Shannon Kelly

Inspiring Inclusivity: Shannon Kelly to be Honored at the Queer Youth Leadership Awards Celebration

Shannon KellyUpdate, 10/8/2020: While Upper School Director Shannon Kelly (’92) is not the recipient of the 2020 Ally to Queer Youth Award, she and the other nominees will be honored as part of the 23rd annual Queer Youth Leadership Awards (QYLA) on Saturday, October 10, 7:00-8:30pm.

You can watch at via Zoom. Tickets are available on a slide scale, from $0 to $95. 

“This year has challenged our community in ways we never imagined,” said a QYLA spokesperson, in announcing the upcoming awards celebration. “Between the pandemic and the fires that devastated the Santa Cruz mountains, we have lost so much. Yet we continue to come together as a community to support each other and remain resilient. In the spirit of coming together, the Queer Youth Task Force will host the Queer Youth Leadership Awards via live stream on October 10. We want to honor and celebrate our queer, trans, and allied youth who have overcome so much and who continue to work to create a better future for all of us. Please join us.”


May 15, 2020: Shannon Kelly, director of upper school and a high school teacher at Mount Madonna School (MMS), is one of six Santa Cruz County citizens honored as nominees for the 2020 Ally to Queer Youth Award. This recognition, along with the Queer Youth Leadership Award (QYLA), are programs of the Queer Youth Task Force of Santa Cruz County.

The Ally to Queer Youth Award is a non-monetary recognition designed to honor an ally of any age who has made significant contributions to improving the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or intersexed youth and youth who have GLBTI family members. The QYLA website defines an ally as an individual who actively works to create supportive or safe spaces for queer youth. Examples include creating support groups, increasing visibility of queer youth, inviting queer speakers, or countering queer oppression by stopping anti-queer slurs.

At MMS, Kelly, and several other supportive faculty members revived the school’s GSA in 2019 after a period of inactivity. With Kelly’s guidance, the Mount Madonna GSA now has student leaders and engaging meetings. During this school year, the club has sponsored events such as Ally Week, which included inspiring videos of LGBTQ individuals being played at the beginning of the day in upper school classrooms, and Rainbow Spirit Days, where Kelly served rainbow sherbet in the quad for those who dressed in rainbow clothing.

Kelly and other faculty members brought the Triangle Speakers to MMS and organized discussion groups with the presenters to further educate the student community, as part of a broader effort to build a safe, inclusive school environment.

The recipients for the Ally to Queer Youth Award and the QYLA will be announced in the fall. More information is available at

“I don’t anticipate winning because all of the other nominees are doing such great work in the community,” commented Kelly. “However I am honored that someone in our community nominated me (the identities of those making the nominations are not disclosed) because this is an issue really close to my heart.”

In addition to Kelly, the other 2020 Allyt to Queer Youth Award nominees are Dr. Faris Sabbah, Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools; Michelle Brandt, co-facilitator, TransFamilies of Santa Cruz County; Michele Delibert, math teacher, Sequoia High School; Ryan Bosson, Spanish teacher and QSA advisor, Soquel High School; and Yvette Castillo, Watsonville High School student.

California Assemblymember Mark Stone, 29th district, sent a congratulatory letter to the award nominees.

“Your advocacy in furthering equality in our schools and beyond deserves recognition. This year’s QYLA theme, ‘Speak Up for Equality,’ should resonate strongly with you – speaking up is exactly what you’ve done…I wish to express profound gratitude to the teachers who have educated, supported, and inspired you throughout your academic journey, particularly during this pandemic…Be brave, be bold, be creative, be compassionate – be the authentic you that the world needs to heal and thrive.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.