Grant for Good

Verizon award to help SMYAL foster healthy relationships for LGBT youth

by Will O’Bryan
Published on May 19, 2011, 2:37am | Comments

Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation announced May 13 that they have awarded a $20,000 grant to D.C.'s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) to help the LGBT youth-advocacy organization promote healthy relationships.

''We're proud to provide funding to SMYAL, an organization that has changed the lives of countless youth in our area,'' said Mike Maiorana, president of Verizon Wireless's Washington-Baltimore-Virginia region, as quoted in a release announcing the funding. ''Dating violence is a on the rise and often goes unreported. By funding important outreach programs like SMYAL's, we're hoping to reach at-risk teens and encourage them to speak out, seek help and help stop the cycle of teen dating violence.''

Andrew Barnett, SMYAL's executive director, says the funding will be used for his organization's Women's Leadership Institute. That program, he adds, was launched last year due to strong need, despite no dedicated funding.

''It's a comprehensive youth-leadership program for young women,'' he says, adding that the full program is four-weeks long. ''A key theme is healthy relationships. We make sure we're addressing intimate-partner and domestic violence.

''Very often, funds for LGTBQ youth focus on HIV prevention. That's very important, but those funding sources often focus on the needs of young men. The needs of LBTQ young women are often overlooked, unfortunately.''

While young women participating in the program will focus on healthy relationships, Barnett adds that a component of that includes community outreach. Last year, that meant volunteering at Food & Friends and participating in a Fannie Mae walkathon. This year, participants will collect used cell phones for the Verizon Hopeline. Those phones will be refurbished and offered to victims of intimate-partner violence (IPV) to ensure they have access to help.