By Dawn Wolfe
JACKSONVILLE, FL. – When most college students head to Florida for spring break, they go to party. During the week of Feb. 28 – March 5, however, a team of Project YES (Youth for Equality and Safety) interns headed to Florida to lend a hand to an agency serving LGBT youth.
According to Kathleen Russell, founding director of Project YES, nine students who are pursuing their bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Eastern Michigan University took the trip to work with the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network. JASMYN is a service and advocacy agency for LGBTQ youth.
Ernie Selorio, the agency’s community impact coordinator for gay youth in foster care, was thrilled to have them.
In addition to helping the agency paint and clean a room that will be JASMYN’s new health clinic, the students did community outreach work, participated in panel discussions, and each paired up with a JASMYN staff member to work on specific service areas.
The biggest thing they accomplished, according to Selorio, was giving a morale boost to JASMYN’s staff.
“It’s a different time now since the election,” said Selorio. “We were feeling pretty rough here in the south… To have them come in and be so open and affirming was exciting.”
Students who participated were also enthused about the experience.
Shawna Kelly, one of the trip’s co-leaders, chose to participate in the alternative spring break because, “I knew that I needed to be involved in the fight to change the way social workers and society are treating this oppressed population.”
“Every staff member at JASMYN has been an inspiration to me. … I feel that this experience has helped me to see the many issues LGBTQ youth have to face in this country,” Kelly wrote upon returning. “I know that this experience will change the way I practice social work.”
Carli Nuechterlein, the trip’s other co-leader, was equally inspired.
“I learned not to be discouraged by the political hardships for the LGBTQ population. No matter what setbacks there are, it is very important to never give up on the fight for equality,” she said in her written report.
Benefit concerts for Project YES March 10 & 12
Margie Adams will be playing two concerts to benefit the Project YES Players, an EMU-based performance troupe that does performances to educate about and eliminate homophobia. Adams will be at Eastern’s Alexander Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on March 10; admission is free and donations will be accepted. On March 12, Adams will perform at the Milliken Auditorium in Traverse City. (This is a change from the original planned venue, the Unitarian Universalist church.) Tickets for the Traverse City performance will be sold on a sliding scale of $20-$30. The March 12 performance will also benefit Windfire, a support organization for LGBT youth in the Traverse City area.
For more information about the March 10 concert at EMU, call 734-487-1177. For more information about the March 12 Traverse City event, call Kathy at 231-472-7742 or visit http://www.friendsnorth.org.
For more information about JASMYN, visit http://www.jasmyn.org.