SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders)

WISH LIST: $100: hour-long LGBTQ cultural competency training for area teachers; $500: 1 month of healthy snacks for SMYAL youth; $1000: safe, welcoming community dance for LGBTQ youth

We've come a long way in the last few decades, but for many young people SMYAL remains the only place where they can openly and safely be themselves. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for physical abuse, homelessness, suicide, HIV infection, substance abuse, and dropping out of school. Newly-focused on youth leadership, SMYAL enables teens to build confidence, develop life skills, and engage their peers in service and advocacy projects. And the Youth Center provides a supportive, welcoming environment for those rejected by their families and isolated from their communities. Support and discussion groups explore self-esteem, health, sexual activity, drug abuse, and violence protection; free HIV testing, counseling, and referral are offered to everyone. Committed to a better world for the next generation, SMYAL trains schools to work with LGBTQ youth in an effective, affirming way and advocates for services that these youth need as they grow up. Some young people believe that assault and harassment are just the facts of life. We know better.