Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Thomas “TJ” Chernick, the Partnership Engagement Director at the International LGBTQ Travel Association Foundation. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Welcome to the blog, Thomas! What challenge are you addressing through the International LGBTQ Travel Association Foundation?
Thomas: Hi Spiffy! Travel is one of the most exciting things in the world to do. Sadly, it's not always easy, and sometimes not safe for some people—for example, LGBTQ+ people often face problems when they travel. The IGLTA Foundation works to make the world a safer place for LGBTQ+ people to explore.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Thomas: Good question, Spiffy! I am from a small town in Texas, and when I was a kid, I couldn't imagine what the world was like outside of my hometown. When I got older and took my first trip to another country, I discovered how big the world really is and how much there was to discover. I fell in love with the adventure of travel, and now I love sharing that with people.
Spiffy: That’s awesome! What would you say is the impact of your work?
Thomas: Our work helps LGBTQ+ people in all areas of travel. We create guides for people who want to travel, provide scholarships for people who want to work in the travel industry, and help make places more welcoming and safer for LGBTQ+ people.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or your organization, and the impact it makes on your community.
Thomas: We have started looking at sustainability and travel, which is how travel affects the environment and the communities where people travel. When you travel somewhere, it's more than just going and visiting. You create an impact on the place you visit. It's important to respect the locations you visit: "Take only pictures, leave only footprints."
Spiffy: I love that. Thanks for speaking with me today, Thomas—it’s been an honor!
Thomas “TJ” Chernick has culminated over 15 years of experience in international human rights, international education, and partnerships. Before working for the IGLTA, TJ served as the Director of the New York Chapter of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NglccNY). Prior to that, he coordinated international human rights programs with the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University and served as a Program Officer for the International Fulbright Scholarship program. (First published on the Ladderworks website on January 17, 2023.)© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.