Affirmations’ handling of youth program raises concerns

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-15T20:55:12-04:00 July 23rd, 2009|Opinions|
Letters to the editor

I’ve worked as a youth counselor with Buffalo, New York’s Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of WNY. I’ve been a high school teacher, a college instructor, learning center specialist and mentor to young people for many, many years. In my experience, closing a youth program or after-school experience is really devastating to those youth involved (“Affirmations overhauls youth program during turbulent year,” BTL July 9). By doing so, young people are left without a safe place to communicate with each other, their mentors or their support system. Trust is broken between the young people and the community center and/or school site. Even if the doors are left open, without programming, the youth know they are not being fully embraced. In addition, when an agency or school publicly discusses their problems with a former program and/or staff, youth members are put in the middle. As a result, youth are less likely to return, and recruiting becomes more difficult. However, what I find most problematic about Affirmations’ new youth program is the lack of youth involvement in the whole process. According to Ms. Thompson, staff members decided upon the Search Institute’s program. The skill sets that young people will need to work toward seem to match Affirmations’ fundraising goals, not the needs of LGBT youth. As a former LGBT youth counselor, I know there is a hierarchy of needs for LGBT youth. I’m interested in hearing how Affirmations’ youth program will meet the hierarchal needs of their youth, from the kid who just needs a peer to talk to after school to the teen needing a home. Finally, I’ve known several of Affirmations’ youth staff members. These are competent, caring, intelligent individuals. I’ve seen them respond to Affirmations youth with wisdom and maturity, and I’ve witnessed the youth’s enthusiasm when encountering these individuals at programming events.

{ITAL Kristin Kurzawa, M.F.A
Ypsilanti, Mich.}

Thanks, Jessica for the story on Affirmations’ youth program (“Affirmations overhauls youth program during turbulent year,” BTL July 9). This would explain why on June 9, I called Affirmations on behalf of a health care worker trying to find youth services for a fellow gay comrade. The person from Affirmations led me to a helpline with a answering machine talking about suicide prevention lines. I had freaking nightmares all weekend that this kid was going to wind up like Bobby from “Prayers for Bobby.” This is after I called LGBTQ Michigan University Center and got directed to Gateway, who never answers their phones. Let me just say I am so pissed that all the state has to offer is advocacy. Sure, it’s great promoting the cause, but we need the resources. It’s a shame that the Matthew Shepard Foundation is out of state and so it the Trevor Project. I have asked what my college GSA can do to help. It’s ridiculous that PFLAG Lansing is down and so is the LAHR hotline apparently. I am patiently waiting for a response from Michigan Equality. I am not trying to put down my friends from the community. Not to use the old line “Would somebody think of the children,” but by golly!

{ITAL Frank Vaca
Potterville, Mich.}

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.