As GALA Youth becomes independent of Youth First and OUTreach Denton expands, they plan future collaborations
DENTON — OUTreach Denton and GALA North Texas are partnering on future endeavors, beginning with a joint volunteer training for adults interested in working with their youth programs.
Pam Wat, minister at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said now that the Collin County youth group is no longer part of Youth First Texas, it was an opportunity for her group to work closer with them.
OUTreach Denton runs a youth drop-in night every Friday at the Denton UU church. Volunteers will assist with programming.
“Speakers come in representing different identities,” Wat said. “Some kids have never met adults who are out.”
She said they act as role models by talking about what life is like as an out adult.
“Middle and high school youth are often unable to travel to Dallas where resources are concentrated, and they are often the population that needs us the most,” GALA North Texas President Bob Shimmin said.
The all-day training on Aug. 24 will teach volunteers how to interact with youth, including rules, boundaries and sensitivity training. Discussions include what teens could be going through while coming out or understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We want to help teens make good choices through the coming out process,” Wat said.
If teens are coming to the program in crisis, volunteers will be equipped with local and national mental health resources, names of experts in family counseling and information about bullying and prevention.
Wat said that originally, teens who attended were from her own church, but as word of mouth spread, some came from difficult situations.
She described one particular success story.
One youth was from a family that wasn’t accepting and had attempted suicide. His mother drove him to the youth group.
“‘I don’t believe this is right, but I don’t want him to die,’” Wat said the mother told her.
Over the next few months, she began to embrace it all, Wat said. When her son got a boyfriend, she celebrated that, too.
“To have unaccepting parents is such a horrific place to be,” she said.
She said OUTreach has been talking to social service providers in Denton about providing service to teens who are homeless because parents threw them out of the house.
To reach more teens, Wat said she is in touch with gay-straight alliance advisers from local high schools.
On Sept. 13, OUTreach Denton kicks off the new school year with a dance. Work in Progress, a local band of Denton high schoolers, will perform.
GALA Youth meet in Allen. For joint programming, the two groups are working with a church in Carrollton as a midway point.
“We’d like to expand outside of just youth services,” Wat said.
For that, she said she also hopes to partner with the Collin County group. She mentioned the business leadership group as something they’d like to emulate in Denton.
OUTreach Denton is for teens ages 13 to 18. Older Denton County youth are welcomed in the University of North Texas LGBT group GLAD, even if they are not students at the school.
Training for OUTreach Denton and GALA Youth takes place on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1111 Cordell St., Denton. For more information, visit TinyURL.com/OUTreachDenton.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 23, 2013.