Garden State Equality
Garden State Equality
Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director
Christian Fuscarino has deep roots in New Jersey, growing up in Belmar and spending much of his youth in and around Asbury Park. Fuscarino has been an activist and organizer in the LGBTQ community for over a decade. He credits his positive experiences in Asbury Park as helping influence him to become an activist. In 2016, PolitickerNJ named Christian the 2nd most influential advocate in New Jersey politics and later that year The Observer listed him on the Power List 100.
At GLSEN, Christian worked with high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) for several years. In 2007, Christian joined the Pride Connections Center of New Jersey as a program developer serving gay inner-city youth. That same year, he won a student Emmy award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his End the Silence public service announcement. In 2008, Christian founded The Pride Network, a national leadership development non-profit.
In 2013, Christian joined Alan van Capelle, former Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda, by serving as his digital strategist at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. They focused on mobilizing Jews to advance social issues by speaking out against injustice and inequality. One of the organization’s greatest accomplishments was a campaign that resulted in California Governor Jerry Brown signing The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Christian served as the Communications Director for the Educational Alliance until 2016. The Alliance is a non-profit organization that aims to break the cycle of poverty for low-income children and families through preschool, after school and college prep programs.
Fuscarino’s volunteer work has received numerous accolades, including recognition from the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly, Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Donald Payne, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, and Governor Jon Corzine. Media outlets such as CBS News, Sirius XM and Genre Magazine have featured Christian in groundbreaking stories. Hofstra University honored Christian, an alum, as their 2012 Man of the Year for his work developing a safe-campus space for LGBTQ students while earning his BA in digital media and LGBTQ studies.
Christian recently moved back to New Jersey from Brooklyn where he was living with his partner, Aaron Williams, a tennis instructor, now serving in the Marines.
Aaron Potenza, Director of Policy
Aaron Potenza is an educator and historian by training, and has taught courses on the histories of sexuality, gender, and gender identity at Yale University and Trinity College Hartford. He did his undergraduate work in History and Gender Studies at the University of Rhode Island and his graduate work in American Studies at Yale University. He has a background in nonprofit management, and is passionate about legislative and electoral politics, public policy, and program development. At Garden State Equality, he develops GSE’s legislative agenda in consultation with Board of Directors and national partners in the LGBTQ movement. Aaron is a very hands on director, implementing the organization’s legislative agenda through meetings with legislative allies and state partners; collaborating with state agencies to implement legislative victories and develop LGBTQIA policies; managing GSE’s Municipal Equality work; managing all incoming advocacy and discrimination cases; and working with program staff on the policy components of their programs. Aaron recently served on Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team, and will be representing GSE on the NJ Transgender Task Force, the first interagency state Transgender Task Force in the country. Aaron identifies as a transgender gay man, and uses male pronouns. Outside of work Aaron enjoys exploring new places and hiking with his husband James and their German Shepherd Hound mix Jack.
Jon Oliveira, Director of Communications & Membership
Jon Oliveira is a digital, branding, and communications strategist who has worked in the LGBTQ movement for a decade. As Director of Communications & Membership, Jon oversees Garden State Equality’s strategic communications, digital program, media relations, and membership engagement. An alumnus of Garden State Equality, Jon began his career as a campus organizer advocating for marriage equality and anti-bullying protections before becoming Program Director. He previously worked at Freedom to Marry as part of the Digital Action Center, taking a leading role in developing digital strategies for marriage equality campaigns across the nation, including Freedom Indiana and New Jersey United for Marriage. His communications background is reinforced with experience on-the-ground organizing for numerous electoral campaigns up and down the ballot. Before returning to Garden State Equality, Jon ran a digital and design consulting firm to develop strategies, branding, and website solutions for dozens of LGBTQ nondiscrimination campaigns throughout the country—including historic winning ballot campaigns in Washington and Massachusetts—as well as other progressive organizations and causes. Jon received his B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from Rutgers University, where he was a founding father of Delta Lambda Phi, a social fraternity for gay, bisexual, transgender, and progressive men. Originally from the Jersey shore, Jon now lives in Newark with his dog Avner.
Ashley Chiappano, Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
Ashley Chiappano is a parent, advocate, facilitator and trainer. She has worked in the non-profit and public service fields for over 8 years. During her time as a public servant and child welfare professional, she trained and licensed many LGBTQ foster/adoptive parents for the Department of Child Protection and Permanency while also participated in their Safe Space Program. She took pride in working for an All Children-All Family recognized state that welcomes and celebrates LGBTQ families. She educated and trained families in areas related to trauma, child development, abuse/neglect and case practice. Prior to this work, she was a Resource Family Advocate at Foster and Adoptive Family services, where her focus was to educate, advocate and assist families by utilizing CP&P policy to resolve issues and create positive change. During her time as a Resource Family Advocate, she was a licensed resource parent and adoptive mother. Ashley received her B.A. in Communication-Public Relations and Journalism from Monmouth University in 2005 and her M.A. in Human Service from Capella University in 2010. She loves educating others on how to make schools safer for LGBTQ youth and is committed to creating safe and affirming school environments. Ashley enjoys spending her free time going on adventures with her four amazing kids.
Bianca Chanel Mayes, Health & Wellness Coordinator
Bianca Chanel Mayes is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) for the health and wellness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. In this role, her work encompasses all three education initiatives of GSE! Through the Teach and Affirm Initiative, Bianca presents on LGBTQ Youth around topics such as mental health, comprehensive sex education, and resiliency. For Map and Expand Initiative, Bianca is engaged in a quantitative research study with the Rutgers University School of Public Health and the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies department; she also provides LGBTQ competency trainings to healthcare providers and to the LGBTQ community about various topics. With Pledge and Protect Initiative, Bianca is currently in a qualitative study with Monmouth and Stockton University, conducting focus groups around New Jersey counties for LGBTQ aging; she also education to LGBTQ older adults and competency trainings to older adult providers.
Bianca’s career has been centered around general healthcare for vulnerable populations. Prior to joining Garden State Equality in November 2017, Bianca served as a Health Educator and Research Associate for the Community Education and Population Health Department respectively at Atlantic Health System. As a Health Educator she planned, implemented, directed, maintained, and evaluated community health and wellness programs including health education, healthy eating, and physical activity. In her Research Associate role, Bianca gathered and analyzed qualitative and quantitative data collection for each healthcare system.
A graduate of Montclair State University, Bianca holds a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Education. During Bianca’s graduate education, she worked as a Health Promotion Supervisor for the Health Promotion department. In this role, she developed and implemented a tobacco cessation group for the students and faculty/staff via the Tobacco-Free Campus Task Force. As a result of her efforts, Montclair State University will be tobacco-free by 2020! For her graduate internship, Bianca worked as a Digital Education Specialist for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In this role, she contributed to the implementation paper about conducting an evaluation of a digital health intervention completely in the digital space. Bianca received her B.S. at William Paterson University of New Jersey with a minor in Women’s & Gender Studies in 2015. Bianca was born and raised in New Jersey. In her free time, this Gryffindor loves to travel, read, and explore new restaurants!