This coming academic year, we are shifting YEL to Wednesday evenings and our new LGBTQ+ Youth of Color group to Monday evenings. This shift allows for our Youth of Color group, which is a partnership with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project to continue to grow and we will soon be offering the group more than just monthly. Additionally, hosting YEL the same night as our Middle School youth group and parent discussion group, provides us a unique opportunity to build stronger mentor opportunities between youth.
Youth Engaged in Leadership or YEL provides Side by Side youth 14-20 in Richmond a unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills, as well as engage and connect to their community. YEL leaders engage in community projects, help plan our annual Alternative Prom and participate in Equality Virginia's Day of Action.
Middle School Program Begins at Side by Side Charlottesville
Thanks to a generous grant from The Bama Works Foundation,
Side by Side is excited to launch an 8-week closed group for Middle School Youth in grades 6th, 7th, and 8th in Charlottesville this October. We hope to grow this group to an on-going weekly support group for LGBTQ+ middle schoolers and provide support for their parents and families as well.
Since 2013, Side by Side has provided support to LGBTQ+ middle school youth and their parents in Richmond. Through that group we've seen tremendous success and a growing need among youth ages 11-14. Our middle school youth report increases in self-esteem and self-worth as well as an increase in healthy peer relationships after participating in our program.
Local to Global - Side by Side with LGBTQ+ Youth Advocates
This past month, Side by Side staff and former youth participated in the 2017 Reggie Smith Organizing School with the Virginia Education Association (VEA). This unique three-day conference provides educators from across the Commonwealth with tools to advocate and organize in their local communities for positive change. This year the VEA created a special track focused on creating more inclusive educational environments for LGBTQ+ students as well as teachers and administrators.
Also this month, Side by Side hosted leaders advocates and leaders from Presidential Precinct's Mandela Washington Fellows Program. The program 25 fellows from 18 countries across Africa to the US to learn about policy, advocacy, and share ideas with local leaders. This year Presidential Precinct chose to visit Side by Side to discuss how to better serve LGBTQ+ youth and the LGBTQ+ community in general. Our conversation covered topics such as how to best support youth in crisis, how to work with parents, how to build understanding of transgender identities, and how to support LGBTQ+ people in hostile climates. Side by Side was honored to host these great leaders, and share a bit of our history and wisdom as well as learn a lot from them.
Side by Side provides trainings and consultation to schools, youth-serving organizations, government agencies, and local companies. We are proud to continue to work towards more supportive communities where LGBTQ+ youth can truly thrive, be they here in Virginia or across the globe.
Side by Side's New Partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Richmond for LGBTQ+ Mentorship
Side by Side and Big Brothers Big Sisters in Richmond are partnering on a pilot program to offer mentorship opportunities to LGBTQ+ youth. Both organizations are proud Success360 partners with Altria, who is funding the pilot, and Richmond was chosen as one of five pilot sites along with Philadelphia, Nashville, Seattle, and Chicago. Side by Side has provided training and consultation with the organization as they develop new policies to ensure LGBTQ+ youth are fully included and supported through their amazing mentor programs. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides a supportive one-on-one adult mentor for youth and is making a concerted effort to ensure their Bigs are prepared to work with any youth regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Side by Side is proud to partner with an organization with such a rich and powerful history as Big Brothers Big Sisters. We encourage our supporters to learn more about their programs and consider becoming a "Big" today.