“I got involved with Youth First through my previous job as a healthy relationships educator and loved it so much that there was no question about whether I would continue volunteering, even after leaving my former employer. Youth First is simply the most magical community I’ve ever been a part of, and the youth are so uniquely smart and hilarious and brave.
“The only program of its kind in North Texas, Resource Center’s Youth First program serves middle and high school aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth, ages 12 to 18, and equips them with the skills and resources they need to lead an authentic life. While the LGBTQ community has seen a lot of progress, including marriage equality and advancements in employment protections, studies show that school climates have not improved for LGBTQ youth. This is why it’s imperative, now more than ever, to provide LGTBQ teens with a safe and inclusive space such as Youth First, where they’ll have the opportunity to participate in social activities virtually with kids like themselves.
“Youth First provides safety and community for youth that otherwise might feel very alone. It is a safe environment where they can try out different names, different pronouns, and different identities as they discover who they are. Many of the youth do not have affirming schools or families, but Youth First enables them to guide and support each other through that experience—and I’m grateful they trust me enough to be included. Working with these youth has helped me better understand my own identity and experiences, and I wish something like this had existed when I was growing up in my tiny rural town.
“Pre-COVID, youth would drive from as far as Corsicana to attend the weekly Gender Identity group. Besides offering crucial support, Youth First provides experiences the kids might not be able to get anywhere else, especially for youth with unsupportive family environments. Youth First provides an LGBTQ-friendly prom, holiday parties, weekly family dinners, camping trips, theatre groups, and arts education, and has done an amazing job of translating these programs into a virtual format so that LGBTQ youth can still find support and community during the pandemic.
“My holiday wish is that Youth First receives everything they need to continue supporting LGBTQ youth during these difficult times. I would encourage folks to donate to the program, purchase an items from the program’s Amazon wishlist, or donate digital gift cards.
“To learn more about Youth First and how to get involved, please visit myresourcecenter.org/youth or contact Community Program Manager Allison Johnson at [email protected]
*Graphic and photo provided by Resource Center