Everyone benefits from learning how to have difficult conversations with important people in their lives. It’s a lifelong skill.

SpeakUp! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping teens develop supportive relationships with the adults in their lives. We enable teens to talk openly, honestly and without judgment about difficult topics and reach out for support within their homes and schools.

SpeakUp! focuses on the fact that no matter what the problem is – stress, drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, suicide, relationships, social media or others – the solution always begins with realizing you are not alone and having the courage to speak up and ask for help. All teens benefit from learning how to have courageous conversations with important adults in their lives.

SpeakUp! currently partners with over 40 middle and high schools in the greater Philadelphia region. These consist of urban, suburban, public and private schools.

You just can’t imagine a more important mission and I’ve gotten to see personally the impact that SpeakUp! has on young people and their families.

– David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast

Our Mission

SpeakUp! provides youth, educators, and parents the skills, opportunity and support to speak up and be heard on the critical topics of today.

SpeakUp! enables youth to make positive life choices – and parents and educators to support them – as they navigate the journey to become healthy, confident adults.

Any school. Anywhere. Everyone deserves to SpeakUp! and be heard.

Our Vision

Our vision is that SpeakUp! will be accessible in a format that any school, anywhere can implement this proven program.

As a result of SpeakUp!:

  • Teenagers will have the courage to be themselves, speak up, be willing to ask for help, and strengthen their network of support. They will see themselves as leaders in continuing the conversation at home and school while encouraging others to do the same.
  • Adults (parents & educators) will be more comfortable talking about tough topics in ways that make it more likely teens will consistently turn to them for guidance and support.
  • Schools will foster environments where speaking up, continuing the conversation and asking for support is encouraged.

Youth-driven… Experiential… Interactive… Intergenerational

Our Approach

We partner with schools to help create a culture of communication in our homes and schools where it’s ok to talk about tough topics.  Our youth-driven, experiential program begins with the creation of a diverse student leadership team.  We work with that team in a series of meetings to select the topics that they feel are critical in their lives and plan their SpeakUp! event.   At the event, youth, educators and parents engage in open and honest facilitated conversations about tough topics.  To ensure everyone is comfortable speaking up, no family members will be in the same breakout session.  Everyone gains perspective and skills they can use in continuing the conversation with their own families and at school.

We have research that shows SpeakUp! is having the impact we want it to have.

– Dr. Ken Ginsburg, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Our Impact
SpeakUp! was chosen through a rigorous selection process as a “best practice” youth resiliency organization. SpeakUp!’s proven program has achieved impressive impacts. Our surveys of over 4,000 participants show that as a result of SpeakUp!:

% of participants who feel less alone

% of participants who are more willing to ask for help

% of participants who have new strategies to manage challenges in their lives

There are no guarantees in life, but realizing you are not alone and being willing to ask for help is arguably the best insurance policy one can ask for.

Qualitatively, students report that SpeakUp! has been transformative – they are better communicators, more empathetic, have a stronger sense of belonging, gain competence and leadership, have improved coping skills, are more engaged and feel decreased stress. They attribute these changes to the fact that SpeakUp! is authentic, build trusts, provides a safe, accepting and non-judgmental environment and is led by students.

Bob Gillin, Jr.Our Story

SpeakUp! was founded by Martie Gillin, but it was inspired by her son, Bob Gillin Jr., a young gay man who died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 30. Bob’s courage to be honest about his struggles has inspired others to speak up about theirs.

SpeakUp! was started in 2000 in an effort to help youth engage differently with adults in their lives. Highly innovative and youth-driven, SpeakUp! creates a safe, non-judgmental environment where teens and caring adults can be open and honest about tough topics such as stress, drugs, alcohol, mental health, sex and relationships. Through our program, participants realize they are not alone, gain the courage to ask for help and have the guidance to find it.

What began with one brave young man and his family is now a proven program reaching thousands of teens and families every year. We thank our family, friends and partners, whose support enables us to change lives one conversation at a time.