LGBT employee group at AT&T funds summer GED program at Youth First Texas

Back row, from left: Joshua S. Hampshire, Adolpho Martinez, Celina Blanco, Joy Rasco, Maz-E Magnus, Daniel Hernandez, Argenis Ayala, John Cramer; and front row, Joeii Johnson.

LEAGUE at AT&T, the Dallas-based phone giant’s employee resource group, has given Youth First Texas a grant to fund a summer GED and SAT program. The grant allows YFT to hire a professional teacher to conduct the two one-week intensive series.

“One of our missions is to ensure youth get their high school education and go on to college,” Dallas’ League President John Cramer said.

He said the group raised half of the $5,800 donated to YFT at a brunch. The money was matched by the League Foundation.

AT&T’s Josh Hamilton, who was on hand to present the check to the youth group, runs a job shadow program that brings high school students to the company’s offices to show them the type of work AT&T offers to people with high school diplomas and college degrees. Cramer said the program is designed to encourage students to stay in school and especially show LGBT youth that “it gets better.” Although the program mostly works with schools, Cramer said he wanted to make sure YFT had the same access to the company’s resources.

YFT board chair Chris Cognetta said the money will be used to hire a teacher. Both the GED and SAT camps will run for a week each, eight hours a day. At the end of the GED camp, students will take their high school equivalency tests. Cognetta said YFT will rebate the testing fee for students who pass the tests.

The test costs $95. He said students taking the SAT will also receive a rebate if they score higher than a minimum score. For students who need more intensive instruction, one-on-one tutoring is available throughout the year.

Cognetta said only a few spaces remain for the summer camps, but this is just a pilot program and he plans to continue partnering with League at AT&T to offer the classes throughout the year.

—  David Taffet

100 attend YFT’s spring formal

Spring formal king and queen

Youth First Texas held its Spring Formal on Saturday, May 25. About 100 youth attended from around North Texas including some from Denton and Tyler. The event was free and open to youth ages 14 to 22.

Dinner was provided by Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Dallas.

DJ Matt Purvis kicked off the dance shortly after the doors opened at 7 p.m. and kept it going until midnight.

The formal King and Queen of the Ball were crowned at 10 p.m. YFT board chair Chris Cognetta released the picture attached but not the names because both are under 18.

“I was excited that we were able to host this event on such short notice,” Cognetta said. “This would have never been possible without the resounding community support we have received in the past month.”

Among those supporting the event were members of the national Adam Lambert Fan Club who helped by sending items needed by the youth center. Local fan club member Rosie Roetto helped compile and distribute the list that is kept on

“We’ll see about expanding it next year,” he said. “We were surprised by the turnout and the support from the community.”

—  David Taffet

BearDance made Dallas Bears president Wayne Davis tear up with their $30k donation on Sunday

Photos via Facebook.

The guys of BearDance outdid themselves this year. Last year, the nonprofit organization, which hosts its Big D party during Texas Bear Round Up, raised more than $21,000 for Dallas Bears’ beneficiaries. Yesterday, they presented the community group a check for an astounding $30,000 from this year’s March event. The following was posted on the BD’s Facebook page.

Thanks to a great collaboration between the Dallas Bears who put on Texas Bear Round Up and BearDance and all of our volunteers, we were able to make a $30,000 donation to the Dallas Bears which will be passed through 100% to their designated beneficiaries this year including Youth First Texas, the Greg Dollgener Memorial Fund, and AIDS Interfaith Network. And thanks to all the amazing guys who came out to the biggest BearDance we’ve ever had this past March!

Mark Trimble, one of the BD founders (pictured above at far right), said the guys are thrilled at the these level of donations, but had no idea their bear party endeavor would grow to this.

—  Rich Lopez

You don’t have to like Adam Lambert to help YFT

In Friday’s Voice we have a story about Youth First Texas’ decision to stage a Spring Formal this year instead of the traditional Gayla Prom — in part because a full-fledged prom simply would’ve been too expensive for the cash-strapped agency.

The story also talks about how YFT’er Rosie Roetto has used Twitter, an Amazon Wish List and her Adam Lambert fan club to help bring in basic supplies including ceiling tiles, food and office chairs.

When we tried to obtain a photo of Roetto to use alongside the story, she responded as follows:

“… Isn’t the story more about Youth First Texas and the people actually putting on the prom? I don’t feel like I did enough to warrant a picture. [YFT board chair] Chris Cognetta has a wonderful picture of the 35 amazon boxes piled high on the counter from the first delivery of donations from the Adam Lambert fans, but I don’t know how much your story is about that. It was a great picture.”

Although we disagree that Roetto’s work doesn’t warrant a photo, we did want to go ahead and share Cognetta’s (above), which he sent over on Thursday. We thought we’d also mention that you don’t have to be an Adam Lambert fan to help out YFT, which among other things was recently left off the beneficiary list for Black Tie Dinner. You can respond to YFT’s Amazon Wish List yourself by going here.

—  John Wright

SMU sends 18 to Midwest LGBT conference

Iowa State University is hosting the 2012 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Transgender Ally College Conference Feb. 10-12. One student from Texas Women’s University, 17 from Southern Methodist University’s LGBT group Spectrum and an SMU professor are attending, according to the Daily Campus. Spectrum Co-President Harvey Luna put the group together after attending last year’s conference, according to the SMU newspaper.

Karen Click at SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives called it a national conference for student leaders. She said this is the second year SMU has participated.

“They come back inspired to create change on campus,” she said.

Registration for the event is $80 per person and the group chartered a bus from Dallas.

“The SMU Student Senate paid for them to go,” Click said.

The MBLGTACC conference began in 1991 and takes place annually in the upper Midwest. The goal is to learn new strategies to face problems LGBT students face on campus daily.

Two weeks ago, Youth First Texas hosted a conference of North Texas gay-straight alliances.

—  David Taffet

YFT hires interim staff member, extends hours

Youth First Texas board President Chris-James Cognetta said the organization has hired an interim youth programs coordinator. Amy McNamara will begin work Tuesday, Jan 24.

Chris-James Cognetta

With staff on board, YFT will extend its hours. Tuesday through Thursday, the building on Harry Hines Boulevard will be open from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. — and on Friday until 10 p.m.

Cognetta said that YFT is still looking for a permanent youth programs coordinator that they hope to have in place by the end of March.

The last YFT staff member was Sam Wilkes. Although his position was development director, he also staffed the center. Wilkes left in November. The board of YFT decided to replace his position with staff that does youth programming. Fundraising will be a function of the board.

Cognetta said volunteers have been staffing the center but it was difficult to find people who could be there before 6 p.m. on a regular basis. But opening that late meant many youth were going home from school and not getting back out in the evening. The 4 p.m. opening allows them to come to the center right after school.

Cognetta said the first event McNamara will coordinate is a Valentine’s party, on Feb. 10 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with food, music, dancing and games.

—  David Taffet

Razzle Dazzle Dallas distributes $60,500

In June, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was revived as a five-day event centered on Cedar Springs Road. With so much of the event underwritten, organizers were able to return $60,500 to a number of community organizations.

Proceeds from the Metro Ball that took place at S4 on Friday night of Razzle Dazzle week went to the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund. Money collected at the Main Event on Saturday night, as well as from other Razzle-related parties, was divided among eight other beneficiaries.

Money was distributed to beneficiaries at Sue Ellen’s on June 27. Here’s the breakdown of funds: Resource Center Dallas — $5,900; AIDS Arms — $5,400; AIDS Interfaith Network — $5,400; Cedar Springs Merchants Association Beautification Fund — $5,400; Legacy Counseling/Founders Cottage — $5,400; Legal Hospice of Texas — $2,834; Lone Star Ride — $2,833; Youth First Texas — $2,833; Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund — $24,500.

Next year’s Razzle Dazzle Dallas Main Event will be on Saturday, June 9. A full press release from the organizers of Razzle Dazzle Dallas is below.

—  David Taffet

Give ‘Em Heel Urban Jungle Fashion Show at the Rose Room

Don’t be fashionably late

The fashion show is the largest annual fundraiser event at YFT that is 100% youth-designed and 100% youth-led.  All proceeds go directly to youth-designed and youth-led programs and activities at YFT.  The show will feature clothing designs by students and up-and-coming designers as well as entertainment in between the lines!  Non-alcoholic “mocktails” and snacks will be available at the bar.” — from Youth First Texas website.

DEETS: The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road (inside Station 4). 6 p.m. $10 suggested donation for adults; $5 for youth.


—  Rich Lopez

Help wanted: YFT, HRC looking for help preparing trophies for 2011 fundraiser, Disco Fruit Bowl

If you are looking for an outlet to express your creative side, and you want to help out a good cause at the same time, then the HRC Fruit Bowl Awards Decorating and Pizza Shindig is for you.

The annual fundraising bowl-a-rama is coming up Aug. 7, and this year’s theme is “Disco Fruit Bowl.” But how fabulous can a a bowling tournament be without some fabulous awards for the best (and worst?) bowlers out there?

So Youth First Texas is holding a trophy-decorating party on Saturday, July 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Artist Within, 2001 Coit Road, Ste. 206. And there’s sure to be plenty of work to go around, since they have 20 old bowling pins that need to be remodeled into fabulous trophies.

And for those of you who need details now so you can start polishing your form for Fruit Bowl, the event will be held at 300 Dallas, 3805 Beltline Road in Addison, with sessions starting at noon and at 3 p.m. Teams of four can register for the noon session for $100, and for the 3 p.m. p.m. session for $120. Individual tickets are $25 for the noon session and $30 for the 3 p.m. session. And you can get your tickets now by going here.

—  admin

Midway Hills hosts forum on intolerance

The Rev. Terry Zimmerman

Speakers focus on the impact of prejudice on the LGBT community

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

The more that members of Midway Hills Christian Church talked about bullying, the more they realized how frequently the issue of religious intolerance came up, usually as the root of bullying.

“We saw it impacting people’s lives across the spectrum,” said Roger Wedell, an openly gay Midway Hills member.

And as the discussions continued, the more adamant the church members became about the necessity of finding ways to combat intolerance and bullying.

Out of those discussions was born the church’s new Tolerance Task Force.

The task force has since issued a Statement on Religious Intolerance and on June 12 hosted its first town hall on the subject. A second meeting will be held on Monday, June 20, and the public is invited to share their personal experiences.

The Rev. Terry Zimmerman, the senior minister at Midway Hills, called the statement “a call to solidarity of faith groups which present an alternative voice to the ones that speak the loudest and provide the most inflammatory sound bites for the media.”

But Zimmerman hopes the meetings result in more than just preaching to the choir.

“We’re hoping there are other groups out there as interested as we are, to form an alliance and share information,” he said.

Zimmerman said it’s the bad news that always makes headlines. But he recently attended a conference of clergy sponsored by Human Rights Campaign where he learned that studies show a majority of people want equal rights for everyone.

“That says to me they want tolerance,” Zimmerman said.

He said that recent events such as passage of anti-bullying legislation have helped bring his traditionally liberal congregation alive again.

“So much damage has been done in the name of religion,” Zimmerman said. “So many people have given up on church when it doesn’t stand up for what it knows is right.”

He and members of his congregation want to make sure, through the Tolerance Task Force, that people know Midway Hills does stand up for what they know is right.

“We’re hoping through this to let a broader spectrum of the community know there are other voices out there,” Wedell said.

Midway Hills has been an open and affirming congregation since the 1970s. When the AIDS crisis hit, they were one of the original churches that worked with AIDS Interfaith Network. Beginning in the early ’90s, they hosted P-FLAG, which met at the church for more than a decade. The church is a member of Disciples of Christ.

Just because there are louder voices that are intolerant, he said, doesn’t mean those are the only voice.

The first panel included two people who discussed the impact of intolerance.

One is Becky Holmes, a candidate for ordination at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. She spoke about the impact intolerance has had on her, first as woman dealing with leadership of the Southern Baptist Church and then as a lesbian.

The other is Jeremy Liebbe, a volunteer with Youth First Texas who spoke on the struggle youth have with their sexual orientation and gender identity.

After surviving several suicide attempts, he assists other youth deal with the intolerance they face.

The upcoming panel includes three speakers. One is a counselor who works with Youth First Texas and will talk about youth issues.

In addition, Betsy Winter will discuss the journey of the Presbyterian Church to reach its new position on the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, and Melissa Weaver, a staff attorney with Human Rights Initiative, will speak about the impact on immigrants seeking asylum.

Zimmerman said that at the first meeting, he felt a sense of helplessness that feeds on itself.

“We need to break that chain so people can be empowered,” he said. “We’re helping people find their voice.”

Midway Hills Christian Church, 11001 Midway Road, Monday, June 20 at 7 p.m.

—  John Wright