White Plains, January 14, 2014 – Westchester Jewish Community Services’ (WJCS) Center Lane program has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Westchester Community Foundation to expand its services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the county.
Center Lane, established in 1995, is the only community center in Westchester for LGBTQ adolescents and it offers support groups, educational workshops and social activities to reduce the isolation that many LGBTQ young people experience and aims to enhance self-esteem and personal growth in a safe environment.
The grant provides for individual and group counseling using an evidence-based approach, drop-in hours, educational workshops and services that are shown to reduce risky behaviors and promote healthy lifestyle choices. The funding will help to support the expansion of services beyond Yonkers and White Plains into Northern Westchester County.
“We’re delighted to receive this award from the Westchester Community Foundation, which recognizes the continuing need for the services we’re offering to LGBTQ youth in Westchester,” said Santo Barbagiovanni, program director of WJCS Center Lane. “It enables us to offer new services and extend our programs into other sections of the county.”
National data indicate that LGBTQ youth still face very distinct challenges, often imposed on them from un-affirming environments. These challenges can hinder their healthy development. Findings from GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) 2011 National School Climate Survey reported that New York State schools were not safe for many LGBT students, and that many did not have access to important school resources such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).
The report also indicated that many LGBT youth were not protected by comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policies. Some of the key findings in the report indicated that 71.3% of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks frequently or often from other students, and 56.9% of LGBT students reported hearing homophobic and negative remarks about their gender expression from teachers or other school staff. A reported 63.5% of LGBT students felt unsafe because of their identified sexual orientation. Students who experienced these higher levels of victimization based on their identified sexual orientation or gender expression had higher levels of depression, and much lower levels of self-esteem.
Center Lane works to reverse the deleterious effects of these conditions. Of the 775 youth who attended at least four Center Lane activities during the past two years, the majority now have fewer feelings of isolation, have boosted their self-esteem and have greater awareness of healthy behaviors. In addition, most of them also have reported increased use of positive coping skills, experience positive, healthy relationships and a reduction in substance use.
Center Lane also assists in establishing Gay/Straight Alliances at several schools in Westchester, which create safe places within the schools for LGBT youth to discuss common issues, support each other and fight discrimination and harassment. Center Lane conducts sensitivity and cultural competence training for local schools and other facilities to ensure an inclusive environment for all youth. In addition, The Center Lane TransParentcy component provides support, education and information about gender identity for parents and friends of transgendered youth; and works toward acceptance and support by parents of their children.
WJCS is one of the largest non-profit, non-sectarian human services agencies in Westchester, serving 20,000 people annually at 70 clinic, school, community and home-based locations throughout the county. The agency’s integrated network of services includes mental health treatment and counseling, child and youth development programs, residential and non-residential programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, home health and geriatric services. The highest level of professional development and training is offering through the WJCS Educational Institute. For more information on WJCS, go to www.wjcs.com.
The Westchester Community Foundation (WCF) is a nonprofit community endowment for the benefit of Westchester County. Its mission is to develop and manage philanthropic resources and to distribute them in a way that is responsive to donor interests and community needs. The Foundation actively promotes charitable giving on behalf of the area’s nonprofit organizations. WCF is a division of The New York Community Trust, one of the largest community foundations in the country with assets of approximately $1.8 billion. For more information on the Westchester Community Foundation, click here, http://www.wcf-ny.org.