ALSO Youth Center Brings Back Prom Night
In today’s society, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth of Sarasota find their community to be a less hostile place compared to those who were forced to hide their sexuality far from the maddening crowd in less enlightened times.
And although the society we live in is less than perfect when it comes to accepting LGBT youth, Sarasota’s ALSO Youth drop-in center embraces the challenge in a way that highlights positivity while acknowledging reality.
“The ALSO Youth center is a very safe, non-judgmental environment for our community’s LGBT youth,” explained ALSO’s executive director Donna Hanley.
“The kids come here and find encouragement and comfort. These are still challenging times for our youth; they are often victims of bullying or rejection.”
As with all non-profit organizations, ALSO Youth works within tight budgets. But behind the scenes creative minds have been at work to relieve some of those constraints as ALSO Youth board member Mark Steinwachs explained.
“Our annual gala this year has a prom night theme,” he said.
The ALSO Gala: Prom 2014 is, according to Steinwachs, simply a chance for everyone who supports ALSO Youth to come out and have some fun.
The event will also highlight Stand Up Sarasota, an anti-bullying campaign aimed at LGBT youth.
The genesis of the gala came about from ALSO’s alternative youth prom held at the Out of Door Academy earlier this year.
“The event attracted over 100 high school seniors from 13 different schools,” said Steinwachs. “Everyone danced with whoever they wanted to – everyone had a relaxed time.”
And so it was decided to organize another prom, this time with a slightly more sedate pace.
“The board felt it was a great idea to give ALSO Youth’s supporters a chance to have another prom night but on their terms,” said Steinwachs. “Everyone can re-live a few memories and arrive with the partner they choose.
“Most of our supporters are older and their high school experience was far different from today’s prom night,” Steinwachs continued.
For some of ALSO Youth’s supporters who have lived together with a same-sex partner for many years, the gala provides a heartfelt opportunity that couldn’t be realized in a different era.
“Many of our volunteers have told me they’ve have never had a slow dance with their partner – they could have been together for 30 years, but the moment as never ‘right’. The gala is a night for celebration.”
For Steinwachs, 2014 has been a “pivotal” year.
“The organization has a lot to celebrate,” he said. “ALSO Youth is at an important moment in its history. We feel that so many things are possible now; we have more time to reach out to the community and help everyone who needs our help and advice.”
Hanley agreed, adding, “Our youth are so courageous and brave but when they come out and it puts them at a higher emotional risk – it’s a grey area of upheaval. But they can come to the drop-center and talk about their problems and successes. We’re not therapists, but we can lend a sympathetic ear.”
For further information about ALSO Youth and the 2014 prom night, visit: