June is Pride Month and Mass Mentoring President & CEO Marty Martinez writes about the importance of mentoring in the lives of LGBTQ youth.
For those of us in the mentoring and youth development world, we know very well the impact that caring adults can have on the lives of young people. We see through our programmatic efforts that mentors come in many forms and that those adults who give their time, their energy and their listening ear can truly be the difference in a young person thriving and reaching their full potential.
As we honor and celebrate LGBTQ persons during Pride Month in June, it is so important that we realize how critical caring adult mentors and role models are for LGBTQ youth as they mature and become adults. As with many young people, LGBTQ youth face tough challenges growing up in our society and the issues that impact this community require strong support. Various studies have shown us that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide, twice as likely to experience dating violence, much more likely to report being bullied and harassed in and out of school and experience disproportionate negative health impacts than their heterosexual peers.
With all that being said, LGBTQ youth can lead happy, healthy and resilient lives. But strong supports and positive environments are needed to make that happen. As an openly gay man, I know firsthand the role that mentors and caring adults played in my life growing up. I remember the teachers and youth workers who helped me to find my path and to explore the many challenges that I faced growing up as a gay youth, coming out as a gay man and feeling proud of who I was and the way I was born.
As someone who understands this challenge very personally, I know that mentors and caring adult role models are needed to build empowering relationships with LGBTQ youth. This support can help them discover their truth, live their lives and be happy all while going through the same challenges that all young people face on their path to adulthood.
As we take the time in June to celebrate Pride and the amazing progress that has been made on civil rights for the LGBTQ community, let us not forget the challenges and opportunities that exist to support and empower LGBTQ youth through mentoring and youth development. Helping all young people find the support and role models they need to allow them to reach their full potential is definitely something to be PROUD of.