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SMYAL announces Erin Whelan as their next Executive Director

We are delighted to share that the Board of Directors of SMYAL has named Erin Whelan as the organization’s next Executive Director after an extensive search led by Good Insight. Erin begins her new role on September 1st. 

“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” Rob Cogorno, the chair of SMYAL’s Board of Directors, shared in a statement. “I could not be more proud of the tremendous growth in services for our LGBTQ youth and of the SMYAL staff’s hard work that made that growth possible. Erin’s extensive experience in service to youth in need and her passion for that work will help guide SMYAL in continuing its excellent work in this challenging time for LGBTQ youth in our region and across the country.”

As an Austin native, Erin’s passion and commitment to the journey of youth and young adults from adolescence to adulthood fueled her work in reducing youth homelessness where those identifying as LGBTQ+ are over-represented. As Executive Director, Erin will lead the growing organization as it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2024. Under her guidance, she will advocate and work with existing staff to expand various services and programs that continue to provide a safe space for LGBTQ youth to feel heard, seen, and supported. 

“I am beyond excited and honored to join SMYAL as the new executive director,” Whelan said in a statement. “My work has been committed to understanding and seeing the world through the lens of the most marginalized youth and young adults and being a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ youth. I believe all LGBTQ youth deserve an opportunity to build a life they love and a chance to feel celebrated and affirmed for exactly who they are and strive to be,” added Whelan. “From the moment I stepped into the SMYAL community, it felt like exactly where I wanted to be. SMYAL creates a community for queer and trans youth where they can feel radically accepted and safe to step into their true selves.”

About Erin Whelan

Erin Whelan brings nearly 20 years of extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. With her background in nonprofit management and providing youth services to those in need, Erin will support SMYAL’s growing programs, staff, and budget as they continue to provide needed services and programs for LGBTQ+ youth regionally and nationally. 

Erin’s past work includes being the Senior Division Director of Housing and Homeless Services at LifeWorks, the largest Austin-based service provider for LGBTQ youth where she oversaw an $11.8 million dollar program budget. In this role, Erin was in charge of expanding her division’s budget, implementing four new programs, and increasing staff by 40%. As a licensed professional counselor and child care administrator, Erin has advocated for change within her community by convening and working with stakeholders as well as influencing leaders to address inequities as it relates to the intersectionality of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities. 

While in Austin, she also worked on the Homeless Response System and served as the spokesperson for the National Movement to End Youth Homelessness on a local, state, and national level. In addition, Erin has served on numerous boards which include the Planning Committee for Runaway and Homeless Youth National Training, the Member of A Way Home American Practice Committee, as well as served as the board chair for the Texas Network of Youth Services.


SMYAL is a nonprofit organization that delivers support services and leadership opportunities to LGBTQ+ youth in the DC metro area. Established after a conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth issues for an LGBTQ-identifying youth was hospitalized in 1984, advocates founded SMYAL to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in the region. 

Today, SMYAL provides services that support and empowers LGBTQ youth by delivering and advocating for programs, policies and services that LGBTQ youth need to grow into adulthood.

About Good Insight

With a mission to connect good causes to great leaders, Good Insight is an executive search firm and governance consultancy serving the social sector. They plan leadership transitions, recruit talented senior executives, and strengthen boards of directors. Good Insight focuses on leadership searches for small and mid-sized nonprofits with a nationwide reach. To learn more, visit

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