Youth story: Lo Ray
I first heard of IYG my freshman year through a friend at my school's GSA after having been through a rough three years in middle school. At first I only went to give it a chance after hearing great things from my friend, but after just a month or so, I really opened up. I had a safe and inviting feeling around all of the IYG youth and staff; a feeling that I could let loose, be myself (be happy), and not worry about what anyone else thought of me - the real me. IYG has provided me with opportunities to make new friends who are just like me and to freely discuss my problems and even my goals. My educational future including scholarships, colleges, and my career choice in social sciences have been influenced by the people I met and ideas I learned about at IYG. I was able to attend the National GSA Leadership Conference in Minneapolis through my work with IYG. I have been involved in IYG's youth council for over two years. I also sit on panels regularly to help bring awareness and education to educators, doctors, nurses, social workers, and other professionals about the important issues LGBTQ youth face everyday. IYG has become a second home for me. I have been attending IYG regularly for almost four years and I can honestly say that without IYG, I would not be the confident person, student, and activist that I am in my school and community today. I am studying to become a social worker largely due to my involvement and what I've learned through IYG. It has shaped the person I am and am becoming.
Youth story: Laken/Ava
When I first came to IYG in May of 2012, I was reserved and shy. I was struggling with depression and having some suicidal thoughts because of issues I had to deal with being gay. However since I started IYG, I've opened up A LOT more. I participate in support groups at IYG that help my depression immensely. IYG has helped me start things that I had always wanted to do, like performing at the IYG prom and talent show. I have become more social and confident as a person and as a leader. Through IYG I was able to attend the National Youth Summit in Louisville, Kentucky. Also through support from IYG, I was able to cofound the Gay Straight Alliance at my high school. I also serve on IYG's Youth Council which gives me the opportunity to serve as a leader at IYG, help plan parties and events, and make IYG a more fun and welcoming place for LGBT youth. I think to sum up what IYG has done for me, I'd say that IYG has helped me become the me I never knew I could be.
Youth story: Khalil Cole
I first came to IYG over a year ago, around the time of IYG's 2012 Halloween Rave. I was so scared no one was going to like me. Once I came everyone treated me just like family. I wasn't fully comfortable with my sexuality yet and I came to IYG expecting to be pushed out of my comfort zone and boy was I. I learned so many things about myself and others. IYG has hugely impacted my life, I found myself. I got to be myself and do things I never thought I'd ever do in my entire life. I was trapped in this bubble of stereotypes before IYG and those stereotypes were broken once I came.
Youth stories: Kai and Rai
Youth story: Kacey
When I was about 11 I can remember realizing I was gay, I met a girl who I fell for. After that summer I was forced into an environment where it wasn't safe for me to be out and proud about who I am, especially since I didn't really know then.
Almost 5 years later, I went to IYG for the first time, right before my sixteenth birthday. At this point in time I was literally heartbroken and depressed about a boy, of all things, and I had just moved schools and moved in with my sister. My sister, Myranda, was an intern at IYG; she told me I'd love it there. And she was right. The first time I came to IYG I loved it; immediately, the people, the atmosphere, and the sense of freedom. Not so much the freedom to do whatever but the freedom I felt to be who ever I was, with no judgments being made. I didn't have to pretend to be something I wasn't anymore, and IYG helped me realize that. The people I met were so welcoming and they never expected me to be something I wasn't. I immediately got involved with Girls Who Like Girls*, and I am currently a member of the Youth Council*.
In all honesty, I don't know that if I hadn't started going to IYG whether or not I would have developed the full grasp of who I really am, let alone the confidence to be involved in the youth council, the GSA at my high school, or helping with the IYG Art Auction. So I owe a lot to IYG, the staff there, and the youth. IYG holds a very unique place in my heart and I am forever grateful for it.
*Girls Who Like Girls is a discussion group, facilitated by a trained volunteer, that meets monthly. The group normally has between 9 - 15 participants with topics ranging from communicating with parents, to problems in school, and healthy relationships.
*Youth Council is composed of 11 youth and meets twice a month. They are elected for 6-month terms with a 2-year limit. They plan future events, discuss house rules, and have begun to design a marketing plan about IYG for youth.