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  • Leadership Skills and Learning among LGBTQIA+ and Allies

    May 19,2016

    group photo cropped

    The statistics are alarming. 34% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Of this population, 60.8% experience at least one type of victimization while homeless including being:

    • threatened
    • robbed
    • assaulted
    • sexually assaulted
    • raped

    With an increase being victimized, there is an increase of depressive symptoms and Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. Thankfully, with all of this devastating information, it is reassuring to know that there is support out there.

    Students from the Newburgh School District’s Gay Straight Alliance called, “PRISM”, with support from Jewish Family Service of Orange County organized the third annual LGBTQIA+ Youth Conference. The student members of PRISM worked for months on organizing this eye-opening conference. They realized that homelessness is an issue that impacts all youth; it can especially touch the lives of youth who identify as LGBTQ. The theme of the conference was “Homelessness”.

    Keynote speakers presented from various domains, agency representatives were stationed at tables where information was disbursed, entertainment and food was provided and teens led workshops. One workshop included an activity that participants were offered the choice and tools to write elected officials to provide for more resources.  They also crafted encouraging words on back packs to be given to homeless youth. The conference was not simply about absorbing information. It also was about taking action!

    How did PRISM students arrive at this? Planning, planning, planning! It was through the five month conference planning, that the youth involved gained leadership skills. They collaborated with one another, brainstormed ideas, negotiated differences, made contacts to community leaders, scheduled the day, designed materials, wrote curriculum for student-led workshops, stretched their skills and took on new roles. This is all part of the beauty of being an agency that has a lead role in the Teens Connect Program. Being a partner with groups like PRISM in organizing such conferences is an expression of JFS Orange realizing its mission:

    To empower all people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength.

    We give appreciation to sponsors who helped to fund this program: the Orange County Youth Bureau, the Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County.  

    For helpful links that address issues discussed go to the “Services” tab and click “Other Resources” on this website.