Purchase College senior, Tamara Brown, led a group of 14 Purchase students to Austin, TX. to volunteer at Out Youth, a non-profit organization that provides services to LGBTQ youth ages 12 to 19 in Austin and Central Texas.
Here is Tamara’s perspective:
We were welcomed with open arms and started the week off right with a pot luck organized by the staff at Out Youth. Over the next few days, we attended the Martin Luther King Day March in Austin, assisted in clean-up efforts in the surrounding neighborhoods and organized the space at Out Youth to make it more efficient and practical for those who use it. We also made calls to high schools in Texas to find out whether or not they had a GSA and if they were interested in starting one. Out of the hundreds of schools that we called, only a handful had an active GSA and less than five were interested in starting one. If anything, these calls made it abundantly clear how vital Out Youth is to the local LGBTQ community. On our final night, a lock-in was organized which gave the youth a chance to let loose and be themselves. We played board games, made t-shirts, held a dance off, hung out by the campfire and shared stories. Throughout the night, one student directed short video clips for the Make It Better project.
Out Youth was certainly a home away from home. The staff was filled with spunk, creativity and above all, loads of compassion. The young members of Out Youth, some as young as 12, were inspirational to say the least. They were a diverse crowd, coming from all corners of the country and the world and quite a few members were deaf, which allowed some Purchase students to brush up on their sign language. These teens had oodles of charisma, talent, and smarts; we only wish we could have taken them with us.
Out Youth is a remarkable organization. It just celebrated its 20th anniversary and remains the only organization in Central Texas to provide programs and services specifically designed for LGBTQ youth and their allies. I couldn’t have picked a more deserving organization for our service trip this year. They will certainly hold a special place in my heart for years to come.
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