An educational program is being planned that will provide academic and other support services for LGBT at-risk youth, especially those living on the South Side.
The initiative, to be known as the Lorde Rustin Education & Social Justice Program, is being spearheaded by Bishop James E. Dukes of Pentecostal Liberation Christian Center, 6810 S. Ashland Ave., in conjunction with Prologue, Inc., which operates four programs in the city aimed at helping students who have dropped out of school but want to complete their education. Prologue also operates several alternative high schools in the city.
According to a press release, Dukes conceived the program after meeting with area youths, many of whom said they were both homeless and LGBT. "When I asked them why they were homeless, one of the youth said, 'I have a home. They [my parents] just don't want me there.'"
The initiative is not intended to be a "full-blown educational program," according to Dr. Nancy Jackson, CEO of Prologue. Rather, it will focus mainly on offering assistance to at-risk LGBT individuals aged 16-21 who are either completing work toward a high school diploma or trying to obtain a GED. Those individuals also will be able to access support services such as housing assistance, health care and job referrals.
Jackson added that she expects the program, which the principals hope to launch by September, to have a staff of about six or seven people. Activist Dr. Carla ( "C.C." ) Carter will serve as initiative coordinator.
"I think that it's important to remember that we now have an opportunity to do right by people who have told us they were not feeling welcome, and help them make a transition into higher education," Jackson said. "This idea came up before, and we would often be told that 'the community isn't ready'but now, when Illinois has marriage equality and the LGBT community has made so much progress, maybe it's time."