More: Be sure to read our news story on the young adults who will be featured in an upcoming panel discussion on youth leadership.
For over 17 years I have had the privilege of being an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Having been an LGBTQ leader as a young adult in college, I recall how difficult it was to find meaningful involvement in the local community beyond my campus group. Most community organizations would call on youth when it came to stuffing mailings, doing door-to-door canvassing or when they wanted us to attend various skills trainings. These are all good volunteer opportunities, but it often ended there.
What I quickly learned is that the youth involvement was by and large disingenuous. When it came to leadership roles, board positions and other meaningful involvement opportunities, young adults were often over-looked and neglected by these community organizations. The same is true today in Charlotte — and I believe it can be changed.
Take a moment and think how your organization does outreach to young adults. Ask if your Charlotte organization has active young adult members between the ages of 18-24 years-old. Do you have any young adults in leadership roles? Do you have a board member who is a young adult leader? Then ask, why not? Many of our Charlotte organizations strive to have vibrant membership and diversity. Does your organization prioritize young adults as a component to your outreach efforts and diversity?
Campus Pride believes that an organization does not need to be a young adult organization in order to actively involve young adults. On the contrary, community organizations that wish to have a vibrant membership with longevity should be actively engaging young adults at all levels of the organization. Young adults have acute perception, unique insights and immense capabilities. For any organization, young adults are an investment to help build sustainability and vigor for the future. Focusing on how to engage young adults is just plain common sense and should be part of every organizational strategic plan.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Campus Pride is organizing the first Charlotte community forum and panel discussion to explore the meaningful involvement of young adults within Charlotte LGBT organizations. The event will feature young adults from the Charlotte area and purposefully allow each of them to share their personal stories and interests. There are many misperceptions about young adults that the panel will explore along with the bad habits of how older adults treat younger people. The goal is to learn how your LGBT and ally organization can more effectively outreach to young adult communities in the Charlotte area. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, 2508 N. Davidson St.
Every day Campus Pride invests in young adult leaders in Charlotte and across the country. Our volunteer-driven network is “for” and “by” student leaders and we have a growing, active Charlotte network of young adult leaders. The fact of the matter is that all Charlotte organizations should have active young people who reflect our diverse community as part of their leadership, membership and decision-making processes. All Charlotte LGBT organizations, who believe that LGBTQ young adults matter, should be in attendance at the community forum and panel.
Campus Pride hopes to begin dialogue on this topic in an effort to educate about LGBTQ youth as well as to help other Charlotte organizations attract LGBTQ young people into their membership. Together let us show that young adults do matter to local Charlotte organizations. : :
— Shane L. Windmeyer, M.S., Ed., is a leading author on gay campus issues, national leader in gay and lesbian civil rights and a champion for LGBTQ issues on college campuses. He is co-founder and executive director of the Charlotte-based non-profit Campus Pride, the leading national organization for student leaders and campus organizations working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQ students. The organization coordinates the nation’s largest student-driven network focused on developing campus policies, practices and programs to support LGBTQ and ally students across the United States. Learn more about Campus Pride at campuspride.org.
info: Our “Community Voices” column is open to all community leaders, activists and community members who wish to share information about their organizations, activities, philosophies or news on recent events or happenings. Each column should be 600 words or less and can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Community Voices submission.”