2024-2029 Strategic Vision

Strategic Initiatives

Our strategic initiatives are broad-overarching organizational goals intended to guide the next five years of our work. Our Strategic Vision articulates an organizational direction that all members of our staff and Board can contribute toward achieving.

SMYAL’s intention is to continue our core areas of service over the next five years while being strategic in the ways we structure, expand, and evolve the services and supports we provide. 

Youth Informed Services and Programming

Our first priority is to invest in youth engagement by formalizing processes for youth to provide input into programming and services through clearly defined and integrated mechanisms.

Initiative #1: Youth Informed Services and Programming

Our programming and services are youth-oriented and informed by the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ experiences. We engage LGBTQ+ youth in identifying the barriers that may prevent them from living full adult lives and work in ongoing, collaborative partnerships with youth to co-create the interventions necessary to overcome them.

Objective 1

Develop a formal process for youth to provide input into the programming and services we offer.

Objective 2

Provide programs and services that are dynamic and evolve based on the needs of the youth LGBTQ+ community, including qualitative and quantitative data collected from SMYAL participants.

Restorative, Trauma-Informed, Culturally Competent Programming

We recognize the trauma our youth experience and ensure our staff are trained in trauma-informed, harm-reduction practices that meet youth where they are in their journey to adulthood and create a stable future. We are also committed to providing age-appropriate, accessible, and culturally competent programming and services that meet the needs of our diverse community.

Initiative #2: Restorative, Trauma-Informed, Culturally Competent Programming

SMYAL’s framework is deeply rooted in a trauma-informed approach and harm-reduction practice. We create affirming spaces to provide age-appropriate programming and resources in an environment that prioritizes healing and promotes self-advocacy.

Objective 1

Employ best practices in trauma-informed care, healing-centered engagement, and harm reduction in our learning and housing environments.

Objective 2

Provide staff with the cultural competency training required to engage with youth from a range of backgrounds.

Objective 3

Develop accessible, culturally competent, and age-appropriate materials and communications designed for audiences of different ages; non-English speakers; youth; donors; families; etc.

Sustainable, Intentional Growth, and Increased Organizational Capacity

Through strategic investments in institutional infrastructure and capacity, we position ourselves to navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and effectively uphold our mission. We reinforce our dedication to adaptability and improvement, encouraging a culture that embraces learning and psychological safety. SMYAL must reflect a holistic understanding of our mission, focusing not only on the external impact on LGBTQ+ youth but also on the internal dynamics that contribute to our organizational success.

Initiative #3: Sustainable, Intentional Growth, and Increased Organizational Capacity​

We are committed to sustainable, intentional growth and organizational transparency. SMYAL is investing in the institutional infrastructure and capacity necessary to meet youths’ needs and provide a stable work environment and culture for staff.

Objective 1

Ensure our Board has the skills and support necessary to meet their fiduciary and other organizational responsibilities.

Objective 2

We invest in our staff’s professional development and growth.

Objective 3

We foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.


We must ensure that spaces where LGBTQ+ youth exist are welcoming and they feel safe to bring their full authentic selves. This requires recognizing that the needs of LGBTQ+ youth—and the staff who serve them—are deserving of high-quality resources including professional services and expertise, materials, facilities, and other types of financial and non-financial support. We want to create a culture where staff and youth alike know they are supported and are set up for success.

Initiative #4: Well-Resourced

LGBTQ+ youth are deserving of the same quality of support, programming, services, and resources that all youth need to transition into adulthood.

Objective 1

We raise the necessary financial support to provide high-quality programming and services that meet LGBTQ+ youths’ needs.

Objective 2

Our facilities provide a safe environment for our youth and staff.

A Message from the Executive Director

SMYAL was founded 40 years ago at a time of uncertainty and polarization for LGBTQ+ youth. Community leaders came together to ensure queer and trans youth could not only access the resources they needed but did so in a welcoming and supportive environment. Over the past four decades, we have impacted tens of thousands of lives, expanded our programs and services, and evolved to not only help generations of youth survive but thrive.

While we have experienced and embraced change, what has remained consistent is our commitment to being a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ+ youth. We have transformed into a youth-driven, youth-empowered, and youth-defined model of community involvement. Youth voices are foundational in our work; our community is what sparked our work and continues to help drive us forward. It will take all of us to impact the lives of youth in our community in the years to come.

That’s the very reason that we invested time, energy, and resources into this very intentional strategic planning process: to help us assess where we are, have thoughtful conversations about where we’re going, and develop a path forward that helps us manage, change, and scale our work to continue having an impact another 40 years from now.

We have laid out the ways we will advance our guiding principles and mission, strengthen our internal culture, and support the LGBTQ+ youth we work with. This plan provides our supporters, employees, donors, and other stakeholders with a shared foundation, rooted in healing-centered engagement, positive youth development, and harm reduction principles.

As we rise to meet the challenges of today’s political climate, we do so with the intention of building a stronger, more resilient community ready to defend and protect LGBTQ+ youth; one that will remain steadfast in its principles. We approach this work knowing our success depends on the dedication and leadership of our colleagues, our supporters, our youth, our partner organizations, and our community.

This plan presents the foundation for our vision; we are proud and honored to share it with you.

Erin Whelan
Executive Director