The Community Education & Prevention Program at Sierra Community House provides violence prevention education to adults and youth in the Tahoe-Truckee Area. Our Youth Empowerment Groups at local schools support young people and help them connect, learn, and grow.
Youth Empowerment Groups are held for 4th grade through high school aged students and meet weekly for 10 sessions. Students are usually chosen for the group by the counselor and/or teachers, and space is provided on-campus or online for the group to meet. These groups are intended to provide a safe space for students to discuss topics relevant to their lives, such as healthy friendships and relationships, mental health, and communication skills. With each Youth Empowerment Group being unique, the facilitator(s) refer to a variety of curricula to provide the most relevant and interesting topics and activities specific to each group.
Occasionally, schools express the need for a Youth Empowerment Group to be focused on a specific affinity, for example students who have experienced loss or students who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. The Community Education & Prevention Program recently facilitated an LGBTQ+ Youth Empowerment Group for students at Incline High School. The counselor at Incline High School identified a need for these students to have a safe and inclusive space to discuss topics specific to their lives.
During the months of April, May, and June, we met weekly with the same group of 10 high school students who were selected by their counselor to participate in the Incline High LGBTQ+ Youth Empowerment Group. The facilitators provided various presentations and online activities to engage the students in topics they wanted to learn more about, such as gender identities, intersectionality, and intimate partner violence within LGBTQ+ relationships. This LGBTQ+ Youth Empowerment Group was very successful among the students who participated. In fact, we were invited to work with the Incline High School counselor to start a year-long LGBTQ+ Group during the upcoming 2021/2022 school year.
The success of this Youth Empowerment Group, and the fact that there is a need to continue meetings into the next school year, highlights how crucial it is to provide safe, inclusive spaces for students of different identities and experiences to connect, learn, and grow together.