True Colors offers CT's only mentoring program for LGBT youth. We match LGBT youth in out-of-home care (foster care, group homes, shelters, etc) with adult mentors who spend 1-3 hours a week with them. In addition, we offer 4 -5 monthly group activities to provide LGBT youth with the chance to socialize with other LGBT youth. We currently have just over 125 youth in the program
Launched in 2003 specifically to meet the un-met needs of LGBT youth, we are now the Department of Children and Family's largest mentoring provider. Dozens of our matches have been maintained long term (3 or more years); many of our youth have gone onto college or other secondary education.
· 1 school created a mural of LGBT support
· 1 school co-sponsored the Laramie Project and fund-raised to bring students to the True Colors conference
· 4 schools planned assemblies to combat anti-LGBT bullying
· 3 schools wrote public service announcements and speeches on anti-LGBT bullying to be presented on Day of Silence
· 1 school designed a senior elective course on sexism and homophobia
· 1 school created an online resource for LGBT students
· 1 school put together personal narratives on experiences with anti-LGBT bullying to present to administration
Our ‘measurable outcomes’ include 8-12 Activist Institutes serving 80 – 120 high school students; the production (or co-sponsoring of) 3 regional summits serving 75- 150 youth and adult advisors in different parts of the state; the completion of a middle school community needs assessment via school based surveys and a community conversation about the needs of these youth; the creation of 2-5 new programs targeting LGBT youth at the middle school as determined by the outcomes of a needs analysis survey
· Additional definitions of success include: 95% of satisfaction surveys with youth participants rate their experiences as good, very good or excellent; 95% of satisfaction surveys with adult participants rate the impact of the program on student engagement and skills as significant; and a minimum of 80% of the student groups that participate in the Activist Institute choose and implement a change project that results in lasting change
Positive outcomes of Activist Institute were reflected in the enthusiasm, creativity, and ambition of some of the change projects GSA students came up with. In terms of the students we served, many of them developed leadership skills in tangible ways. For instance, one student who had suffered years of bullying due to his gender presentation was able to spearhead his school’s change project and turn some of his personal frustration into positive change. He came up with an idea for an LGBT-themed mural for his school, rallied together student support, and got his GSA advisor and art teacher to help him distribute resources for the project. The students at this particular school are now working on their mural, which will be displayed at the start of the fall 2012 school year.
Robin P. McHaelen, MSWis the founder and current Executive Director of True Colors, Inc. She is the co-author of A Sexuality and Gender Diversity Training Program: Increasing the Competency of Mental Health Professionals(2011, Professional Resource Press, FL) as well as Recommended Practices to Promote the Safety and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Youth at Risk of or Living with HIV in Child Welfare Settings (2012, Lambda Legal) and several other articles on LGBT youth concerns. Robin is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2011 University of Connecticut, Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; the 2009 Hartford Courant/Fox 61 Tapestry Award, the 2008 National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights and the 2008 Social Worker of the Year (National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter).
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