Dear Pride Family,
It’s back to school time around San Diego County!
While some are excited to return to their favorite teachers and friends, for far too many LGBTQ youth this can be a terrifying time of year.
While California has passed legislation supporting LGBTQ youth, and many school districts in San Diego have made incredible strides to foster healthy and safe learning environments for our kids, the lived experience of our LGBTQ youth can vary wildly from district to district, school to school, and even class to class.
While I’ve heard people in our own community talk about how “easy kids have it these days,” the reality is that the hyper-polarized political climate our country is experiencing affects our youngest as well. The hate, venom, and discrimination can too often come from their own families, and they can be subjected to more of the same by friends or faculty at school. Amung LGBTQ youth, 85% have experienced verbal harassment, 58% feel unsafe at school, and 27% have been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2012, LGBTQ youth volunteers asked us to create a Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) designed just for them so they could begin to be their own agents of change.
What started with a handful of youth asking for support has grown into robust year-round youth programs. Weekly, Fridays at Pride gives youth a space to take leadership in building out their own programs and events. Monthly, our Lunch Bunch program gives LGBTQ youth a safe space to have free lunch with other LGBTQ youth while gaining access to self-guided education and fun projects. Throughout the year, we take field trips, put on art shows, and even have an LGBTQ youth marching band!
Our youth programs have grown so much that this year we were able to hire our first Youth Programs Coordinator, YLA graduate, M Valladolid. They are an incredible community activist and have expanded our programs and reach. In our 8th year of putting on our Pride Youth Leadership Academy, we’re excited to announce that we’ve added a second track specifically for YLA alumni as we continue expanding on our ability to build LGBTQ leaders.
In 2012 I never could have imagined how much these programs would grow, but their success continues to prove to me time and time again that we build our movement by investing in our youth. In this way, we are ensuring the present and future of our Legacy of Liberation.
Fernando Zweifach López