4 years ago, a rash of LGBTQ teen suicides in San Diego hit the news. At the time, several regional LGBTQ-youth serving organizations were just starting to come together under the newly formed Youth Services & Advocacy Committee, under the The Center’s Community Leadership Council. All of us wanting to better serve our next generation. On the way back from a memorial service for one of the youth, Josh Coyne and I talked about how we could bring our organizations, San Diego Pride and The Trevor Project, together to create new LGBTQ youth-led programming.
We used Pride’s Youth Leadership Academy as a launch point and asked those who participated to come back and envision their own programs. We committed to helping find the funds, volunteers, and time to make that happen. Lunch Bunch was born, a place where LGBTQ youth from around the region come together, form their own programs and curriculum, develop as young leaders, and simply enjoy a cost-free and stress-free lunch. Our motto is, “You can sit with us.”
Since that time, San Diego Pride’s youth programs have seen incredible growth as our LGBTQ youth ask for more, and we continue to find ways to support their vision. In 2016 we were able to serve 171 LGBTQ junior high- through high school- age youth. That number grew to 1,368 in 2017, and 2,615 in 2018. The youth have brought in artists, poets, voter education, philanthropy, HIV-testing, and sex education. They have added sports and theatre outings, an annual art show, grown our Academy, and perform in our Pride Youth Marching Band. Our programs have grown so much, we were finally able to hire a part-time Youth Programs Coordinator earlier this year.
Tomorrow, Friday April 12, is Day of Silence, a time when folks take a day-long vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school. You can help empower our next generation of LGBTQ youth and lift up their voices by donating to our Give OUT Day drive today. 100% of the donations will go directly to Pride’s growing LGBTQ youth programs, and every dollar you give will be matched up to $10,000 thanks to a generous gift from the Burgess Family. Any donation large or small will help, as we all take part in this work in hope of leaving a Legacy of Liberation.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.