Remember being a kid? The cliques, the bullies, the homework, the effort to have a social life, and the fear of looking uncool?
LGBT youth today face unique challenges, like school rules that keep them from using the bathrooms and locker rooms that make sense for them, and the way social media allows all those school-day pressures to follow them home when the bell rings.
For kids in Palm Beach County, an oasis exists in the midst of these tough times - the youth group at Compass Community Center. Since 1992, Compass has been a safe haven for LGBT youth, holding meetings twice a week that include small group discussions with mentors and fun activities like karaoke night and local cultural events. Regular attendees to the youth group tell staff theyfeel safe and accepted here, and that it's a place they can freely be themselves.
Transgender youth are at a higher risk for suicide and bullying than almost any other group in their age group. For this reason, Compass started a support group specifically for trans youth, which meets every Friday as an offshoot of the regular youth group.
Since 2017 this program has been funded by Palm Beach County Youth Services Department (PBCYSD), and it is the only one of its kind in the county. The transgender youth program coordinator regularly assists parents looking for resources to help their child who is struggling with gender identity.
Compass also offers a free behavioral wellness program to PBC youth, with both group and individual therapy sessions offered by two dedicated professionals, who are also educators at FAU. This program, also funded by PBCYSD, is on track to help dozens of young people this year alone through ongoing therapy and crisis interventions. Affordable behavioral healthcare is inaccessible by many young people in desperate need of it, so we at Compass are committed to providing it to as many as possible.
The youth also take part in community events like The Lake Worth Street Painting Festival, where they design their own piece of art, and in Compass’ signature event Palm Beach Pride, where they help guests with fun craft activities and talk about the program. They are encouraged to fundraise for activities they want to do, and for their own special events like Equality Prom, coming up later this month.
Equality Prom happens every year in late May as an antidote to school-sponsored spring dances, where LGBT youth often are not allowed to dress the way they want, or bring the date of their choice. The youth group decides on a theme and helps with decorations. This year the dance will be an outer-space-themed Galactic Gala, on Friday evening, May 24. Equality Prom is open to all youth in Palm Beach County. Students interested in attending can sign up here:
For more information about any aspect of the youth program at Compass, please contact Amanda Canete at.
By Claudia Harrison
Chief Information Officer of Compass