Mission Statement & History
In 1984, local youth service professionals and community activists organized a conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth issues after an LGBTQ-identifying youth was hospitalized. Through this conference, advocates founded Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
By creating leadership development opportunities, after-school programs, and counseling services designed to empower LGBTQ youth and educate their local community. Our organization strives to help these young leaders build advocacy skills and access crucial resources they need to succeed. We also provide education and training programs for youth service providers working in schools, runaway shelters, local government agencies, and hospitals.
Committed to social change, SMYAL continues to build, sustain, and advocate for programs, policies, and services that serve LGBTQ youth as they grow into adulthood.
In the News
Recently, DC public schools decided to change public school enrollment forms to include non-binary as a gender choice. SMYAL's Adalphie Johnson was featured in the New York Times to discuss what this change means for the LGBTQ community.
On behalf of the entire SMYAL family, we are saddened and moved by the story of Jamel Myles – a 9-year-old boy in Denver, Colorado who died by suicide days after telling classmates he was gay. LGBTQ youth face higher rates of depression, bullying, isolation, and suicide due to the discrimination they experience in many facets of their daily lives. SMYAL works to ensure that LGBTQ youth in the Metro DC area have safe spaces to be their authentic selves. One of these safe spaces is our Youth Center located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. This center is home to an array of youth programs including weekly support, discussion groups, advocacy and recreational events, and community service projects. Our staff and volunteers offer youth the support they need to make informed decisions about their health, sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse, anger management, and violence prevention. LGBTQ students in the DC Metro area are encouraged to participate in our after-school programs in the Youth Center on Tuesdays-Fridays from 4-7pm. More information about how to access support is at https://www.smyal.org/need-support. SMYAL also works has several school-based programs in DC, MD, and VA to help make classrooms safer for LGBTQ youth. To engage with a SMYAL staff person, contact Adalphie Johnson here.If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts and depression, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.FacebookWe are saddened and moved by the story of Jamel Myles of Denver, Colorado, who died by suicide a few days after telling his classmates he was gay. Recent studies show that nearly 84% of LGBTQ youth have reported being verbally harassed, and 40% reported being physically attacked because of their sexual orientation. These statistics reinforce the need for safe spaces where LGBTQ youth can feel supported and empowered to be their authentic selves. If you or a young person you know is in need of support, contact SMYAL today.TwitterWe are saddened and moved by the story of Jamel Myles, who died by suicide days after telling his classmates he was gay. The #bullying of #LGBTQ youth in schools is a widespread problem that deserves national attention and action.If you or a young person you know is in need of support, contact SMYAL today. For support with suicidal thoughts or depression, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. https://www.smyal.org/need-support
This story is part of the Washington Blade's contribution to the 2018 #DCHomelessCrisis news blitz. Local media outlets will be reporting and discussing stories about ending homelessness in the nation’s capital all day. The collaborative body of work is cataloged at dchomelesscrisis.press.
Meet Our Staff
Operations and Volunteer Manager
HIV Services Coordinator
Youth House Case Manager
Communications and Development Coordinator
Accountant and Grant Manager
Director of Youth Housing
Youth Housing Program and Clinical Services Assistant
Our Board Members
K. Dane Snowden
K. Dane Snowden is Chief of Staff of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association where he oversees the Association's day-to-day operations.
Jessica Lee is a Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management.
Neil Starkey previously worked in the tech industry, holding leadership roles for 12 years in the development of now widely-used open standards for teleconferencing and multimedia communications in the International Telecommunications Union and the International Standards Organization. Neil is an active philanthropist who is dedicated to youth-related issues.
Billy Fettweis, is the Development Director for Horton’s Kids, a community-based organization that serves children living in an isolated neighborhood in Washington, DC’s Ward 8. He previously worked at the Children’s Law Center and Parkinson’s Action Network
Tony Anderson is a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP and practices primarily in the area of administrative law with particular emphasis in public transit, transportation project development and financing, transportation labor, and disability matters.
Rob Cogorno recently retired from Subject Matter, a full-service public affairs agency. Rob previously worked as the Floor Director to Representative Steny Hoyer in both his Majority Leader and Democratic Whip offices. In that capacity, Rob oversaw the Leader's floor staff that directs day-to-day legislative activity in the House of Representatives.
Joaquin “Jocko” Fajardo
Joaquin "Jocko" Fajardo is the Principal behind Flourish Design, a local DC Lifestyle Management and Private Events Company. Jocko hales from Tempe, Arizona and has been in the DC area for nearly 20 years.
Don Davis is an Employment, Labor & Benefits Associate Attorney in the Washington, DC office of Mintz Levin. He represents and counsels employers in a wide array of workplace-related matters.
Sara LaPorta is a leader with MetaPhase Consulting’s Data Analytics and Business Intelligence Practice. She also leads the company’s community support initiatives.
Lisa is Senior Director of Partnerships and Engagement within the sustainability team at Mars, Incorporated. As the first woman in her family to attend college, she has a distinct passion about education and youth development!
Samantha Master is a black, queer, feminist activist, advocate, and educator. She is the African American Leadership and Engagement Specialist at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She has worked extensively within communities of color to organize and build analyses around LGBT and gender justice issues. She is also a SMYAL youth alumna.
Edward Palmieri serves as Sustainability Policy and Partnerships Director at Facebook. Ed previously served as Associate General Counsel, Privacy at Facebook.
Daniel Penchina is the President of Voices for Progress, a non-profit based in Washington and California that trains and mobilizes philanthropists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and others to advocate in the public interest. He previously worked as a Principal at the Raben Group, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm.
Ari Shapiro serves as host of NPR’s award winning after- noon newsmagazine, All Things Considered. He was previously NPR’s International Correspondent in London, a White House Correspondent during the Barack Obama Administration, and Justice Correspondent during the George W. Bush Administration.
Christopher Wood serves as Executive Director & Co-Founder of the LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute, an organization that encourages the continued adoption and use of cutting-edge, new and emerging technologies by providing information, education and strategic outreach for LGBT communities.
Get in Touch
Have a question about volunteering, accessing resources, or attending an event? Drop us a line!