SMYAL empowers our community's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in Washington, DC.

SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders - formerly The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League) is the only Washington, DC metro area service organization solely dedicated to the community's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

For many young people, SMYAL provides the only safe space in their world. LGBTQ youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for many negative health outcomes, including HIV infection, violence, substance abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, and suicide.

Our youth programs, which occur both in our Youth Center and in area schools, are designed to build participants' capacity, specific to knowledge and skills that build greater self-efficacy, improve their physical and emotional health and to increase their sense of self-worth and place in their community. SMYAL's core expertise is identifying and developing strengths in LGBTQ youth, helping youth through the "coming out" process and fostering positive self-esteem.

RECENT NEWS:

- SMYAL has a new name and face! Check out our new logo and branding at our website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

-We are set to launch the DC Regional GSA Network with our Activist Camp coming this summer. Contact Cathy Chu at catherine.chu@smyal.org to be a part of the action!

- SMYAL Executive Director Andrew Barnett was recently named "Best Gay Activist" in the 2013 Best of DC!

PROGRAMS:

GSA Network
The GSA Network brings together Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) from schools in DC, MD, and northern VA as part of the DC Regional GSA Network as a way to connect with each other and to other local resources. We provide support for local student leaders to share strategies and ideas on starting a GSA at their own school, as well as the best ways attract more members, talk to school administrators, or plan and run student events.

Community Training and Education Programs
In addition to hosting programs for youth 6 days per week, SMYAL also goes out into the community to help educate teachers, youthworkers, police officers, and more about how to provide culturally competent services and safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. Follow the link above to learn more about our workshops for adults and youth or to request a training!

Weekly Support and Discussion Group
Our staff and volunteers facilitate a peer-led discussion about topics suggested by youth, including coming out, family and relationshiop issues, health, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use/abuse, anger management, and violence prevention.

The Peer Education Program
Peer Educators are a select group of youth who receive training in order to educate other LGBTQA youth about HIV/AIDS prevention and safer sex methods. Peer Educators serve their community as sources of information, role models, and trusted friends by providing workshops for schools, community-based-organizations, and the SMYAL community.

Women's Leadership Institute
The Women's Leadership Institute (WLI) is a leadership development program for young lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and allied (LBTQA) women ages 13-21 which focuses on women's issues and community service. Established in 2010, SMYAL's Women's Leadership Institute is the only curriculum-based youth development model employed in the DC metro area specifically geared towards LBTQ young women.

Recreational Night
Providing safe social activities for LGBTQ youth to be themselves is an integral part to our work. Every Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, we open our Youth Center for regular social activities such as dances, movie nights, video games nights, and field trips. We also work with community partners to hold large-scale events throughout the region.

HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral
SMYAL provides free HIV testing, counseling, and referral for youth. Make an appointment through testing@smyal.org or stop by during our drop-in testing times 6 days each week to get a free, rapid, and confidential test for HIV.

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