For 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:Our staff members and volunteers give youth the support they need to make informed decisions about their health, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use/abuse, anger management, violence prevention, and other community issues through weekly support groups.
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.
The Women's Leadership Institute (WLI) is a leadership development program for young lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and allied (LBTQA) women ages 13-21 which focuses on women's issues and community service. Established in 2010, SMYAL's Women's Leadership Institute is the only curriculum-based youth development model employed in the DC metro area specifically geared towards LBTQ young women.
Community Education:Peer 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.
SMYAL provides free HIV testing, counseling, and referral for youth. Make an appointment through firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by during our drop-in testing times to get a free, rapid, and confidential test for HIV.
In addition to hosting programs for youth 6 days per week, SMYAL also goes out into the community to help educate teachers, youthworkers, 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!