Metro Weekly

Service with SMYAL

After 13 years, Peterson retiring from LGBT youth group's board

A board member of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), the District’s only organization dedicated to addressing the needs and concerns of LGBT youth, is retiring after 13 years with the group.

Todd Peterson, the departing board member, former board chair, and former acting executive director announced the transition Dec. 17.

Peterson began working with SMYAL in 1999 as a volunteer, helping with various support groups and the organization’s drop-in center. He later joined the organization’s leadership, serving as secretary, vice chair and chair of the SMYAL board of directors. According to a SMYAL press release, Peterson never missed an executive board meeting in the last 12 years.

”I wanted to be a mentor to help kids who were going through what I went through,” Peterson said in the release announcing his retirement. ”I had a tumultuous coming out that led to a suicide attempt. I got help from an organization like SMYAL in Norfolk, Va.”

Peterson also had praise for Andrew Barnett, SMYAL’s current executive director, with whom Peterson was so impressed he recommended him to the board for the organization’s top spot.

”SMYAL has come a long way,” Peterson said in his statement. ”I remember when the building was dilapidated and we would often have to shut down because we did not have enough money to keep the center open.”

Betsy Pursell, chair of the SMYAL board, thanked Peterson for his service and noted that it was Peterson who chaired the building and grounds committee overseeing the operation and maintenance of SMYAL’s facilities.

”I cannot imagine what SMYAL would be like if Todd had not spent countless hours helping us at every turn when we most needed it,” Barnett said in a statement praising Peterson. ”A heart-felt thank you goes out to Todd Peterson for his years of service to SMYAL and to the youth of the D.C. area.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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