Friday, June 26, 2015

Feel Good Friday - LYRIC

This Sunday is the 45th annual Pride Parade in San Francisco and Feel Good Friday is starting the celebration early with a visit to the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, aka LYRIC!

As stated on their website, "LYRIC's mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities."

Founded in San Francisco in 1988, the first event was a dance. Since then, services have grown to include:

  • School-based initiatives - a three part program LYRIC brings into middle and high schools that focuses on a gender and sexuality social justice course for students, professional development training for the staff and support groups for the families
  • Workforce development - providing support and assistance for youth job seekers
  • Case management - free services provided by youth advocates who can help with issues including housing applications, school enrollment counseling and more
To date, LYRIC has served over 1500 youth in the Bay Area! You can help keep it going by becoming a LYRIC champion with a $10 monthly donation and/or like their Facebook page to stay in the know and look for them in the parade on Sunday. Happy Pride!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feel Good Friday - 826 Valencia

From all the literacy-related organizations that get profiled here, you know I love reading. But what would I have to read if not for the writers? Today, Feel Good Friday goes to the Mission district in San Francisco to find out how 826 Valencia brought together students with a need for tutoring and writers with flexible schedules.

826 Valencia is not only the name of the organization, it's also the address. Since writing is their speciality, I'll let them explain what they do in their own words. "826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resources students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success."

826 was founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who wanted to support teachers by providing a space where adults and kids could come together for free one-on-one tutoring. Their plans were to have the publishing company McSweeney's in the back of the space and the tutoring center in the front, but they learned the building was zoned for retail use and in order to keep it they'd have to sell something.

While renovating the space, they discovered hardwood floors and exposed beams which inspired the creation of a pirate supply store. Whether it's because of the San Francisco location and our love of pirates or just because it's awesome, sales of pirate supplies generate enough income to keep the center going.

All their programs are free. FREE! They include the after school tutoring as well as bringing classes of students to the center on field trips during school. 826 also sends volunteers into classrooms to work with teachers and students on special projects. You can find the complete list of programs here.

This idea is so popular and the need so great, six more chapters of 826 have opened in cities around the country - New York (fronted by a Superhero Supply Store), Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angels (fronted by a Time Travel Mart), Boston and Washington, D.C. San Francisco will be getting a second location in the Tenderloin which is scheduled to open by January, 2016.

You can hear how the original idea for 826 came about and get a virtual tour of the stores by watching this Dave Eggers TED Talk. If you want to get more involved by donating your money or your time, click here.

As always, like the 826 Valencia Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @826_Valencia and if you live in, or visit, San Francisco by all means go see the pirate store. Argh.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Feel Good Friday - National Center for Transgender Equality

By now, you've most likely seen the current issue of Vanity Fair introducing the world to Caitlyn Jenner. This debut, and the fact that June is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender pride month, makes it a great time to spend Feel Good Friday talking about the T in LGBT!

Since 2003, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has been providing a transgender advocacy presence in Washington, D.C. As explained on the website, "The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country."

Much of their advocacy work focuses on:

  • ending discrimination in the workplace
  • ensuring transgender people have access to healthcare
  • ensuring transgender people have access to accurate identity documents
  • ending mistreatment in jails and prisons
They also work on issues such as aging, housing and immigration. A complete list of issues can be found here.

Not only is NCTE working to affect public policy, they also provide practical "Know Your Rights" guides for transgender people having to navigate what can become complication situations such as employment, public accommodations and airport security. All the available guides can be found here.

With people such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox helping to raise awareness of the transgender community, it's good to know there is an organization working on both awareness and equality.

For more information you can listen to The Diane Rehm show (52m), to hear from several transgender advocates, including Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy at the NCTE.

If you're short on time, watch an introductory 3:38 minute video and keep current by liking the NCTE  Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TransEquality. You may also enjoy reading about #MyVanityFairCover where a variety of transgender people introduce themselves to the world ala Caitlyn.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Feel Good Friday - ArtBridge Houston

The world is full of Feel Good Friday stories. Since we've spent the last two weeks out of the country, it's time to bring it on home with an art program in Texas. Yeehaw!

The organization featured today is ArtBridge Houston. Founded in 1999, their mission statement from the website reads, "ArtBridge Houston provides therapeutic and expressive arts programs to homeless and at-risk children within a supportive and creative environment."

Last fall they offered 14 weekly classes in 9 local facilities. As explained in their vision, the hour long group sessions encourage "self-expression and nurtures imagination, hope and self-esteem while reducing the despair of homelessness and the effects of poverty." 

Therapists and volunteers have reported seeing children improve their communication, focus and cooperation with others as well as increase their ability to tolerate frustration. Since the start of the program, over 5,800 children have participated!

You can watch a short video about the program here and hear directly from co-founder Jo Ann Williams at this link.

If you live in the Houston area you can sign up to volunteer and no matter where you are, you can always make a donation of cash (or crayons!) to support homeless youth and the arts. For the latest and greatest, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ArtBridgeHou