It is very likely that by the time you read this letter, you are doing so with the knowledge that the future of YouthPride, an organization which is so important to all of us, is in a time of crisis. You may be afraid that the programs and services YouthPride offers, the financial trust of funders, and the physical location of the organization are all in jeopardy. While it cannot be denied that there is great reason to be concerned, we come to you today with the committed and reassuring message that your LGBT leaders and allies across Georgia have joined together at a level of determination and unity rarely seen to make sure that we do right by the very young people who are the future and backbone of our community’s movement.
An open letter to the LGBT youth of Atlanta about YouthPride’s troubles
I am not going to mislead you. The issues currently facing YouthPride are serious. You most likely feel that the LGBT community has let you down and may even be responsible for YouthPride’s woes. While this is a conversation which will continue far into the future, we absolutely recognize that the presence of an LGBT youth service organization is critical, and we will do what is necessary to make sure that our youth have one. The days of kicking the can down the road for another person, another donor, or another generation to take on this challenge are now over. We understand the seriousness of our responsibility and ask for your trust and patience in knowing that the LGBT community has stepped up to the plate and that we will fulfill our obligation. We are here for you with a defining promise of support for which we stand solidly together in the unwavering belief that failure is not an option.
The first of these has been the creation of an Internal Assessment and Viability Task Force, co-led by an experienced corporate auditor and well-respected C.P.A. The purpose of this task force, consisting of numerous LGBT and allied professionals, is to conduct an immediate analysis of YouthPride’s financial standing and the possibility of success should the organization continue in its current form. We are examining every available financial document, interviewing board members, talking to donors, enlisting the advice of experts in the field, studying the by-laws, and most importantly, working to make sure that no stone goes unturned. Determining the viability of YouthPride is an essential part of any long-term solution if we are to provide you with an organization which will be stable and secure far into the future.
Alongside this viability effort, is the operation of a Youth Programming Task Force led by Chris Kids CEO and long-time LGBT ally, Kathy Colbenson. Working in partnership with the current leadership of YouthPride, Colbenson’s task force is conducting an assessment of the existing services provided by YouthPride in order to develop a viable plan of success for these crucial programs.
The ultimate goal is to focus on ensuring that LGBT youth who are currently served by YouthPride will continue to receive critical services and programming while the location and future of the organization is determined. In other words, we are doing everything within our power to make sure that if you are an LGBT youth who receives or benefits from a particular service at YouthPride today, you will continue to receive this service tomorrow, next week, next month, and for the rest of the conceivable future.
Growing up as an LGBT young person in today’s world can be exciting, yet as we know all too well, it may also present serious challenges. The almost inevitable frustration, fear, bullying, uncertainty, and anxiety which accompanies the process of learning who you are as an LGBT person, makes organizations such as YouthPride vitally important. As adults who have grown and learned from our experiences of being LGBT, many of us having done so without the benefit of YouthPride-type support. As such, we understand first-hand that with the added complexities and stress placed on our young people today, YouthPride’s role in helping to develop successful and confident LGBT youth cannot be understated.
It is with this knowledge, we reaffirm our solemn pledge to you, the LGBT youth of Atlanta, that we will do whatever is necessary to provide you with an LGBT youth organization which is second to none. We are together in this battle, the tides are changing, and a brighter future for YouthPride is closer than ever before.
Standing with you in the fight for equality and on behalf of the LGBT Citizens United for Atlanta’s Youth, I am
Charlie Stadtlander, M.P.A. Teacher and Bullying Awareness Coordinator Dekalb County Schools
Editor’s note: Charlie Stadtlander, a gay teacher and advocate, organized last week’s invitation-only meeting of community leaders to discuss the financial and leadership crisis of YouthPride, which faces closure due to funding shortfalls and a board of directors that has not met in more than a year.
The Jan. 25 meeting resulted in the formation of two ad-hoc volunteer committees: one to conduct an internal audit to see if YouthPride remains viable, and the other to look at YouthPride’s current services to make sure they can continue should the organization falter. Both committees plan to present their findings to the community at a public meeting on Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the offices of CHRIS Kids.
Stadtlander submitted the proceeding letter to youth who are concerned about the fate of YouthPride and its services.