SMYAL ProgramsFor many young people, SMYAL provides the only safe space in their world. LGBTQ youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for many negative health outcomes, including HIV infection, violence, substance abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, and suicide.
Our youth programs, which occur both in our Youth Center and in area schools, are designed to build participants' capacity, specific to knowledge and skills that build greater self-efficacy, improve their physical and emotional health and to increase their sense of self-worth and place in their community. SMYAL's core expertise is identifying and developing strengths in LGBTQ youth, helping youth through the "coming out" process and fostering positive self-esteem.
Youth Center Activities:
Transgender and Non-Binary:
The mission of SMYAL's Transgender and Non-Binary group is to create a safe space for transgender and gender non-conforming young people. This group aims to build community and connect youth with resources in the DC Metro area. Youth will have the chance to participate in leadership and learning opportunities such as museums, shows, poetry, and movies. Youth will also be able to take ownership of the group by facilitating discussions on topics that interest them. This group will meet Tuesdays from 5-7pm.
Open Mic Night:
Many of our youth come to SMYAL looking for a safe space to talk openly about the issues they face every day due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to the issues facing all adolescents growing up in the DC metro region. Our open mic night gives youth the opportunity to come together to share and process their experiences, as well as the opportunity to celebrate each other's creativity.
Fight 4 Yr Rights Activist Night:
The mission of SMYAL's Fight 4 Yr Rights Activist Night is to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth to come together and discuss historical activist movements, contemporary issues that the youth face in their daily lives, and what activism truly is. Youth will be given the opportunity to begin organizing around an issue they identify as important to them. This Activist Night will hold meetings weekly on Thursdays from 5-7pm.
Providing LGBTQ youth with a space in which they can be themselves in a supportive and safe environment is one of the cornerstones of our work, and recreational nights are when we have the most fun! From dances to spoken word readings to movie nights, we offer youth a structured, fun activity every Friday night. Rec Nights are most Fridays from 5-7pm. Occasionally there are special events such as dances that will take place at a different time.
Leadership Development:. The GSA Network brings together Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) from schools throughout the District to connect with each other and to other local resources. Each month, local student leaders can come to share strategies and ideas for students looking to start a GSA at their own school or discover best ways attract more members, talk to school administrators, or plan and run student events.
Educators are a select group of youth who receive training in order to
educate other LGBTQA youth about HIV/AIDS prevention and safer sex
methods. Peer Educators serve their community as sources of information,
role models, and trusted friends by providing workshops for schools,
community-based-organizations, and the SMYAL community.
In addition to hosting programs for youth 6 days per week, SMYAL also goes out into the community to help educate teachers, youth-workers, police officers, and more about how to provide culturally competent services and safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. Follow the link above to learn more about our workshops for adults and youth or to request a training!