On April 30, members of the Youth Pride Center, an LGBT organization serving predominantly African American youth, announced plans for the construction of a much desired, new center on Chicago's South Side.
For the most part, the YPC is run by youth, for youth, so it is no surprise that members of the center headed to the State Capitol in mid-April in an effort to make their hope a reality.
Through the help of State Representative Connie Howard and national project 'The Movement' in conjunction with the National Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Illinois Department of Public Health, a $500,000 campaign has kicked off to raise money for the construction of a new center by 2010.
Participation in 'The Movement,' which is its own project focused on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS education and prevention, means that the YPC will be selling merchandise with 'The Movement's' logo on it to raise money for the center.
The youth will also solicit organizational sponsors and public donations to reach its goal.
Entitled 'Project Hope,' the campaign has already raised over $60,000. Activities to raise money for the center have already been planned for May and many more fundraising efforts will be added.
Presently, the YPC is located at 637 S. Dearborn and has several different meetings, both educational and social, throughout the week for youth.
Brandon Smith, a Youth Ambassador at the YPC, discussed the present demographics of the YPC, 'Last year, in 2006, we served an average of 200 youth a month, and out of these, 95 percent identified as one or more of the following, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, down low, HIV+-positive and, or homeless. YPC serves youth between the ages of 13-23, and 98 percent of our youth list themselves as African American and 64 percent reside on the South Side of Chicago.'
Smith also said that the theme of YPC is 'Youth at hope, not youth at risk,' explaining, 'Hope is something positive, hope is something you look forward to, hope is everything.'
The present YPC location is also home to another LGBT youth organization, Chicago Queer Youth, which meets on Saturdays and is predominantly made up of Caucasian members.
A new center will help both organizations meet growing needs and provide even more services and positive opportunities for LGBT youth. The new center will also help merge the YPC and CQY groups. A merger of the two groups would make the YPC one of the largest LGBT youth programs in the Midwest.
Members of the YPC have not finalized their goals as to what they want in their new center, but DeAngelo Smith, YPC Youth Ambassador, mentioned some expectations, 'A lot of programs are going to be added to the center. A lot of educational programs will be added because we'll have the classroom space. Also, we're hoping to have a pool, a gym, more activities for us to do inside, instead of having to go so far out to do those things, though we may have activities outside of the center as well.'
Although a name for the new center has yet to be determined, YPC members are discussing including Rep. Connie Howard's name.
For more information on YPC visit youthpridecenter.org . Merchandise can be ordered at www.cafepress.com/youthpride.