Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Mar 29th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Leading the Way

news2Annual awards ceremony celebrates queer youth achievement

Fifteen years ago, when Terry Cavanagh began working with young people on AIDS prevention, the world was a very different place. The local community—like others nationwide—seemed to be in denial that Santa Cruz youth were also at risk.

“[People would say], ‘well we don’t have any gay people in our school,’” says Cavanagh, the founder of the local Queer Youth Leadership Awards. “And this would be high school—these would be guidance counselors, teachers, vice principals in schools of several hundred or several thousand students. We knew we had a problem there in terms of visibility and connecting with students and young people.”

The QYLA was Cavanagh’s attempt at avoiding the traditional social worker approach of his colleagues who focused primarily on at-risk youth, and instead connecting with the community by raising awareness about queer issues and recognizing that not only do queer youth exist, but they can also be successful. The model is translatable, Cavanagh says, and he hopes other communities will adopt similar programs.

“The next 15 years is about broadening the reach of tolerance, acceptance, and celebration of diversity in terms of sexual orientation in the culture,” Cavanagh says. His vision is that this will occur all over the country—not just in Santa Cruz.

Three awards are given out each year—the Queer Youth Leadership Award, the Ally to Queer Youth Award, and the Organizational Ally to Queer Youth Award. This year there are seven, 15, and six nominees, respectively, for the awards. The ceremony will be held at Shoreline Middle School at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

“It’s very inspiring to see parents and community members in the same space celebrating their children,” says Stuart Rosenstein, chair of the Queer Youth Task Force (QYTF) and the QYLA. Rosenstein started out as a note taker for the organization while attending UC Santa Cruz, and eventually became co-chair and then chair. His work with fellow college students inspired him to work with high school students and eventually middle school age, as well.

news2-2Assemblymember Bill Monning (second from left) pictured with local youth at the 2011 Queer Youth Leadership Awards.“[In 1998] all you heard was grim statistics about gay youth being higher percentage for suicide, higher percentage for drugs and alcohol, higher percentage for negative things, and you never heard about the gay kids that were valedictorian and community leaders and all these young people who really were flying below the radar,” he says.

The QYLA is one of five projects organized by the QYTF. Other programs include the Safe Schools Project, the Transgender Teen Project, the Adult Ally Project, and weekly Networking Meetings at the Aptos Public Library. The QYTF was founded in 1997 and has a broad mission statement that includes supporting families of LGBT youth, creating relationships with school districts and enacting anti-bullying programs, and assisting schools in implementation of AB 9, Seth’s Law, named after a 13-year-old who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied for being gay. The 2011 California law now requires public schools to create policies to address instances of bullying as soon as warning signs appear.

“On our campus we’ve always had a problem with homophobia and with bullying,” says Paisley Hayley Frost, president of San Lorenzo Valley High School’s Gay Straight Alliance. “Those are our two biggest issues and addressing them is always going to be a challenge because it starts really young.” Frost has been involved the school’s GSA club for all four years of high school and is a second year nominee for the Ally to Queer Youth Award.

“We’ve ended a lot of the bullying through acceptance and education,” says Frost. “We’ve tried to educate a lot of kids and faculty and staff on campus on what we’re here for and what we want to do and also creating that safe space.”

April 20 marked the 17th Annual Day of Silence—in which students all over the country, ranging from middle school to college age, took a vow of silence to show the silencing effect that harassment has on the victim and in an effort to bring attention to bullying and anti-LGBT behavior.

Started in 1996 by a group of Virginia college students and officially sponsored in 2001 by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Day of Silence is a student-led national event that focuses on anti-LGBT behavior in schools.

On this year’s Day of Silence, Congressman Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz) made a speech on the floor of Congress—for the 10th year in a row. Farr was inspired in 2006 by QYLA award recipient and Harbor High School’s then-student body president Ronnie Childers, who was denied the right to give blood when he disclosed he was gay. Although gay men have been prohibited from giving blood since 1985, the American Red Cross blood issue has been spotlighted and Farr continues to hold hearings to get this policy changed.

“I’ve used my time on this anniversary every year to bring attention and to hopefully get other schools engaged, and encourage other members of Congress to speak openly on these issues as well—we have gay members of congress and we have very little discussion,” says Farr. “It should be more on the public record.”

Locally, queer youth issues are gaining visibility throughout Santa Cruz County, and QYLA students and coordinators are working to gain community visibility and are feeling hopeful about the ground they have already covered.

“The fact that they have a queer youth awards ceremony in gymnasiums or auditoriums of middle schools is stunning to most gay and lesbian people who are in their fifties or sixties or older,” says Cavanagh. “The very idea that we would be encouraging and permitted in celebrating 14 and 15-year-olds who are in touch with their sexuality in a school setting is revolutionary.”

For more information, visit qyla.org.

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by John Colby, May 09, 2012
I feel sad for any LGBTQ youth who come to live at the Mission Gardens Apartments in Santa Cruz, where a gang of LGBTQ haters stalk perceived LGBTQ residents, slurring them with LGBTQ hate speech, vandalizing cars with LGBTQ hate symbols and slandering them, using the worst of LGBTQ stereotypes, that perceived LGBTQ residents endanger Mission Gardens children. This is unacceptable for Mission Gardens management and the government to allow in Santa Cruz in 2012.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals