WATCH: Youth First Texas’ ‘You’re Not Alone’ project, a peer-to-peer version of ‘It Gets Better’

When members of Youth First Texas went to Austin in March to lobby for anti-bullying legislation, they did a better job of explaining the importance of such laws than any of the adults who were there. They were able to look senators and representatives in the eye and tell them personal experiences about having been bullied. Some of the youth told lawmakers they had attempted suicide, something that wouldn’t have happened if schools took bullying more seriously.

Walking back from the Capitol to a local church that was hosting lunch, the YFT members had an idea to make videos about their experiences. First, they sent copies to State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who shared them with other members of the Education Committee. But the videos also had another purpose — saving lives. While the “It Gets Better” videos are mostly adults telling teens they’ll get through their bad experiences in high school, YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” videos contain messages from LGBT youth to LGBT youth.

Watch the first set of videos from YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” project after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Dumont leaving YFT

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 taffet@dallasvoice.com

 Judith Dumont

Movin’ on up | Judith Dumont has been director of youth services at Youth First Texas for 21⁄2 years. She will continue to work with LGBT youth in her new position at Eastfield College. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

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.

—  Dallasvoice

If you think the situation at Youth First is bad, Out Youth doesn't even have toilet paper

Carolyn Beck (remember her???) reports in the comments to my post below about Youth First Texas that Austin’s agency for LGBT youth is facing a similar budget crisis. Beck, if you’ll remember, is the official spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. She also became TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community following last June’s raid of the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Beck is straight, but shortly after the raid she began volunteering at Out Youth. And from what I can tell, she did it for no other reason than the fact that she genuinely supports the LGBT community.  Anyhow, Beck points us to a wishlist that’s posted on the Out Youth website. The list includes not only things like toilet paper and paper towels, but also basic necessities like a Netflix subscription and a Wii console. Seriously, though, aren’t we a little concerned — even in a recession — that the LGBT community in Texas is having trouble funding its youth centers? Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for some of us to rethink our priorities. Here’s Beck’s full message:

Out Youth in Austin – the sister organization to Youth First – is having a similar budget crisis and has been cutting back staff hours. The number of hours of counseling available for youth has been cut. And the organization has no operations budget at all — no new pencils, no snacks for the kids, no TP for the potty. (Volunteers can be seen bringing packages of toilet paper with them to the “Out House” because every kind of donation makes a difference.) If any readers are in Austin, or from Austin, or perhaps you were served by Out Youth in Austin, please consider becoming a monthly donor. And Saturday, June 19th is the annual all-ages Out Youth Queer Prom, which is a fundraising event for the organization. Everyone is invited!

—  John Wright

Struggling Youth First Texas forced to cut summer hours, issues call for donations

Staff writer David Taffet will have much more on Youth First Texas in Friday’s Voice, but frankly this situation sounds almost too grave to wait three days. YFT’s Board of Directors has issued a statement that hints the 10-year-old organization for LGBTQ youth is in somewhat dire financial straits. Read the full statement after the jump. To contribute to Youth First, go here

—  John Wright

Fears for Queers coming to Dallas

fearsforqueersnewsAs controversy continues over Israel Luna’s new movie, “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives,” I was fascinated to find out that another gay filmmaker is playing an instrumental role in  launching a new film festival this summer in Dallas.

The fest is called “Fears for Queers,” and it is an LGBT-themed horror film festival.

Straight man Andrew Rose and gay independent filmmaker Shawn Ewert — “the folks who brought you the Texas Bloodbath Film Festival,” according to Fangoria.com — are now looking for LGBT horror films to be part of Fears for Queers, which starts June 19 at Studio Movie Grill in Addison. The deadline for submitting films for the fest is May 1. (Hmmm. I don’t think that gives me enough time to write a script, film a movie and edit it.)

I love B-movie “creature features” and ghosty movies and all those giant mutant man-eating gopher movies you see on the SyFy channel on weekends. But slasher/horror flicks have never really been my cup of tea.

But considering that Rose and Ewert intend to use this fest to raise money and awareness for Youth First Texas, I think I will go and watch some blood and gore come June 19.

Go to Fangoria.com to read their story about Fears for Queers, and then go to DOABloodbath.com or RightLeftTurnProductions.com to find out more about how to submit your movie (full-length or short) and other info.

—  admin

Creating Change: Day 4

What an amazing day at Creating Change.

As I walked into the hotel, I met an old friend, Marilyn Bennett. She is the former development director of Resource Center Dallas and now lives in Montana and is working on a video project called Truth in Progress. Well, first we had to catch up and then I helped her with rustling up the gays. So much for workshop sessions 5 and 6 this morning.

I got back on track with an award presentation to Aiden Aizumi, 21, from Trevor Project in Los Angeles.

He said, “I wouldn’t have been able to overcome my problems without my friends in the community.” But I think his mom helped as well. She was there and got as big a standing ovation as Aiden.

Writer Kai Wright moderated a panel of youth from across the country. The guys from Youth First Texas, Cynthia and Jesus, did us proud. What was interesting was that some of the lack of services and problems faced by LGBT youth elsewhere have been well addressed in Dallas.

And favorite Kate Clinton line of the day. She reminded us how Cheney attended Obama’s inauguration in a wheelchair. The story was he hurt is back carrying boxes. “Oh, please,” Clinton said. “He shredded everything months ago.”

Then I met Yousif and Nawfal. They’re two gay Iraqis who escaped to Syria and then to the United States. They’re currently living in Houston and seeking asylum. More about them in this week’s paper.

I attended a workshop on intergenerational storytelling. Yes, I was one of the old people, for any of you who were going to add a snotty comment.

Had lunch with Alex, my KNON intern/”Lambda Weekly” helper. We went over to the food court at Plaza of the Americas where it was all queer. What fun. Had dinner with the Bi’s. BiNet’s hospitality suite kept us well-fed and where people of all colors had a spirited discussion about whether or not Matt Goodman was a person of color. I settled the argument by explaining that green was not a color.

Trans slam poet Kit Yan (powerful) entertained and so did New York comedian Vidur Kapur (hysterical). But the hit of the evening? Youth First Texas put on the pre-show. Two of their members were Lady Gaga and Beyonce. They and their backup dancers were incredible. The entire house was on their feet.

Creating Change ends Sunday morning with Vogue Evolution. And our guests from the Philadelphia and Washington areas (and there are lots of them) may be here for an extended stay. Because of snow, their airports are closed, American Airlines has already canceled more than 500 flights today. And Creating Change may just continue.

—  David Taffet

The Bully Suicide Project debuts PSA

I mentioned last month that Campus Harmony and Youth First Texas started the Bully Suicide Project, an effort to reduce bullying in schools (and even beyond), with a powerful photo campaign. They add to that today with the launch of their video PSA now on YouTube. But you can catch it below.

—  Rich Lopez

A definite bright spot …

I am almost 50 years old now, but I am not too old to remember what it felt like to grow up “different,” being picked on and taunted and teased. And as a parent now, I know that it has, in many ways, gotten even more difficult for kids who don’t fi “the norm” — the smart kid, the overweight kid, the new kid in school, the kid with glasses, the kid with parents who definitely aren’t traditional.

It’s frightening to be a parent. It’s frightening to be an LGBT adult seeing the discrimination and outright hate our LGBT youth are faced with every day. And it has gotten even more frightening over the last month or so as stories have made headlines about LGBT youth being assaulted, raped, murdered, mutilated — Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado in Puerto Rico, Jason Mattison Jr. in Baltimore, Jayron Martin in Houston, an unnamed teenager in Liverpool and, most recently, an unnamed teen in Texas’ Big Bend area.

All this just since mid-November! Every day I come to work expecting to hear word of another attack on the youth of my community, and every day I worry that my own children might fall victim to some form of hatred or violence. I admit, it’s put quite a damper on my holiday spirit.

But last night, I found a bright spot, a ray of hope that at least some LGBT youth have someone to look out for them, someone who won’t turn away from them or, worse yet, strike out at them. It came in the form of an e-mail from a man named Mike.

—  admin

Campus Harmony and YFT launch the Bully Suicide Project with photo shoot

Today launched the beginning of the Bully Suicide Project with the release of their photo shoot by local photographer, Tracy Nanthavongsa. Youth First Texas played a big part in the shoot as many of their members were the subject of these digital post cards. The man responsible behind it all is Beaux Wellborn. As a volunteer for YFT and a motivational speaker with Campus Harmony, he had enough of seeing kids coming in beat up or with bruises. Thus, he conceived the project.

“Kids jumped at the chance to tell their stories,” he said.

—  Rich Lopez

Morning News covers Youth First Texas

YFT

The Dallas Morning News did a wonderful job in its Youth First Texas story this morning. Of course, in the comments, the crazies are out gay bashing a group that first and foremost prevents teen suicide.

The Morning News does a great job of explaining just what the organization does.

“Members help maintain the group’s Web site. Some take dance lessons, while others sing or watch movies,” the paper explains. Scandalous, huh?

Well, you know the crazies. Mention the word gay and they see red. Or pink. Might be worth a comment or two or – as Shelley Koeffler (then with Channel 8 ) once said to me at a demonstration where the right wing was out in force, “We’ll just let the bigots speak for themselves.”

—  David Taffet