Joe Hollendoner has helped a lot of people in the gay community. Hollendoner, 22, began his queer activism when he was 16 years old.
'I started attending a youth drop-in program at a place called Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center in the South Suburbs and after attending just a few groups, I became a volunteer peer educator. As a peer educator I was responsible for facilitating the group and conducting HIV Prevention work,' said Hollendoner. 'I think of this as queer activism because I was working to empower my peers and help them to deconstruct some of their internalized homophobia, while helping them to live healthy lives.'
Hollendoner was drawn to social work because he saw it as a profession that would allow him to have an impact on communities, and work to create social justice. 'I was inspired to initially look up to social work because of my mentor at Aunt Martha's. She showed me that one person could make a difference, that you must believe that you can make a difference, and that you must believe that you can create change if you ever want to see it happen,' he said.
He graduated in May from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. He returned in September to begin a one-year Master's Program with the Jane Addams College of Social Work. Hollendoner's focus was in community organizing, administration, and policy work. What Hollendoner likes about being a social worker is that he is actively working to positively impact the live of individuals and communities. 'Being a social worker allows me to dedicate my life to helping others, kind of like being a nun but without the bad clothes,' joked Hollendoner.
Hollendoner is currently the Youth Services Manager at Howard Brown Health Center where he coordinates all of Howard Brown's prevention and development programming for people under 24. 'It's such a great job! I get to go out and do outreach in really fun places, conduct HIV testing and STD screening, run support and education groups, and I get to develop new programming to meet the changing needs of queer youth,' said Hollendoner. 'One of the most exciting programs we've just developed is a monthly drug-free and drama free youth dance called SYNERGY. We are also in the progress of starting a mentor program so that youth and adults can get together and develop positive friendships. The staff is great, the programs are innovative, and we've got tons of free condoms, how much better does it get?'
Hollendoner also works for GLSEN. 'I began volunteering with the organization's youth committee when I was about 16, helping to coordinate youth summit. I was proud to be awarded a scholarship by GLSEN for my work to create safe schools for all. During my time as the program coordinator of GLSEN Chicago, I have coordinated GLSEN's training programs for teachers and administrators, organized GSA's summits for all 44 GSA's in the Chicago area, provided support to students who wanted to start GSA's, and helped hold GLSEN Chicago's first organized student-led Day of Silence project.'
Unfortunately for GLSEN, Hollendoner will be leaving not because he is tired of the work, but because he was successful in getting the organization a grant that will allow GLSEN Chicago to hire its first full-time staff to coordinate its programming. 'I think with a full-time staff, GLSEN Chicago will be better able to support the work of students, teachers, administrators, and community members who are working to create safer schools for LGBT youth. Working for GLSEN has been so rewarding because I've been able to work with students and activists who are sincerely committed to the queer movement and they were constantly inspiring me to think bigger and bolder. I'll miss working for GLSEN, but I think the organization is in a great place to become even better.'
GLSEN Chicago has received funding to build their part-time staff to a full-time position. Joe Hollendoner, current program manager, 'has done a fantastic job and we are so grateful for his efforts, both as a volunteer and then as our first employee,' the group stated. E-mail for info to: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . All resumes must be submitted by Oct. 22, 2003.