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Front and Center is our newest resource, designed to inform you about the life-changing and life-saving programs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. In this edition you'll learn about the difference our Safe Schools Internship is making in the lives of young people, and find out how our Recovery Program helps clients make friends while achieving sobriety. You'll also hear about the resiliency of our rainbow flag, and the impact of a Center art installation dating back to 1989. Please enjoy reading about these stories, and thank you for your support of the Center.
Center's Safe Schools Internship Empowers Young Leaders to Fight for Equality in Schools
Interns in the Center's Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Program recently finished six months of training in how to make their schools safer spaces for LGBTQ young people. During the Safe Schools Internship, they learned how to start Gay Straight Alliances (GSA's) and how to plan and facilitate monthly, Safe Schools Network Meetings, where high school students from across New York City gather to discuss ways to improve their schools. Several participants reflected about how the YES internship made a difference in their lives:
"The first time I realized that my school was transphobic I felt it was my destiny to change the school's idea of trans people. During my Gay Straight Alliance meetings I brought up the issue of transphobia multiple times. Because I educated teachers and students about trans people, they have become more accepting."
"My time as a safe schools intern has been one of the best experiences as a teenager so far. It has taught me how to be a leader and how to use my voice, which has always been hard for me."
"A staff member at school referred me to the Center because they were offering a paid internship. I jumped at the offer because money was involved. But when I finally got here it became much more than just money. I consider the Center a home away from home, sort of like a safe haven. Now I don't care about the money. I just like to come here to learn something new, and enjoy my time with my new friends. It's a safe environment for me."
"By working alongside others in the internship, some of whom can't even form GSA's in their schools, I have learned how to help myself and others gain confidence. I want to spread my knowledge. I want to help others, as I have been helped."
As evidenced from the testimonials above, the Center's YES program not only creates a safe space for LGBT youth, it is also an incubator for a new generation of LGBT leaders. Our next internship cycle starts this fall.
Thanks to Ricardo Martinez, Education & Family Support Services Specialist, Youth Enrichment Services Program
Center's Recovery Program Helps Client Find Friends and Maintain Sobriety
The Center's Recovery Program offers clients the opportunity to develop healthy social connections and build a strong support system. One recent example involved a client who came to our program despondent and quiet. He had few, if any friends. He attributed some of his drug use to his loneliness. After a few short weeks here, his demeanor completely changed. Attending support groups, coupled with affirming and productive individual counseling sessions, has allowed this client to emerge as a confident, more open individual. He is now friends with most of the clients in the program and has maintained his sobriety. Stories like this are a reminder of how vital and transforming Center programs truly are.
Thanks to Stacy Blundell, Admin/Billing, Center Care Recovery
Center's (YES) Program Helps Young Gay Man Overcome Depression
A young immigrant who recently arrived here from a Spanish speaking country joined our Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Program to meet other young people. During his intake he shared feeling isolated, lonely and depressed. After spending some time at YES he said: "But yesterday, I met a boy and I hung out with him all afternoon. Not once did I feel depressed!" He hadn't felt that good in a long time. This young man has not only made friends here, but is already learning English; he has become such an active participant in our program that he now brings his friends from school to the YES Program.
Thanks to Christine Cruz, Leadership & Learning Lab Specialist, Youth Enrichment Services Program
Center's Rainbow Flag Flies Again after Pulley Repair
Last December the Center discovered our rainbow flag dangling down the front of the building in disarray. High winds and blankets of snow had broken the pulley at the far end of the flagpole. This story provides the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to Gilbert Baker whose idea it was to use the rainbow flag as an LGBT community symbol in the first place. Gilbert has sewn with great care, every rainbow flag that has flown in front of the Center. So when we found our flag swaying loosely that cold December morning it was in perfect shape, despite the broken flagpole. June is here now and thankfully, last week the pulley was replaced on the flagpole and the flag is flying Front and Center once more, just in time for Pride season.
Photo by Rainie Cole
Thanks to Robert Woodworth, Director of Meeting & Conference Services and Capital Projects
Front and Center Staff Spotlight Story
Center's 1989 Art Installation Continues to Inspire
By Ector Simpson, Former Director of Cultural Programs
I always feel a sense of pride when I hear stories from people who have been touched by the Center in ways that we will never know unless some chance encounter allows for the story to be told. Recently I heard from a young artist who visited the Center for the first time and was completely moved by a painting in the Northwest staircase by curator and celebrated academic Robert Storr; the piece was completed in 1989 and became part of a permanent Center installation. Storr is a straight man and not recognized as a painter. The young man turned out to be Storr's former student and was shocked to see his mentor's work at the Center. How, why and when? As he recounted his experiences with Storr he was visibly moved and wanted to impress upon me how lucky we were to have this permanent installation in our building. Soon after this encounter Storr lectured at the New York City Armory Show and the young man asked him about his painting at the Center. Storr described how happy he was to participate in the 1989 process and how important the Center installation has become as a body of work in New York City; LGBT people from around the world who visit the Center continue to enjoy this inspiring artwork.
Photo by Rainie Cole
**Special thanks to Ector Simpson for this essay and for his tireless dedication to the Center for the past 17 years. He recently resigned from his post as Director of Cultural Programs to pursue a new opportunity with SAGE. We wish Ector all the best in his new endeavor and express our deep gratitude for his decades of service to our Center.