It is no secret that interactions with individuals and groups outside a child’s family/home environment has a huge impact on that child’s or young adults’ education and growth. I thought back to when I was a teenager and my oldest sister needed help raising her two young children. Not only did my other siblings and I lend a hand, so did several friends and members of our community.
On top of foreseen adversities, youth these days have to face issues associated with everyday life at home, deal with being bullied at school and on the Internet. The introduction of cyber bullying is prevalent and presents a huge epidemic that youth are continuously engaging in. It is crucial that positive role models are present throughout the early development cycle of a child and ongoing.
Often enough, youth that identify as LGBTQ don’t have the support of their biological family and find emotional refuge through a variety of different avenues. These youth are at higher risk: to be bullied, commit suicide, runway from home and become homeless, drop out of school and have severe drug/alcohol problems.
Compass, a LGBT community center in the heart of Lake Worth provides a safe community environment for young adults and an interactive forum in which they are able to identify and cope with their individual needs. The youth that come to Compass have the opportunity to meet other young adults that they can relate to, have interactions, positive role models and even a mentor.
But, what happens when they leave? This is where the real issue lies. What are our communities doing to help each other? We need to provide more safe places youth can benefit from, regardless of their sexual orientation.
I recently came across an article in the Palm Beach Post about the city of Greenacres and The America’s Promise Alliance. Greenacres has been named one of the 100 best communities in the country for young people. Through support for youth development inside the classroom and outside the local community, Greenacres is focused on health and childcare programs that strengthen families with community-wide recreational programs, literacy initiatives and leadership development opportunities. The America’s Promise Alliance business model and others alike are examples for all communities to follow.
It takes a community, to work with the family, and raise children/youth to weather the storms of life in an ever-evolving society. If we want that kind of support, the place to begin is within ourselves because community, like charity, begins at home.
Julia Murphy is Compass’ Program Development Director. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org