Target: Christy Walker, Dean of Students at Lincoln Park High School
Goal: Commend Christy Walker for her innovative LGBTQ Mentoring Program.
School programs for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) youth are increasingly popular across the nation. High school GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) are present in as many as half of our nation’s secondary schools, according to a recent Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) survey. Such programs are essential, LGBTQ advocates argue, because they provide supportive social networks.
One program at Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School, the brainchild of Dean of Students Christy Walker, seeks to go above and beyond the traditional support roles of GSAs. The Lincoln Park Youth Society, rather than an informal club, establishes a Big Brothers Big Sisters-styled mentoring program pairing LGBTQ students and mentors one-on-one.
Explaining the benefits of such programs, Walker addresses the reality that LGBTQ youth often face multiple dimensions of discrimination and/or socioeconomic disadvantage. Some of the Lincoln Park Youth Society members, Walker notes, “are at risk, maybe homeless, struggling at school and just need help with so many other pieces, aside from their identity.” Giving LGBTQ youth a distinguished, accomplished, and stable professional mentor–someone to look up to, someone to demonstrate successful LGBTQ adulthood–is essential. As “It Gets Better Project” activist, Dan Savage noted, LGBTQ youths have long been disconnected from adult LGTBQ community leaders. Programs such as the Lincoln Park Youth Society aim to bridge this gulf earlier in students’ lives, assisting them during their most sensitive, formative years.
LGBTQ youth in the United States have become a political and ideological lightning rod of controversy, but a number of strong support and mentoring programs may help mitigate the problems facing this segment of the population. Commend Dean of Students Christy Walker, and the Lincoln Park High School community, for their exceptional work advocating for LGBTQ youth.
Dear Dean of Students Christy Walker,
We cannot overstate the importance of LGBTQ-oriented, inclusive high school programming for the social development and wellbeing of our LGBTQ youth. Your innovative work with the Lincoln Park Youth Society truly raises the bar for meaningful, outcome-oriented programs, offering your community’s LGBTQ youth outstanding role models and mentors. Far too many LGBTQ youth in this nation–whether in liberal major cities, or conservative rural towns–face isolation, alienation from family and peers, and far too often, consequent anxiety or depression. Many face these very adult challenges alone.
Thank you for your thoughtful and exciting new program, the Lincoln Park Youth Society, and thank you for your compassionate leadership among American educators.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Vernes Seferovic, via Wikimedia