KYC's statement regarding Ohio joining nine other states in latest lawsuit against US Department of Education
Kaleidoscope was disappointed to learn that Ohio officials have chosen to join a lawsuit that challenges the US Department of Education's guidance on Title IX protections for Transgender youth in our state's schools. When asked by The Columbus Dispatch, Amy Eldridge, executive director of Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said, "Unfounded fears and prejudice are fueling the suit against the U.S. Department of Education’s directive to protect transgender youth from the very real harm of harassment and discrimination."
She said such "discriminatory policies are dangerous and harmful. ... Experts have unambiguously concluded that it is more important to support the safety and well-being of transgender and gender nonconforming students than the unfounded fears and discomfort of those who would continue to discriminate against them."
As an affiliate of the National Association of GSA (Genders and Sexualities Alliances) Networks, Kaleidoscope's Ohio GSA Network supports more than 80 GSA clubs in high schools and middle schools across the state. Training, consultation and online resources are available for youth leaders and school staff who seek to create safe space within their schools. Please call (614-294-5437) or email us with any questions.
In the wake of this horrific violence against our community in Orlando, Kaleidoscope did what we do best-- we created a warm, inclusive, and affirming space for young people to gather to share their experiences and receive support from their community.
Many youth sought KYC out on Monday knowing that it is a safer space to discuss their feelings and concerns, and a space to receive support from their peers and caring adults. KYC provided a structured group "check-in" with youth to discuss Orlando if they chose, as well as opportunities for youth to speak to adult volunteers and staff members throughout the evening. In addition to discussions, Daniel Sernicola and Jake Hays also provided a free yoga session for youth to focus on their incredible strength, the strength of the LGBTQ community, and the ability for each individual to impact others positively, despite community tragedy. We are so grateful to Daniel and Jake for creating that space of healing!
As with anything, reactions from youth varied from fear to anger to disbelief. For many, it hit close to home. Orlando is not so different from Columbus, OH. Pulse is not so different from the LGBTQ clubs in Columbus that our community gathers for dancing and socializing. Overall, though, youth expressed resiliency. One shared that they "won't let this stop me from being proud of who I am." Youth also hoped to demonstrate their support of the Orlando LGBTQ community through the Columbus Pride parade and through reaching out to LGBTQ youth Centers in Orlando in solidarity.
Our youth expressed some of the longstanding strengths and values of the larger LGBTQ community: extraordinary resilience in the face of discrimination and violence and extraordinary community support.
Michelle Jordan, MSW, LSW
Center Program Coordinator
Kaleidoscope Youth Center
When Kaleidoscope began the process of imagining what it's next home would be, we started with a simple question: what would the youth do?
Kaleidoscope strives to be youth led in all aspects of its work, from types of programming to the design of the spaces in which the programming takes paces. So when it came time to find a new home, youth participants were consulted early in the process.
"We're proud of the fact that youth participants have often felt comfortable enough with staff to come to us with their ideas, needs, and desires," said Michelle Jordan, Center Program Coordinator. "But we also asked the question directly and multiple times. What do you want to see in the next KYC? What does your dream KYC look like?"
Youth shared a number of ideas, the most oft-repeated of which was that they wanted a new KYC that was just as comfortable and home-like as the space the organization had called home for ten years. Youth participants then brought their ideas to life in a beautiful KYC Dream House collage.
"We are so proud of the fact that many of the details in the Dream House are a reality in our new facility," said Amy Eldridge, Executive Director. "We might not have a pool, but we do have bright colors, a stage, and a dedicated arts space. This is truly the space we all dreamed about."
Youth-centered design of youth spaces is essential for maximum engagement and utilization of those spaces. Libraries, schools, and even courts have all recognized the importance of youth-centered design. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) published guidelines for teen library spaces in 2012. The guidelines recognize that "[t]eens experience rapid physical, emotional and social changes while developing their intellectual capabilities and personal values, understanding and accepting their sexuality, and identifying their educational and occupational options."
If you are interested in creating a teen-centered space in your home, your church, or anywhere else, we offer the following ten tips adapted from YALSA Guideline for Physical Space 2.0:
They told us it took dedication. They told us that this Teen Outreach thing was something done nationwide. A good resume builder, a good thing to be a part of. The way that Michelle and Danielle and Michael described TOP made me think that it’d be volunteering at soup kitchens and supporting a charity, but it turned out to be having intensive sex talks and playing with DSLR cameras and a cat named Persephone. Not at the same time, of course.
When we first joined, nothing spectacular happened. I’m not even sure if our very first meeting was discussing ROPES, but it was definitely one of our earliest. For us it stood for Respect, Optimistic, Proactive, Equity, and Support. To get respect is to give respect. To have a great outcome you have to hope for a great outcome. You can’t just participate by contributing one little thing, but be fully present and actively listening. We didn’t pick equality. We picked equity. Everyone deserves a chance, but that chance may not be enough for one individual who could very well succeed, and that chance may not be necessary for another, for everyone has strengths and things they can work on. The moment they become weaknesses is when there’s no support, which is more than just encouragement but actually being there for someone. Since creating our ROPES, we have never felt the need to remind another about them.
Then came the learning activities. Thinking about a quote then free-writing. Bidding on a goal we want to achieve with fake money. Having Danielle look up different forms of contraception just to scare me. As funny as it can sometimes get during our meetings, we all had something positive to say at the end. The most common thing said was that it feels like we did a lot today.
But the main requirements wasn’t just to go to the meetings. There was the service learning projects, and a total of 20 hours that we needed to achieve by the end of our term. Anxiety filled the air — for some but not all. Some people didn’t show up anymore. The list of different places to do volunteer work was figuratively in the trash. However, there came a time when we finally shifted to creating a schedule for community service learning projects — something that was a relief to several. The positives turned from “we did a lot today” to “this seems so real now”. Next thing you know, we were petting a cat named Persephone at an animal shelter, and taking photos with a Canon t5i in front of a green screen at COSI. It was finally Kaleidoscope on TOP of things.
Kaleidoscope Youth Center and 11 other community centers from across the country have partnered with the University of California at Berkeley for Speak Out. From the Speak Out website:
SpeakOut is a three-year study funded by the National Institute of Justice to identify LGBTQ youth’s lifetime exposure to multiple forms of victimization across family, peer, school, online, and community contexts. We will be interviewing 760 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 14-19 years old who are currently enrolled in middle or high school from across the United States. This study will be the first to provide a comprehensive examination of their victimization experiences across different contexts and perpetrators. In addition, the study will examine different family experiences (e.g., homo/trans-positivity, homo/trans-negative microggression, exposure to family violence, and non-violent family adversity) that may increase or decrease the risk of becoming polyvictimized (i.e., experiencing 5 or more unique forms of violence each year). The long-term goals of the project are to inform new policies, prevention strategies, and interventions to reduce rates of victimization for LGBTQ youth.
Kaleidoscope looks forward to learning more about the experiences and needs of the youth we serve, knowing that such information will better inform our programming, social policies, and the lives of LGBTQ and Ally youth.
Want to know more about why youth are being asked to Speak Out and why youth are choosing to participate? Check out the video below:
The following is a speech delivered by Intern Denise Hutchison at the 2015 Field Education Awards Breakfast at OSU on Friday, April 23. We, and so many others who work with Michelle, echo Denise's sentiments and thank her for letting us share these kind words.
When I first met our instructor, Michelle, I was amazed at how graceful she was in the way she conducted herself. Michelle wasn’t overbearing, but confident; not condescending, but supportive; not loud, but well spoken. I remember leaving the interview feeling like Michelle was someone who I would be able to learn from and that she would support my growth throughout the semester. I was ecstatic when I accepted my placement at KYC, knowing that I was going to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing professionals and the inspiring youth that visit the center.
Michelle has never stopped short of amazing. She always goes above and beyond empowering the youth. She is constantly talking with them, teaching them new skills, and supporting them when they’ve had a bad day. When someone feels left out, she is the first one to do everything she can to make them feel welcome. Always wearing a warm and caring smile, Michelle makes KYC not only a drop‐in center for LGBTQ youth, but a place they can call home.
One of Michelle’s greatest strengths is being able to empower the youth to advocate for themselves while helping them build strong personal skills. It is obvious that Michelle wants the youth to succeed, to create a community, and to build a center where youth can come to feel safe.
Michelle’s dedication to the center and the youth is admirable. Her presence here is life changing for any youth who comes through the door. It is a privilege to have Michelle as my field instructor. She has taught me to look past a person’s wall to see who they really are on the inside. There have been times when I doubted my skills, and she encouraged me. If you saw Michelle in action, you would see her passion for youth empowerment. She is an exemplary social worker and a respected servant leader. Thank you, Michelle, for your endless dedication to the youth at Kaleidoscope Youth Center and for your boundless guidance.
In January of 2013, I moved to Ohio and began attending Gahanna Lincoln High School. I entered my new environment with very clear intentions to shake things up. It was my junior year of high school, and I was determined to make an impact upon the school; I just didn’t know how.
It wasn’t until one day in February, when my mom’s then girlfriend came home with printouts of Kaleidoscope Youth Center’s website, that I knew the impact I was destined to make. I immediately began looking into what it would take for me to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at my school. It was almost as if the universe was screaming for this to happen, because the next day, as I walked past the ESL classroom, I conveniently noticed the teacher's “Safe Space” sticker.
I walked in immediately, introduced myself, and proposed an offer that she couldn’t resist. I asked her if she would mind standing as our school’s GSA advisor. I assured her that I would see that the club get approved and run each meeting , and that all I would need from her is her support. She was ecstatic and things soon took off. Our club was approved by late-March and we were all set to start meetings.
Then we reached a stand still. Our first meeting had been a success with a stellar turnout of 25 students, but I had no idea what else I could do to engage our members. I reached out to Kaleidoscope and asked for some assistance. Their GSA coordinator was very eager to come out and speak at one of our meetings. She came to our GSA with a plethora of information about Kaleidoscope’s center and the services they provide to Columbus’ LGBT youth. I had never seen my group so engaged and excited before! It was as if they then felt like a piece of a great, beautiful whole.
KYC’s visit inspired me in my leading of the club. I put in my greatest efforts to fashion the club to be a tool, resource, and refuge for the LGBT community of my school. I was inspired to create not only a comforting space where all are welcome, but also a space where knowledge is passed down to and shared amongst youth. I wanted to encourage an LGBT voice, and build a presence; and that I did. The next year, by the end of my high school career, our GSA was widely known of and talked about. Our accomplishments included filming a PSA, campaigning for Day of Silence and Asexual Alliance Day events, and hosting a guest speaker from the Human Rights Campaign. We even managed to occupy a whopping two-page spread in our school’s yearbook!
It warms me to reflect on all the positive things brought to the community by the GSA's presence, and all the great things to come. At the bottom of my heart I harbor an unadulterated appreciation for Kaleidoscope Youth Center, and the huge part they played in guiding me to do what I’ve done. They aided me with resources, inspired me on my path to leadership, and acted as a mecca for greatness to both me and my Gay-Straight Alliance.
Ryan M. is a freshman at Columbus State. In addition to the leadership he demonstrated with his GSA, Ryan has served 2 terms on KYC's Youth Leadership Council, represented KYC at National Gathering, and been a presenter at the Ohio GSA Summit. We can't wait to see what Ryan does next!
It's no surprise that Sam was an English major at The Ohio State University. When asked about his hobbies, the first that comes to mind is poetry.
"I read a LOT of poetry," says Sam. He counts modernists like Auden and Owen and contemporary poet Siken as his favorites. His love of Russian authors fuels his dreams of traveling to visit the homes of Chekhov and Tolstoy. English even led him to Kaleidoscope. "My English professor told me about KYC."
Sam and his twin sister Ashley (yes, they have psychic twin powers) grew up in Lima, Ohio, a community with what he calls a hidden population of LGBTQ youth and few, if any, resources to serve them. "When you do a google search, KYC is the only organization that comes up. Youth get left out."
When not reading poetry, Sam is being bossed around by his cat Kaiser Wilhelm or attending live punk music shows. He hopes to learn guitar someday.
Tuesday's discussion group and Thursday's variety are the programming nights Sam most enjoys. He can most often be found at the pool table, pulling youth into conversations over a casual game of eight ball.
We're so excited that Sam has joined the KYC family and look forward to all that the will bring to our program!
Nine years ago, you might have met Denise at Kaleidoscope's old location in the Lennox Town Center - as a youth participant. Today, you'll find her at the current location - as an intern.
The OSU graduate and 1st year masters of Social Work student from Columbus is happy to be returning to KYC in this new role. "There's a lot more work that goes into this than I ever thought," laughs Denise. "You're definitely busy."
Denise is no stranger to busy herself. In addition to her studies, she works for a mental health private practice and is raising two dogs - Chase, a low-key labrador/husky mix and Rupert, a mutt who loves to play and bark - and a cat, Binx, with her partner, Britknee. When not indulging in snuggle parties at home, Denise enjoys reading, running and writing and hopes to publish a children's book and a novel.
As an avid reader and writer, it's no surprise that Denise's favorite space in the Center is the library. She also counts Tuesday night's discussion group as her favorite weekly programming.
Kaleidoscope is incredibly fortunate to have Denise join us. We look forward to all of the amazing ways she will help KYC grow.
At KYC's December 2014 meeting of the Board of Directors, Bob Barnes, CTP, AAP, of Alliance Data was elected to serve as President for a second year. Bob was recently featured in Columbus Business First as a Person on the Move.
Joining Bob on the executive committee are Robert Hardin-Leeth of Nationwide as Vice-President, Laura Vermilya, CPA, of Alliance Data as Treasurer, and Allen Showalter of the Ohio Attorney General's Office as Secretary.
KYC also welcomes Gregory Zunkiewicz of Edward Jones Investments to the Board.
"We are very excited about our 21st year and the possibilities ahead of us," commented Bob. "The talent and passion of our board members is wonderful. What a privilege it is to serve this great organization along side this great group of community members."
For a full list of KYC Board members, visit www.kycohio.org/board.html
KYC Youth and Staff. Please feel free to comment and recommend topics for future posts. Youth posts are anonymous due to the confidentiality of the Center.