$2,300 for CANDLE Youth Pride by Bi Visibility Day
CANDLE Youth Pride started as a CANDLE initiative in 1991 with Rockland County’s first LGBTQ+ youth support group, TRUST, a radical act at the time! Groups of LGBTQ+ youth met in a secret location, spoke their truths, and supported one another. From this grounding, Youth Pride expanded: first, to the annual Common Threads weekend Retreat; then to supports for school-based GSAs; next our Trans Youth Group; on to education for the community; then to our Leadership Project; and then to our group for LGBTQ+ Young Adults. All of Youth Pride’s efforts grow from dual missions -- to enhance the safety and affirmation for all LGBTQ+ youth in our community -- and to bolster LGBTQ+ youth’s development of supports, skills, and resilience so alcohol use, drug use, and violence aren’t the only tools available to navigate the difficulties of living as LGBTQ+ people in this world.
The Common Threads Youth Empowerment Retreat engages high school students from across the Hudson Valley, and beyond, each year, for 3 days of workshops, community building and leadership training. For almost 23 years, this 3-day experience has created communities that support LGBTQ+ participants’ and their cisgender, straight peers’ sense of belonging. We’ve used that time to explore concrete allyship and advocacy skills and tools, and initiated culture change, as retreat participants brought what they learned to their families, to their schools, to other groups, and to their communities.
Through the years, CANDLE staff have met parent after parent of Common Threads alums who share that attending the retreat changed, and sometimes, saved their children’s lives. 90%of last year’s participants shared that attending Common Threads improved their emotional health. The retreat’s embracing and affirming environment directly combats LGBTQ+ youth’s experiences of isolation, disconnection, depression, and suicidal thoughts by celebrating LGBTQ+ identities, normalizing questions, and providing connections with encouraging peers, and LGBTQ+ identified young adults in our Leadership project. And with our message of “we’re all important here - you’re wanted, seen, and loved for who you are!”
Participants themselves tell us...
That the most valuable part of Common Threads was “The connection, and meeting people who I could relate to. I felt normal, and I could finally let myself stop worry about what other people expected from me.”
That their favorite part of Common Threads was “Being able to express myself, unapologetically. Meeting those who not only accepted me, but embraced and encouraged me.”
That as a result of attending Common Threads workshops they now know “To always know yourself and to know how to help others without hurting yourself.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Youth Pride has created opportunities for youth and young adults to connect virtually, with Youth Pride staff and each other. Between the end of March and the end of August, Youth Pride has run 132 virtual groups and events. And we are far from done! As long as the safety of in-person gatherings hampers our meeting in person, we’ll be online, offering MORE groups virtually than we ever have in person! With your help we can continue to create spaces where LGBTQ+ students can not only feel supported by the environment and the people in it, but also where they can learn to grow and empower their own light from within.