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by Jessica Carreras
Cleney Matlock is the most recent addition to the team at the Ruth Ellis Center. There, since April of this year, she has served as a Life Coach and Drop-in Center Manager at the center, which serves LGBT youth who are struggling or homeless. Matlock started the Life Coach program herself, which helps to prepare LGBT youth for adulthood.
You recently became the Ruth Ellis Center’s Life Coach and Drop-in Center Manager. What do these positions entail?
In my role as the Life Coach, I assist young people with preparing resumes, accessing career development resources, honing their interview skills and articulating their educational goals. I also provide individual coaching. Along with the Street Outreach workers, we as a team provide assistance in accessing housing – including our residential programs, referrals to medical resources, providing crisis intervention and running support groups. My management duties include ensuring quality programming, supervising employees and structuring the Drop-In Center activities.
Why did you decide to work with the Ruth Ellis Center?
I enjoy working with youth that are considered high-risk. Many, if not most, at-risk youth have great potential. Some just need a little help to break through barriers; others may need to find new ways of reaching the potential that is inside them but is being held back for some reason. Through the life coaching program, it is my goal for young people to see themselves not as they are today but who they can be tomorrow. Through life coaching, we can develop a plan to help young adults help themselves map out a path to that future.
You undoubtedly spend a lot of time with LGBT youth. How have the youth impacted you?
They keep me focused on the important matters of life. Some of the young people at the center face dire circumstances out on the streets, yet seek every opportunity not to give up but to move forward. I learn a lot about how the young people express their identities, show me the newest dances, and they give me love.
What was your own young adulthood like? Did it influence your decision to work with youth?
The early stages of my own adulthood were filled with responsibilities and life-changing decisions. Time management was a constant issue and learning about the resources available to help me in areas that were naive to me was also a challenge. At the age of 21, I worked full-time as a HIV counselor and attended college full-time. So yes, my past has influenced my decision to work with youth.
What LGBT youth issue is most important to you, and why?
The three most important issues are homelessness, discrimination and suicide. LGBT youth are vastly overrepresented in the youth homeless population (LGBT youth represent 20 percent to 40 percent of all homeless youth). LGBT young people face discrimination in schools and in their own homes. Also devastating is the high rate of both attempted and complete suicides by LGBT youth. But most importantly, I am impacted by the fact that discrimination and scorn can cause some youth to struggle to believe in themselves and feel unworthy of life. At the center, we can be an oasis from the danger in street life and provide ways to escape from negative situations to positive opportunities.
To learn more about the Ruth Ellis Center, visit http://www.ruthelliscenter.org.