages 11-20 to be confident, resilient and compassionate community members.

We envision a world where youth of all gender and sexual identities are empowered to reach their full potential.

We provide information, support and resources in a safer, inclusive and affirming environment.

We believe that no youth – regardless of their sexual identity, gender expression or gender identification – should be bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of who they are or are perceived to be.

Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 organization.



  • 2006

    A group of gay and lesbian Asheville citizens began discussing the gap in programs and services for LGBTQ youth, an at-risk population often targeted for bullying and hate crimes, in WNC. Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. (YO) incorporated with the State of North Carolina, established by-laws, and created its first board of directors. The organization’s first public event held an information table at Asheville’s Blue Ridge Pride Festival.
  • 2008

    The organization became a program of PFLAG Asheville (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and began providing services and initiated fundraising activities. YO held its first facilitator training program, which was conducted by representatives from Time Out Youth, a Charlotte based LGBTQ. High schools in WNC received literature announcing upcoming Friday meetings. YO held its first reception to introduce the organization, establish its mission, and to ask for volunteers.
  • 2009

    YO’s first youth group met January 30 at Jefferson House, a space donated by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, Four youth attended. In June, Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. was designated a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization by the IRS. Two hundred and five youth attended meetings in 2009.
  • 2010

    YO’s First Anniversary Party for youth, held at Firestorm Café and Books, included live entertainment, Thirty-five youth attended the Alt Prom, a socially inclusive event for youth, was held at Phil Mechanic Studios. Youth group meetings moved to First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Asheville on Sunday afternoons. In response to recent youth suicides, YO expanded its programming. Three hundred and twenty six youth visits were documented in 2010.
  • 2011

    YO’s first fundraising event, held at the historic Manor Inn, featured the premiere of the documentary Campaign 8, which depicted the personal experiences of YO youth and was produced and directed by Robert Gaston. One hundred and thirty people attended. In September, YO contracted its first part-time executive director. Cumulative youth meeting visits reached 816.
  • 2012

    At the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, YO premiered A Million Reasons featuring interviews with a cross-section of multigenerational Asheville citizens regarding their personal experiences with LGBTQ issues. The first newsletter was produced and the website was revised to include active links to local, regional and national resources benefiting LGBTQ youth, their parents, and allies. Average attendance at weekly youth meetings increased by 60% with total visits exceeding 1,300. YO’s first youth impact survey revealed that 70% of youth reported increased self-confidence and a sense of belonging and community as a direct result of their participation in YO.
  • 2013

    Unique youth reached by YO increased by 40%. Cumulative visits exceeded 2,000 and average weekly attendance increased more than 50% in part due to the organization hiring its first part-time youth programs coordinator. YO Prom: Embrace, Encourage, Empower attracted 80 youth from seven WNC counties. Safe Space, a pro bono collaboration with A Visual Link Films, demonstrated the impact YO had on its youth participants, premiered at THE DANCE. YO developed Working with LGBTQ Youth, a seminar for professionals who work with youth .
  • 2014

    Youth Outright premiered Young Voices, an annual fundraising event featuring performances for local LGBTQA youth. The first annual event saw record attendance for a YO event. By years’ end, YO had served # youth through Sunday meetings and special events.
  • 2015

    YO collaborated with UNCA to create an original mainstage theater work Qtopia. The production featured several YO youth participants.

Board Of Directors

  • Our Board & Staff

    Our Board of Directors is made up of a wide variety of people from business, education, social services, and other professionals from the community as well as at least one youth member. This diverse group shares a strong common belief in the mission of our organization and works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth by leading key committees, developing community partnerships, guiding the direction of YO’s efforts, and participating in fundraising campaigns.

    Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Individuals with expertise or life experience in the following areas/identities are especially encouraged to inquire: mental health services, fundraising/development, marketing and communications, finances, current or former K-12 public school teacher or administrator, human resources, people of color and trans and non-binary folks. Please contact us for more information.

  • Lise Kloeppel, Chair

    Lise Kloeppel, Chair

    A resident of the Asheville area since 2008, Lise Kloeppel is a mother, artist, educator, and organizer who works as an Associate Professor of Drama at UNC Asheville. For five years, she served as the Faculty Director for the Key Center for Community Engaged Learning where she established long-term partnerships between faculty and community partners and trained faculty and students on how to engage with the community in mutually-beneficial ways. Using arts and culture as a pedagogical and political tool, she strives to activate individuals and communities to develop authentic relationships across difference, engage in meaningful civic dialogue, and imagine and enact more conscious and compassionate ways of living in the world. She integrates her teaching, scholarship/creative activity, and service to co-create real-world learning experiences. She is the founding Artistic Director of the Queer Youth Theatre Project, a community-based, devised theatre project in collaboration with YO, that resulted in the original play Qtopia in 2015. She teaches courses in community cultural development, acting, theatre education, and theatre for social change. “I continue to be inspired by the YO youth who resist the ‘victim’ label and live each day with a kind of authenticity that many adults yearn to replicate. To me, the heart and soul of YO’s work is to instill in our youth an ever-abundant sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. By investing in the often-times most vulnerable and marginalized young people, we uplift our entire community to be and do better.” To reach Lise you can contact her via email at lise.kloeppel at youthoutright.org
  • Carlos Vargas, Secretary

    Carlos Vargas, Secretary

    Carlos Vargas is a full time workaholic. When he’s not working he can be found hiking at Bent Creek with his dachshund, or at home making meals from scratch. He began attending Youth OUTright in the summer of 2009 and shortly thereafter became a board member. His strong desire to help fellow youth like himself lead him to create the organization’s first prom. He brings a unique perspective to the board identifying as an undocumented queer person. “Youth OUTright has helped me to better understand myself and my goals by giving me opportunities to grow with the organization.” To get in contact with Carlos you can reach out to him via his email carlos.vargas at youthoutright.org or give him a ring @ 828 – 412 – 0443
  • Lorena Russell, Vice Chair

    Lorena Russell, Vice Chair

    Lorena Russell grew up in south Florida before moving to western North Carolina in the 1970s. She taught horseback riding for about 10 years at summer camps near Brevard and in Washington D.C., Towson MD and southern VA. She and her partner Kitty moved to Asheville in the early 1980’s, where Lorena completed her undergraduate degrees in English and German at UNC Asheville and an MLA. She studied at Chapel Hill in English & WMST, with a research focus in queer studies. Since returning to UNC Asheville as faculty in 2002, she has taught a range of classes in English, Humanities & WGSS and currently directs a university critical thinking initiative, the Inquiry ARC. She enjoys photography, gardening and travel. You can reach out to Lorena via her email address Lorena.Russell at youthoutright.org
  • Roy Philbrick

    Roy Philbrick

    Roy (Rory) Philbrick has been going to YO since 2013. He’s served on the Prom Planning Committee for three years in a row and currently serves as the President of the Youth Advisory Board. In 2016, he received a scholarship to attend the Creating Change conference in Chicago. He says, “Youth OUTright has saved me countless time in my life. It’s my second home.” When he is not doing activism, he likes to hang out with his friends or participate in cosplay. In the future, he wants to work at an animal shelter and be a human rights activist. You can reach Roy at Roy.Philbrick at youthoutright . org
  • Deanna Williams

    Deanna Williams

    In raising my own two kids, I have experience supporting youth as a Girl Scout leader, Boy Scout leader, and middle school volunteer in Charlottesville, Virginia. My personal goal is to support and encourage all youth I meet to reach their full potential. I began focusing on how to support LGBTQ youth in December 2014, when my second child came out as gay and shared their struggle. I was part of the team that revitalized the PFLAG Asheville Chapter in 2018. I am currently pursuing a Nonprofit Management certification through Duke University. I hold a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from NC State. I grew up in Arden and moved back to the area in 2017. You can reach Deanna at Deanna.Williams at youthoutright . org
  • Kirsti Maurus

    Kirsti joined the board in March 2018 as the parent of a long time YO youth. Kirsti is the parent of two, stepmother of one and surrogate parent to many others. As the parent of two kids who identify in the queer spectrum, and supporting many of their LGBTQIA+ friends, she is a passionate advocate of accepting and loving children as they are. She and her family moved to Asheville from Atlanta four years ago seeking a smaller community and a slower pace of life. She spent more than thirty years as a hairstylist and esthetician and owned her own salon in Atlanta for ten years. After retiring from the beauty industry in 2017 Kirsti turned her time and energy towards making a difference in children’s lives. In addition to focusing her attention on her family, she also volunteers as a Guardian ad litem for the Buncombe County Courts. She is looking forward to bringing a parental perspective to the YO board during such an exciting time in LGBTQIA+ civil rights. You can reach Kirsti at Kirsti.Maurus at youthoutright . org
  • Adina Arden Cooper

    Adina Arden Cooper

    Adina Arden Cooper is a Counselor, Coach and Parenting Support Specialist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She has worked with youth in schools, after school programs, and student health centers. She is a Certified School Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor. Adina uses visual art, creative writing, mindfulness, and spiritual exploration as therapeutic tools. She blends practical strategies with creative technique to guide people in setting and achieving personal goals. Compassion and respect are at the foundation of her work. She feels passionate about promoting understanding and building strong community networks. Adina grew up in Western New York but has lived in Asheville since 1999. She loves traveling, hiking, camping, boating and pretty much any activity that gets her outdoors. Adina is also a mother, visual artist, and writer. “Over the years, I’ve supported youth through various phases of life and development. I’m a committed ally and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and love the work YO is doing. I’m excited to lend my experience, knowledge, and skills to support youth and families and I’m eager to help build stronger, more supportive communities. I feel grateful to be a part of this amazing organization!” You can reach Adina at Adina.Cooper at youthoutright . org
  • Adrian Parra, Executive Director

    Adrian Parra, Executive Director

    Adrian grew up in southern California, is latinx and non-binary, defaults to he/him/his, but uses fluid pronouns. He studied fine art photography at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Since school he has worked in a variety of fields from freelance photography and design, to curriculum development for Galileo Summer Quest’s day camp program. Beyond his work on his own art and youth development, Adrian has also been a part of a number of housing cooperatives, art collectives and collaborative projects. Working in collaboration with the community and pooling resources to support each other and facilitate growth in the scale and impact of the work has always been a focus for Adrian and he has brought that collaborative open working style to Youth OUTright. He started volunteering with Youth OUTright in the beginning of 2017, then late that summer developed a 6 week photography workshop for the youth, and presented that work as a part of YO’s annual fundraiser Young Voices. For him, “Empowering the youth to express themselves, and watching them run with it, is the most rewarding part of the job.” Adrian is committed to his role as Executive Director and looks forward to empowering the LGBTQIA+ youth of WNC, cultivating a culture of consent, equity and compassion, facilitating intergenerational dialogue, developing life skills, creating space for self-expression and promoting self-care and wellness. You can reach Adrian at adrian.parra at youthoutright . org His phone number is 828 – 738 – 2397

Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Board members ensure that YO works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Board members do this by leading key committees, developing community partnerships,












  • Employment Opportunities

    There are no openings at this time. Please check our volunteer page for opportunities.