Youth First Texas hosts weekend GSA summit

Posted on 04 Mar 2010 at 6:43pm
By Tammye Nash | Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Organization also announcing new director of development, partnership with Texas GSA Network


Sam Wilkes

Youth First Texas kicks off its new partnership with the Texas Gay-Straight Alliance Network this weekend with a day-long GSA Summit in Dallas.

The summit, presented by YFT in partnership with the Texas GSA Network and Out Youth Austin, will offer four different training sessions, all facilitated by youth, according to Judith Dumont, YFT’s director of youth services.

"This is something presented for the youth by the youth," Dumont said. "The summit is built on the youth empowerment model that Texas GSA Network in using. What we want is to empower them to lead their own youth movement, and then the adults can step back and give them space to lead."

Each of the four training sessions is geared to a different topic, Dumont said. One will help GSA members and organizers to assess the culture of their organizations, deciding if the group’s primary focus is on socializing, activism or supporting LGBTQ youth and their allies. The session will help the GSA members and organizers then decide how to structure the organization’s leadership and develop a mission statement.

The other sessions will focus on resolving conflict through team building, strategizing an action plan and increasing a GSA’s visibility.

Dumont also noted that there will be space at the summit for local organizations and companies that want to reach out to the LGBTQ youth to distribute information to those attending the summit.

"We also will be looking for people who want to get involved in helping with the summer camp we are planning," she said. "If you are someone who wants to be involved and help our youth, then now is a great time to start getting connected."

Dumont also said that this weekend marks the start of YFT’s new "official" partnership with the Texas GSA Network, which includes YFT working to "spearhead community organizing efforts for gay-straight alliances in North Texas."

"We will be doing things like training seminars and conferences and a summer camp, finding ways to increase leadership opportunities for youth with GSAs in their schools," Dumont said.

New director of development

YFT officials have also recently announced that Sam Wilkes has been hired as the organization’s new permanent director of development.

Wilkes replaces Johnny Cooper who had handled development duties first as a board member and then as an interim staff member. Cooper left that position to go to work for The Trevor Project, a national organization working to prevent LGBT teen suicide.

Dumont said this week she is glad to see Wilkes join the YFT staff.

"Sam is just fantastic. He is so dynamic and has such a great attitude. It’s a real pleasure to work with him," she said.

YFT Board Co-Chair Cathy Gonzales said Wilkes was chosen for the position following a three-month search and interview process. She said YFT is "extremely fortunate to have selected a finalist who has a passion and interest in the future of YFT," and noted that the youth served by the organization "were instrumental in this decision."

Wilkes worked previously for Promise House in Dallas, and for Providence House and Philadelphia Center in Shreveport. He has a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and nearly a decade of experience in different aspects of nonprofit development.

Wilkes will be responsible for the management of all aspects of YFT’s fundraising and marketing efforts, and will oversee budget development and budget compliance of all areas of the organization, as well as the daily operation of the YFT center. He will report directly to Gonzales and her co-chair, TJ Wilson.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 5, 2010.

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