Project 1 is a UCLA student volunteer organization that has committed to mentoring and tutoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally youth in the Los Angeles community since 2008. Their mission is to empower high school students and strengthen their individual identities while educating them about issues unique to the LGBT community. Every week, Project 1 visits students from Garfield High School, Wallis Annenberg High School, and Ánimo Ralph Bunche High School with the goal of facilitating dialogue and discourse about a wide range of topics relevant to their service recipients such as “coming out,” being afraid, identity suppression, and bullying. The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows have chosen Project 1 to receive the Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement for Winter Quarter 2013.
Project 1 has created more than one typical “safe space” for high school students by encouraging them to participate in engaging activities and utilize an array of resources. These activities take place over the course of the year and consist of site visits, retreats, field trips, and providing conferences to empower the LGBT community. On Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the quarter, Project 1 volunteers have the option of visiting one of three sites to conduct empowering workshops for their recipients. At Wallis Annenberg High School, students practiced advocacy by creating a campus climate survey and successfully pushing the administration to provide training to teachers on queer youth issues. This is one of many examples of how Project 1 strives to create high school student advocates and to develop community leaders.
In addition to fostering relationships with students from all three sites, Project 1 conducts retreats with the cooperation of Bienestar, a non-profit social service organization that prioritizes the elimination of stigma and discrimination against LGBT individuals and their families. During the retreats, all three high schools get the opportunity to bond while discussing different topics and ideas on how they can better serve their community. Project 1 service recipients also take a field trip to the Models of Pride Conference held at the University of Southern California. Models of Pride is a free one-day conference that focuses on the concerns and interests of LGBTQ youth and their allies.
Project 1 is also very active on campus at UCLA, bringing together queer youth of color as well as teachers, parents, and allies for their Queer Youth Empowerment Day conference. This day is free of charge, takes place at UCLA (transportation is provided), and culminates with UCLA campus tours. Participants are invited to further explore issues that queer youth of color face at workshops, presentations, networking opportunities facilitated by guest speakers. This conference is a much needed part of Project 1’s commitment to motivate queer youth to pursue higher education and become agents of transformative change in their communities. This year, the theme for the conference is “Empower Youth Voice,” and it will focus on activism through art and new media.
Project Director Briana Mendoza, a fourth year International Development Studies Major with a minor in gender studies, claimed that her goal is to establish relationships between undergraduate students and queer youth of color by giving high school students important and knowledgeable sources of information and advice about identity questioning along with educational resources. Moreover, Director Anthony Louis Montalvo, a third year English major and LGBT studies minor, further elaborated by stating:
Through workshops and dialogue while at site, volunteers from Project 1 raise awareness about the diversity of the LGBT community and the problems the community faces as a whole. According to advisor Pam Cysner, Project 1 has taken a program that has died down and not only have they revived it, they have more students than they have ever had before. Their sensitivity to approaching the nature of the support for students who have come out or not come out is impressive. Since June, they have doubled the amount of times that they go to site and increased the number of activities they are doing. The Volunteer Center Fellows recognize that Project 1 works hard to meet the needs of the LGBT community that is prevalent in Los Angeles.
To learn more about Project 1, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.uclacommunityprograms.org/cposa/social-justice/project-1.html. More resources:
Queer Youth Empowerment Day
Models of Pride Conference
UCLA LGBTCRC Website & related campus events