TRANSFORMING LIFE FOR LGBTQ YOUTH IN WESTCHESTER
June is Pride Month! As the founder in 1995 of Center Lane, the first and still the only LGBTQ center for teens in Westchester, WJCS has a long and strong commitment to LGBTQ teens. In 1996 we launched the first Gay Prom. In 2011, we introduced TransParentcy, a program for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming youth (ages 13-21) and their parents/guardians. In 2018 we launched a one-week Pride Camp. We are proud that in 2019 Westchester County gave WJCS Center Lane a Public Health Award for providing social and recreation activities, support groups, individual counseling, social justice, advocacy, and workshops and leadership training to LGBTQ teens.
The need to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth is great, as the statistics validate. Ninety percent of LGBTQ youth report having mental health concerns. Twenty-nine percent report having attempted suicide. Twenty to thirty percent abuse drugs and other substances more than the general population. LGBTQ youth are two times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted. Forty-two percent feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their schools and communities.
WJCS is thrilled that, thanks to a very generous $100,000 Transformation Grant from Impact100 Westchester, Center Lane is now positioned to take the next transformational step in our important mission. Center Lane’s new initiative, Pride Program, educates both LGBTQ youth and adults working with LGBTQ youth to ensure that Westchester County becomes a more welcoming, accepting, and knowledgeable environment for LGBTQ individuals. The youth-led and youth-directed Pride Curriculum will teach youth about LGBTQ history, culture, and contributions, helping to build a strong sense of self-worth and positive identity. LGBTQ 101 trainings for adults working in youth-serving organizations in under-resourced communities will enable them to create inclusive, safe, and supportive spaces in Westchester to help LGBTQ youth feel valued.