Happy Ally Week everyone! According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Ally Week is “a whole week where we can engage in a national dialogue about how everyone in and out of school can work to become better allies to LGBT youth.”
I do not identify as LGBT but in both my work and personal life, I have pledged to be an ally for LGBT youth and all other youth who may face a lack of support throughout their transition years. Many other youth service professionals out there may also see themselves as allies of specific youth sectors: LGBT youth, youth with disabilities, youth in foster care, et cetera.
However, even if you work specifically with LGBT youth, we all know that there are LGBT people of color, LGBT people with disabilities and many other intersections. ALL youth need allies and all allies need the necessary training to address the many overlapping sectors of disconnected youth
This is why I’m thrilled that many organizations are beginning to offer quality trainings for Youth Service Professionals including NCWD/Youth’s very own Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (YSP/KSA) Initiative which aims to strengthen youth professionals’ competencies for working with and connecting all youth to workforce, educational, and independent living opportunities. Take a minute to learn more about these specific competencies and take the KSA Assessment for Youth Service Professionals to see where you may be able to add to your skillset!
Anyone can be an ally by taking a stand against discrimination and offering support to youth in challenging times. Youth service professionals are even more uniquely posed to be allies by:
- Insuring young people are aware that your workplace is a safe and inclusive space;
- Intervening when bullying occurs, even if it appears harmless;
- Providing parallels among different disconnected youth groups where exposure may be lacking;
- Engaging groups in discussions on how they can become allies to others; and
- Supporting youth in projects for Ally Week and year-round.
Frequently, we teach young people to respect each other’s differences, but for Ally Week, we can go beyond that and start the conversation about empathetic action. Cross-cutting ally support is critical in order to impact change both on the ground (in your school, youth group, or extracurricular activity) and at the broader policy level. We hope you will take this opportunity to become #BetterAllies.
- GLSEN Ally Week
- YSP/KSA Demo
- Synthesis of Competencies of Youth Service Professionals
- KSA Assessment for Youth Service Professionals
By Dana Fink, Assistant Project Coordinator with the National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development.