“Growing up in the South and coming into my own realization of being part of the LGBTQ community, the one thing I felt was actually missing was a sense of community,” says Jordan Costen, the Atlanta-born executive director of Safe Space NOVA, a program for teenagers aged 14 to 18 in the Virginia suburbs.
“I dealt with a lot of bullying and depression-type issues, and I felt like there was nobody I could really look to, whether it was an adult who’s gone through the same types of issues I was experiencing, or other youth who were actually experiencing what I was,” says Costen, who spent his college years in D.C. tutoring and mentoring youth as a volunteer for a number of organizations.
When he returned to D.C. as an adult, Costen started Safe Space NOVA, an organization that would provide local LGBTQ youth in Northern Virginia with the kind of support he wished had been available to him as a teenager.
“Our first pillar that we’ve set up, in terms of programming, is social activities. We rent out spaces either for movie socials, laser tag, miniature monster golf, provide food, and invite the youth. [They] can come in, play games, meet other people who are actually in the LGBTQ community, eat, and hang out.”
Safe Space NOVA also has a student ambassador, a recent high school graduate who helps take the pulse of LGBTQ youth and plans activities that will engage them. The ambassador then spreads word of the events through various channels, including online and traditional media, and social networks.
As an all-volunteer organization, Safe Space NOVA relies on fundraising to pay for its activities. To that end, it will be holding an inaugural brunch fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 14 at The Garden, a workspace and conference hall in Alexandria.
At the event, Safe Space NOVA will be giving away scholarships, honoring volunteers for their contributions, and celebrating a proclamation recognizing the organization’s work, which will be presented by Virginia Del. Karrie Delaney (D-Chantilly). The event will be emceed by WUSA9’s Lorenzo Hall.
“We want to make sure the community is educated about the issues the LGBTQ community experiences,” says Costen. “We want to let people know that we’re actually here. And, last but not least, we want to get more donations so we can actually increase our programming.”
Safe Space NOVA’s brunch fundraiser is Saturday, Sept. 14, from Noon to 4 p.m. at The Garden, 5380 Eisenhower Ave., in Alexandria, Va. Admission is $50 per person and includes one drink ticket. Additional drinks may be purchased at the event. Visit www.safespacenova.org.