GLBT youth group will double size of facility, begin offering programs six days each week
Youth First Texas plans to double the size of its facility and will begin opening six days per week.
Bob Miskinis, one of the four cofounders of the 6-year-old group, was recently appointed program director for the operation. He is the group’s first paid staff member.
Construction will start soon to increase the facility’s size to about 4,600-square-feet.
“It will enable us to have a lot of new programs,” Miskinis said. “One of the biggest problems has been not having a big enough space for the youth to meet in.”
The group’s discussion night often attracts as many as 70 youths, Miskinis said.
Miskinis said expanded services are needed to provide a safe place for gay teenagers. He said one student he knows of living in Richardson gets beaten up in school daily and beaten up by his father at home.
“He doesn’t have a safe place to go anywhere,” Miskinis said.
Another teenager who called him recently from Cleburne is harassed daily at school, rejected by his parents and told that he is going to hell, he said.
The group has also launched a youth outreach team to contact GLBT youth who may not be aware of the services it offers, Miskinis said. “There is a lot of youth out there that needs help.”
Miskinis said the group’s officials believe there are many thousands of gay students in Dallas-Fort who need support.
“We served 650 youths last year,” Miskinis said. “That’s a drop in the bucket.”
Miskinis said the youth outreach team plans to contact other gay students through the Internet.
“It’s a different way of communicating with youth that we weren’t even aware of,” Miskinis said. “They are on the inside and already know how to do it.”
Miskinis said the group would be able to afford the renovations because of the contributions it has received from groups such as the Dallas-Fort Worth Black Tie Dinner and Dallas Bears. Several contractors have agreed to perform the labor at reduced prices, he said.
“We’re basically just going to blow the walls out and expand the space where we are,” Miskinis said.
The new schedule calls for group discussion nights on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights. An arts program will be held on Wednesday night and special programs will be presented on Friday and Saturday nights.
Miskinis said the group is called Youth First Texas to emphasize that the group’s priority is to the welfare of youth.
“It is called that because the youth do come first,” Miskinis said. “The organization is totally about them. Their space is their space, and they make it what they want it.”
A generic name was chosen for the group to avoid raising red flags to the parents of gay students, Miskinis said. Identifying the group as gay would likely cause some students problems, he said.
“They can tell their parents where they are going, and it doesn’t raise any suspicions,” Miskinis said.
Youths 14 to 22 are eligible to participate in the program.
An eight-member board of directors currently runs the group, but plans are underway to expand the board to 12 members, Miskinis said.
For more information about Youth First Texas see www.youthfirsttexas.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 17, 2006.
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