Safe Space NOVA, the activities organization for LGBTQ youth in Northern Virginia, is launching its first social support group.
Y’ALLS (Youth Advocacy and Leadership: Learning through Social Support) will serve as a pilot program for the expansion of peer social support groups across the D.C.-Northern Virginia region in the coming years.
Y’ALLS is part of the Youth Advocacy and Leadership Group at Space Safe NOVA, and will differentiate activities for youth as either social support, which involved discussions among peers that are facilitated by an adult moderator, or activities like miniature golf or bowling that allow LGBTQ youth the opportunity to socialize with one another.
The mission of Y’ALLS is to encourage peer social support for youth, address issues affecting youth in their daily lives, develop leadership and advocacy skills among group members, and create programs targeted at peers and adults in schools and in the larger community to educate them about the LGBTQ community.
Given the inability of the group to meet in person at the present time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Safe Space NOVA will seek online and virtual ways of engaging group members while people are practicing social distancing.
The group recently expanded its services to youth by bringing a school psychologist on staff to help youth struggling with depression, anxiety, or mental health issues.
Costen, who grew up in the South, told Metro Weekly last year that he had personally experienced bullying and depression as a youth, and wanted to ensure that the resources that were not available to him were in place to help other youth in need of encouragement, acceptance, and support from their peers.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure teens in the Northern Virginia area have access to an organization and activities that promote equality,” Jordan Costen, the founder and chairman of Safe Space NOVA, said in a statement. “The mission of Y’ALLS is to give a voice to these young adults and give them a positive environment and welcoming staff that embrace, uplift, and encourage them.”
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