Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City is reaching out to LGBTQ youth in the five boroughs through a new initiative called Big Pride.
Across New York City, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) serves more than 5,500 young people each year, and though the organization has certainly mentored LGBTQ youth before, it’s tweaking its approach to better help that community.
“It’s really intentional programming to allow for more of a dialogue, so these young people can feel more supported, so they can have more self confidence, have a better relationship with their families,” said Hector Batista, chief executive officer of BBBS of NYC.
“This population is a little bit more vulnerable,” he added. “They’re most likely to be bullied, they’re having problems with the law — they’re not being accepted, in some cases, by their own families, which can be a pretty traumatic thing. It’s a real challenge.”
BBBS specifically looked into LGBTQ-focused services after doing an internal audit, Batista said, and noticed that within the organization itself, LGBTQ kids weren’t faring as well as others.
Ninety-nine percent of Littles get promoted to the next school grade, but for the LGBTQ population, that rate was 92 percent. That’s still good, Batista acknowledged, but not good enough.
About 20 percent of the LGBTQ kids currently in BBBS said that they thought they could never graduate from high school. To Batista, that number was “unacceptable.” For BBBS’s general population, 99 percent of Littles who are seniors graduate.
It also took a little while to launch Big Pride, Batista said, because he wanted to make sure he carried out a “listening tour” to hear from organizations in the LGBTQ community and from LGBTQ youth directly.
Through Big Pride, LGBTQ kids will be matched for one-on-one mentorship, but they’ll also get to participate in group sessions, led by social workers, so they can meet other LGBTQ kids and, hopefully, feel less alone.
“I think it’s about creating a safe space for these young people that allows them to take pride in who they are and allows them to be able to talk about some of their challenges,” Batista said. “It’s going to be able to help these young people do better and understand things a little bit better.”
BBBS also wanted to match more LGBTQ Littles with LGBTQ Bigs, so mentors can share their coming out stories and speak to these kids with more personal experience.
“Our organization has been around since 1904 and for 115 years, we’ve been focused on serving kids,” Batista said. “No matter what. No matter who they are and how they identify themselves, we support kids.”