Watermark Issue 26.25: Remarkable People

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Photo by Dylan Todd

Photo courtesy Ashley Figueroa

Ashley Figueroa

Yasmin Flasterstein

Project Manager, Bliss CARES

Co-founder Executive Director, Peer Support Space

By Maggie L. King, Director of Development and Community Relations, Bliss CARES

By Dani Hill, Co-founder and Director of Peer Services, Peer Support Space

I

f you knew Ashley like I know

Ashley, you would know that she is an open and proud Latina American transgender woman.

The day that I met Ashley, I knew that she was a force to be reckoned with. Almost instantly, I knew that she was kind, compassionate, intelligent and had a great sense of humor. Her compassion for others is what really makes her stand out. Because of her displayed strong leadership abilities, she was a natural fit for Bliss Cares. Ashley was hired as a community liaison where she was responsible for implementing the TRANSformation Program, a seven-part lifestyle education series geared toward the transgender community. Today, Ashley is still involved with the TRANSformation group, attending all the sessions and even attends name change court hearings with our group members who graduate from the program. She knows that the name change process is nerve racking as well as emotional and wants to be there to offer her love and support. That’s our Ashley! Ashley was quickly promoted to project manager, working on special projects for the agency. In July she danced her heart out as a backup dancer to our executive director, Juan Rodriguez, at our Sweet Dreams fundraiser. She was also an integral part of the Sweet Dreams volunteer planning committee, helping the agency raise over $72,000 for emergency housing for the transgender community. If you know Ashley, you know that anything she does, she does it with class, style and passion. It is obvious that her desire to help the community is extremely important to her. Ashley serves as a board member for various agencies throughout Central Florida and is a voice and champion for equality. I was not surprised when she was recently honored by Equality Florida, receiving the Voice of Equality Award at their 2019 Greater Orlando Gala. While Ashley loves her Central Florida community, and is always out and about making a positive impact in the community, her true love is her fiancé, Robert, and their son, Aiden, as well as her loving and supportive family. I am thrilled to call Ashley my friend and team member at Bliss Cares. I am proud of her and all of her accomplishments. If you do not know Ashley, you should. She will light up your life.

watermark Your LGBTQ life.

I

’ve had the pleasure and

privilege to know Yasmin Flasterstein for a little over half a decade now as both a colleague and dear friend.

After Pulse, we worked collaboratively at the Mental Health Association for the Orlando United Counseling program. Her commitment ensuring survivors and those impacted had access to free mental health counseling has had a lasting impact. Her passion to challenging mental health stigma that acts to isolate and harm those who are vulnerable is palpable. I can genuinely say, she has saved lives with her compassion. In January 2019, with her vision as a guide, we co-founded Peer Support Space. At Peer Support Space, we strive to uplift and empower communities that too often are stifled and who have limited access to approachable resources. Yasmin will always pass the megaphone to voices that need to be heard and strives personally to ensure that the services provided through Peer Support Space are informed and led by the population served. She has a unique perspective – having had both professional exposure to traditional mental health systems and personal lived experience with PTSD, Dissociative Disorder and as a candid suicide survivor. This vantage point helps her in identifying gaps in our mental health community so that equity can be achieved for those that have been excluded. Because of her dedication as a founder and executive director, Peer Support Space has been able to provide 2,500 with free, peer-led services in its inaugural year. Under her care, we will only continue to grow and change our mental health system for the better. Her other contributions to the community include being a founding member of Orlando Trans Collective, acting as a facilitator for Butterfly Talks and sitting as an active board member for the Peer Support Coalition of Florida and Central Florida Cares. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include her highest accolade – being an exceptional dog mom to Dee Dee, our mascot and group emotional support animal.

December 12 - Decemb er 25 , 2019 // Issue 26 . 25 wat e r m a r konline .com

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