Hi! My name is Amber Hikes and I am a Master’s candidate in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m interning at Equality Advocates this year and helping out with the Youth Law Project.
This project is so important because LGBT youth face an arsenal of discrimination in their everyday lives. Regardless of where they reside geographically, they are no strangers to school harassment, employment discrimination and even police brutality. In order to provide services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and families in Pennsylvania, Equality Advocates recently employed a new lawyer, Katie Stewart, and took on a social work intern (me) to focus solely on this population. The Youth Law Project (YLP) strives to provide direct legal services, advocacy, education and outreach to children and youth affected by anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bias in Pennsylvania.
To bring in more clients, we’ve designed a presentation with scenarios and interactive discussions for participants. This presentation highlights typical discrimination and harassment situations in school, at work, and at home and allows the youth to discuss their experiences with their peers. Within the presentation, Katie and I also take time to respond to youth questions and provide insight on how to effectively address and handle discrimination issues from a legal and social work perspective. Since it is such a new concept, Katie and I are working on creating brochures and flyers about the project. We are also visiting support groups and youth centers throughout the state. Last month, we did a big workshop at the Attic Youth Center here in Philly. This was an awesome presentation because Jake and Aidan joined us. Attic youth came out and so did representatives from Rainbow Room in Bucks County. The participants discussed the details of real-life scenarios called “Ring the Alarm” and “No More Drama”. The event was a great time and there will be many more like it in the future. With these efforts, we hope to encourage LGBT youth to call the agency’s legal hotline for legal advice or representation.
Although the project is in its infancy, the YLP is a strong program geared towards long-term results and success with the LGBT youth population. The project seeks to address a wide variety of individuals. These youth, with diverse backgrounds, experiences and skill sets should all be able to find a place within the Youth Law Project. Whether it be through legal advice, education or even direct representation, the unprecedented services of the Youth Law Project offer valuable aid for many LGBT youth.