Youth director’s experience with LGBT youth makes her a perfect fit for program targeting at-risk students at Eastfield College
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer email@example.com
On June 10, Judith Dumont announced that her last day at Youth First Texas would be this Friday, June 18. She has been director of youth services at the agency for the past 21⁄2 years.
On the night of her announcement, she assured the youth at the center that said she was not going to suddenly disappear from their lives.
“I’m like herpes,” she told them. “I won’t go away.”
She said she was going back to her roots to practice therapy. She will become a volunteer counselor for the group. As the organization’s director, she said, she couldn’t be an objective counselor.
Dumont holds an M.Ed in Counseling from the University of North Texas. But she said she never went looking for another job.
“I was scouted,” she said.
Kristine Vowels, a volunteer and member of YFT’s advisory board, hired Dumont as a resource specialist for Eastfield College’s “Gateway to College” program, which is funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In her new position, Dumont will form partnerships with a variety of groups to help at-risk students finish high school while earning a college degree. The program is open to students 16-to-24 years old. She said her first collaboration would be with Youth First Texas.
Vowels said she hired Dumont because of her connection to the LGBT community.
“Knowing there’s an ally out there for LGBT students should make a difference,” she said.
Dumont began working at Youth First Texas as a volunteer. After nine months she was hired as the agency’s director of administration. While on staff, she began developing greater access to counseling for the agency’s youth.
“We’ve been able to create a partnership with SMU at Legacy and earned a reputation throughout North Texas as a great place to do an internship,” she said.
Dumont said that the agency currently provides about 15 individual client sessions and two groups helping a total of almost 50 youth per week.
“That alleviates the staff from constantly managing crises,” she said.
Dumont also developed Leadership Corps, a series that teaches youth self-examination, community building and activism. She said the goal of the series was, “How can we put you out in the world to create a less homophobic society?”
Dumont said she accepted her new position because she looked ahead to where she would like to be by the time she is 40. To get there, it was time for her to move on.
Dumont said YFT’s move to a new, safer location had a major impact on the organization. Since the move, YFT has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of youth served, according to Sam Wilkes, director of development and administration.
At the same time, Wilkes said that there has been a decrease in sustaining donors, due to the economic recession. It’s put YFT on a tight budget.
“We’re paying close attention to our finances,” he said.
He said there has been an influx of youth accessing their food pantry, noting that a disproportionate number of homeless youth are LGBT who have been thrown out by their families.
Board president Cathy Gonzalez said the organization’s two biggest expenses are salaries for its two staff members and rent. She said that not having one of those positions would help in the short run, but they had already budgeted for it.
“Any money saved on salary will be put in reserve,” Gonzalez said.
She said there has been a suggestion to cut hours at the center this summer to save money, and that the board would meet this week to decide.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to turn any youth away,” she said.
She also said that some of YFT’s biggest donations come later in the summer. The youth board is raising money with garage sales, car washes and the annual fashion show at Rose Room on July 8.
One of the agency’s fundraising events is Gaytona, on July 2, which Gonzalez describes as “remote control racecars, partying, beer and lots of fun in the heat.” The event is held in the parking lot behind S4 on Cedar Springs Road.
Despite any savings, Gonzalez was sad to see Dumont leave but knew she would continue to be involved in YFT.
“She is the one who is responsible for the exponential growth of our services that focus on our mission statement,” Gonzalez said. “We’re changing lives, and Judith gets a lot of praise for leading us in that direction.”
Gonzalez said YFT planned for growth after the move but didn’t expect it this quickly. The agency expects even more youth accessing the facility when DART’s new Market Center Station across the street from their new location opens with the Green Line extension in December.
Gonzalez said that the board would put together a search committee in the fall to look for a replacement for Dumont.
“For the summer, activities and programs will be staffed with volunteers,” Gonzalez said.
Dumont said she would continue to work with the group as a volunteer. She said she will see two programs she began to the end: the fashion show and youth activist camp.
Youth activist camp will be held over the summer on the University of North Texas campus. YFT has formed a partnership with the Texas Gay Straight Alliance Network and hosts the North Texas region.
“I expect the Texas GSA Network to be our biggest outreach tool, bringing even more youth to YFT and help create safer schools,” Dumont said.
And through her new position, she’ll see to it that more LGBT youth finish high school while earning college degrees.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.