Julian Cavazos, president and founder of non-profit Julian’s Fountain of Youth (JFOY), thought the organization would take at least two years to come to fruition.
Less than half a year after he began working on it, he already had keys to their first location.
Cavazos knew, after taking experiential learning courses, that he wanted to create a program that taught LGBT students in an experiential way. He promised himself he would get to this passion project at some point, “before you know it, it's been five years.”
Cavazos came to the realization that he still hadn’t realized his dream while hospitalized with open heart surgery.
“I kept thinking to myself … I'm going to die,” Cavazos said. “So I made a commitment in that moment that when I got out, or if I got out, I was going to do this.”
Throughout rehabilitation, Cavazos started working on his idea for a non-profit centered on LGBT empowerment through work-study and courses. The project took off fast with immediate support.
“They could tell how committed I was to this,” he said. “So they were like, ‘If you're in I'm in.’”
Now, Julian’s Fountain of Youth has two work-study programs — the Wilton Collective and Julian’s Fountain of Treasure — and various events to help LGBT youth feel seen. Cavazos’ work takes up all seven days of the week, but every morning he makes time to respond to anxious parents’ emails and thoughtful thank you’s in his inbox.
“I just got an email about midnight last night, from a mother, whose trans son is depressed, has anxiety, and doesn't have any friends — I get these often,” Cavazos said. “I get to work with her and make sure that her son comes here or comes to one of our programs, so that he can look out and see that he's not alone.”
JFOY’s work-study programs work with volunteers and hire LGBT teens to teach them how to work in an environment that accepts them no matter their background.
“In some cases, it might be the first type of job that a youth has had to get them used to the workforce and to develop their work ethics that they probably developed as they've grown as a teenager,” Kyle Turner, Wilton Collective Volunteer and Board Member of JFOY, said.
Ultimately, JFOY is about being seen.
“I get very emotional when I'm talking about this, because that's what this is all about,” Cavazos said. “When a kid feels they're in a situation where nobody is like them, or nobody understands, or nobody cares about them, I want them to know there are lots of us out here.”
You can learn more about JFOY at jfoy.org.
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