Supporting LGBT+ Youth while Strengthening Allyship
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Facebook: Shyla Kallhoff
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
Growing up, I have been around a lot of hate and confusion regarding the LGBT+ community. I have struggled with coming to terms with my own identity, I have watched my parents struggle to learn more about the community, and I have seen countless friends get kicked out of their home or disowned by their parents because of their sexuality or gender. Common Ground is a project that I am so passionate about, and I want to see flourish. I want this project to be able to touch countless lives so that no LGBT+ youth will ever have to feel the way that my friends did. Common Ground will focus on educating the general public population (whether that be a school, university, city, or workplace) on LGBT+ topics, and then transfer that newfound education into support and better allies. I am stepping up to make change because I believe that every youth should live a judgment free life.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
In recent years, support for the LGBT+ community has seemingly been on a rise, but the underlying behaviors of the general population do not tell the same story. The main problem I want to help solve is the lack of education there is regarding the LGBT+ community while also working to support LGBT+ youth. The lack of allyship there is in the general public is disheartening, and I believe that education can eventually lead to stronger support.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
I would love to develop an in-depth, intersectional training/education workshop (suitable for the general public) where people can increase their knowledge on topics and issues relating to the LGBT+ population. This workshop/training would focus on LGBT+ terms and definitions, issues, stereotypes, barriers, laws and policies, intersectionality within the community, and how to be a supportive ally. With education, comes tolerance, and then acceptance, and that is what I believe would most benefit the LGBT+ population where it currently stands. With this education is the support piece. I would like to be able to support LGBT+ youth by providing counseling, social services, childcare, STD/HIV testing, and much more, all located in one general center. Obviously, this is a huge long-term goal. I would like to start with creating a "tool-kit" of sorts, with contact information for resources in the specific community they live in, talking points for conversations with friends and families, and ways to live their best life, while recognizing that their sexuality and gender doesn't have to define them, and shouldn't hold them back from achieving their dreams.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
I have actually created a preliminary PowerPoint regarding education about the LGBT+ community and presented it to the leadership team at my university, where I wasn't sure how it would be received, or if these people would even care about what I had to say. I gave my entire presentation with few problems/questions, and wanting more discussion, I opened it up to questions. Everybody started talking at once and wanted to know more about a certain thing I had said, about a statistic I mentioned, or what they could be doing better at the university to cater to LGBT+ students. This defining moment confirmed to me that people want to get involved, and due to this presentation, I am working on benchmarking other universities to see what my school can improve upon, and then will be working with leadership to make policy changes to help the LGBT+ community. Education is vital in change.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Common Ground is unique because of the programs call to action upon completion of the educational workshop. The workshop is step one but enabling allies or more fortunate members of the LGBT+ community to get involved and help youth is step two. There are support groups and homes for LGBT+ youth, and there are training programs for people wanting to learn more. I believe that Common Ground truly is the best of both worlds and will not only educate and inform people of the struggles the LGBT+ community faces but will then allow them to become directly involved in the program and resources.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Common Ground has made an impact on my university campus and surrounding community in many ways already, and I can only see it continue to make positive changes. I have had the opportunity to facilitate my training for the university's leadership team, various student organizations, and executive boards of organizations and because of this, have been granted an independent study so that I can research what other universities are doing, and how my university will be able to improve in the future. I would say that I have engaged around 100 people at a university level, and 50 in the surrounding community. I will only continue to grow these numbers, and then hopefully expand the entire program as mentioned above, to be a support system (in a way) for LGBT+ youth and students.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
In the upcoming months, I will be traveling to train and facilitate this learning experience for student staff members, along with more faculty/staff members, to ensure that our campus is knowledgeable about LGBT+ terminology and issues, and how to support LGBT+ students. I am currently working with the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on my campus on a civility campaign, and Common Ground training will be a piece of this, educating people on the importance of being civil to one another, and acting out of understanding rather than hate, regardless of what someone's opinion is. I also will be working with businesses on how they can cater to the LGBT+ community and make sure that LGBT+ youth feel comfortable in their stores.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
I have immense support so far from my university, and key stakeholders in the university, but I am needing help in taking this to the next step. I also have a great team member, David Anzures, who has been with me the entire time, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get this project to the next levels. I would like my training and education piece to be able to be put on a website that schools and communities can use to train their employees and staff. Unfortunately for me, I am clueless when it comes to website creation, coding, etc. We would also need a logo, or funds to have someone create one. Funding would also go towards creating a support system for LGBT+ youth as I mentioned in #3. I also would need space for this, long-term.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
I would love to bring in everybody and anybody who is willing to help me with Common Ground, because it is such a huge project that I am not exactly sure where to start. While the education and training piece could be done by me, I wouldn't exactly want to be the only person doing the research. Since I want my training to have a focus on intersectionality, I would want to make sure I am being intentionally intersectional with who does research, prepares the training material, etc. Basically, I want as many opinions and real-life examples as I can get in order to create the best and most well-rounded education program possible. As for the support piece of my initiative, I will be needing assistance from other people on what resources are needed, which ones we can provide, and how to package this and combine these services. I would be interested in working with government and private agencies to do this, as well as individuals. I am extremely open to learning about various other approaches on how to complete my goals, as long as I complete my goals. I am extremely motivated and determined to make this happen, I just need help getting started.
How did you hear about this challenge?