At the beginning of summer, we began the undertaking of our lives: to build an organization that responds to the comprehensive needs of LGBTQ youth in our community. For three years, with the help of Open Table and volunteers, we have been running an LGBTQ peer support group for high-schoolers. The more we’ve gotten to know the youth, the better we’ve understood their immediate fears: being rejected by family, getting kicked out of home, facing discrimination at school, being abandoned by friends and faith communities… the list goes on. For the teens, the support group has become a refuge from those anxieties; for us, it has stoked an unassailable feeling of responsibility. There’s more work to be done.
We’ve asked the youth how we can improve our services. At their requests, we’ve updated the youth room, built a library of LGBTQ young adult literature, held monthly event nights, and provided healthier food options at our gatherings.
Our work has expanded well beyond the parameters of the youth group. We’re also collaborating with universities to collect data and create an LGBTQ sensitivity training program for local schools. We’re working with AIDS Alabama South and medical professionals who can offer free HIV testing and education crucial to LGBTQ youth. We’re developing a mentoring program with Rainbow Mobile to help 19 and 20-year-olds successfully acclimate to life after high school. And we’re preparing a monthly support group for younger LGBTQ youth who need our services just as much as our high-schoolers do.
In August, we officially launched as Prism United. Since then, we’ve seen an outpouring of community support. Sixty books have been donated to our library. Locals have cooked food for our gatherings. We’ve received message after message from people asking how they can help. The enthusiasm has been enormous.
We plan to use these quarterly newsletters to show our appreciation to supporters of Prism United, share our progress, and offer a glimpse of what is to come.
Our bottomless gratitude,
Corey Harvard & Justin Litaker
Executive Directors of Prism United