Every Friday we spotlight a local LGBT nonprofit in Philadelphia. This week, The Attic Youth Center, an organization that works to create opportunities for and promote the acceptance of Philadelphia LGBTQ youth.
Who are you? Alyssa Mutryn, director of development at The Attic Youth Center.
When was The Attic founded? The Attic was founded in 1993 by our current Executive Director, Dr. Carrie Jacobs. When she was in graduate school, she worked in partnership with some other grad students to start a support group for LGBTQ youth in the “attic” of a social service organization. It was only supposed to be an eight-week group, but 41 youth were involved and she had to keep it going! There were no other support systems for LGBTQ youth in the ’90s, so it was important to keep The Attic alive. Now, 21 years later, we are located in a four-story row home, and between 40-70 youth, ages 14-23, come to The Attic each day. Our programming has also expanded over the years to include not only support groups, but an array of programming such as youth leadership, career readiness, arts and culture, health and wellness, academic enrichment, mental health, and education and training to improve the climate and support systems for LGBTQ youth through our Bryson Institute.
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Attic Youth enjoying a family-style meal at Oyster House.
OK, so Oyster House didn’t make the cut in this year’s Philadelphia Business Journal Top LGBT Companies list. But here’s the thing: Maybe it should have?
Danielle Amabile, pastry chef at Oyster House, had been itching to marry her education background (she meant to be an English teacher) with her passion for cooking. (But really, this gal can gab about pie-primping and pureeing for hours.) That itch grew in intensity when owner Sam Mink’s 10-year-old cousin began popping by the restaurant, routinely flocking to Amabile so she could show him the ropes in the kitchen (peeling apples, fetching ingredients, etc.).
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“It’s Philly’s LGBTQ youth that are leading the change,” says 17-year-old Bella, a high school student from Kensington. She, along with a panel of other emerging leaders in the Philadelphia LGBTQ community, kicked off this week’s Kimmel Center It Gets Better Project residency, and if last evening’s performances and discussions were any indication, Bella (and Whitney) were right: Children really are our future.
The afternoon featured three distinct opportunities for local youth to participate in community building and performance. First, students from the Kimmel Center’s Show Stoppers and Wolf Performing Arts Center teamed up to film an outdoor performance of Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” which will be screened at Saturday’s It Gets Better Project concert. Led by touring actors Mario Mosley and Tyler Houston, the triple threats danced their way down a picturesque Philly block, causing lots of local commuters to pause for the show.
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It truly is Christmas in July for eight local LGBT non-profits who will benefit from a $32,000 grant from Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF.) The money will be divided between each organization, and used to fund a specific program within each group. DVLF Executive Director Samantha Giusti tells me the money comes from the organization’s 2014 LGBTQ Emerging Needs Grant. Benefactors are chosen by a panel of community members “who have a diverse array of lived experience and professional knowledge in a variety areas” based on best practices, benchmarks, outcomes, and financials, she says.
This year’s recipients are:
“Every year I am more impressed by the ingenuity displayed by our community members at creating innovative programming to meet emerging needs faced by LGBTQ people in our region,” says Giusti. “Less than .3 percent of the over 50 billion given annually by U.S. foundations goes to LGBTQ issues. It’s a grave statistic as it is neither representative of the size of our community nor it’s need. With these grants we hope that we can be responsive to the the emerging needs in our community.”
Performers and leaders from the Attic Youth Center are leading a unique “cyberqueer performance expedition” at this year’s Philly Tech Week. Led by local choreographer Marcel Williams Foster (The Jane Goodall Experience), GPS Bodies is an improvisational dance work/scavenger hunt that’s driven by audience interaction on Twitter.
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High above The Attic, Philadelphia’s only independent LGBT youth center, literally on the top floor of the complex, is one of the hidden gems of Philly’s LGBT community: the Bryson Institute. Since 2001, the Bryson Institute has provided customized LGBT training seminars (everything from “Gay 101” to “LGBT for Healthcare Settings” to “Reconciling LGBT Individuals and Faith Communities”) for youth, professionals, parents and other communities.
I had the opportunity to talk with the Institute’s Director, Kelly Kroehle, MSW, along with Evan Thornburg, Bryson’s Education Specialist, and Phantazia Washington, a Transitions mentor, about their unique work and how it impacts not only the greater Philadelphia community, but also their own personal journeys as LGBT advocates and educators.
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In partnership with Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, every day throughout the month of February we will spotlight an influential black mover and shaker in the city.
Today, a true Jill-of-all-trades, poet/photographer/journalist Shara Dae Howard. Ms Howard came to my attention when I saw her moving coming out story on I’m From Driftwood. A Philly girl, Howard found the courage to open up about her sexuality as a teen at the Attic Youth Center, an organization that she continues to be involved with today as a member of the board.
7 questions with Shara Dae Howard after the jump
On Saturday, November 16th, more than 600 leaders and members of the Philadelphia LGBT community gathered at the Crystal Tea Room for The Attic Youth Center (AYC) 20th Anniversary Gala. The AYC was founded by Dr. Carrie Jacobs (right) 20 years ago to create programming and a safe environment for youths experiencing issues regarding sense of self. The center’s services provide kids with a sense of community and access to programing aimed at reducing feelings of isolation, prejudice and oppression.
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(L-R) Tami Sortman, Carrie Jacobs and Scott Barnes present an award to Ingrid Abrams for her longtime service to the Attic Youth Center.
On Saturday, more than 600 leaders and members of the Philadelphia LGBT community gathered at the Crystal Tea Room for The Attic Youth Center (AYC) 20th Anniversary Gala. Organizers did an extraordinary job putting together a sold-out night that included moving performances by AYC youth, an award ceremony, live auction, dinner and dancing. Here are some of the biggest highlights:
Highlights and a gallery of photos after the jump »
Next weekend, Glee star Alex Newell will roll into Philly to be honored at the Attic Youth Center‘s (AYC) 20th Anniversary Gala. The 21-year-old Boston native made his world debut on the The Glee Project, where he competed to earn a spot on Glee. Though he got runner-up, producers took notice of his talents and cast him in a recurring role as transgender student Wade “Unique” Adams. If you haven’t seen him perform, get one thing straight: This kid can SANG. (Just check out his performance of “And I Am Telling You.”) He’s had some fab moments on Glee, taking on all kinds of homo-tastic tunes, like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Material Girl.” (See that medley here.)
My Q&A with Alex Newell after the jump »