“I think there are a lot of really engaged people who have moved to D.C. for jobs, and are looking to connect with organizations that do LGBTQ-related work,” says Sultan Shakir, the executive director of Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates & Leaders, better known as SMYAL. “We want to let them know that they can donate, and how else to engage with our organization.”
To promote its work serving approximately 15,000 LGBTQ youth in the greater D.C. area, SMYAL’s Young Donors Committee is hosting “SMYAL for the New Year,” a networking event geared towards young professionals that will highlight the organization’s various initiatives, from providing comprehensive sex education to a housing program for LGBTQ homeless youth.
Shakir hopes that those in attendance will either get involved directly with the organization or use their connections to link SMYAL with others who may be better suited to provide additional funding or resources.
For instance, one of the professionals who came to a past Young Donors event has since started working with the dozen youth enrolled in SMYAL’s housing program, to help with resumé writing, mock interviews, and other skills to assist them in obtaining jobs.
As he looks forward to the upcoming year, Shakir has plans to expand SMYAL’s program offerings, particularly those that promote wellness, tackling issues like HIV and mental health counseling.
“HIV rates in the District among youth are higher than they should be, compared to other cities, so we’ve partnered with the Washington AIDS Partnership to train people on sex education and healthy relationships,” he says. “Those young people can then spread awareness by training or educating their peers.
“We’re also going to be helping destigmatize mental health counseling. A lot of the youth we work with have experienced some type of trauma, so we’re going to work on initiatives that encourage them to seek help early, as opposed to waiting until things seem dire.”
SMYAL for the New Year is Sunday, Feb. 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Franklin Hall, 1348 Florida Ave. NW. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tickets cost $10 per person. For more information, visit www.smyal.org.