Our People: Q&A with Syeem Sanders

Teen leader becomes Time Out Youth board member

Being an LGBTQ teen isn’t always easy; in fact, it usually isn’t. But for students like Syeem Sanders, 17, with the ingenuity and ambition it takes to achieve, the resources are out there for the taking. Sanders was an ordinary high school student last year, a pansexual member of Vance High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). The Vance GSA enabled him to connect with Time Out Youth Center (TOY), a local non-profit focused on helping LGBTQ young people.

After over a year of involvement with TOY, Sanders was recently selected to sit on the organization’s Youth Board of Directors. He says he plans to use the new position “to help build a bridge between youth and adults,” enabling established advocates to better understand the trials faced by LGBTQ young people. Now a senior in high school, Sanders aspires to continue a life of service, compassion and advocacy for others.

After over a year of involvement with TOY, Sanders was recently selected to sit on the organization’s Youth Board of Directors. He says he plans to use the new position “to help build a bridge between youth and adults,” enabling established advocates to better understand the trials faced by LGBTQ young people. Now a senior in high school, Sanders aspires to continue a life of service, compassion and advocacy for others.

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What do you hope to contribute with your involvement in Time Out Youth?
Alongside with Time Out Youth, I hope to contribute not only a safe center for those in need, but to provide empathy to those on a personal level who may have fallen from bullying and torment.

How would you describe the atmosphere of your school or past schools in terms of how they feel for LGBTQ youth?
Most of the schools that I have either visited or attended mainly had a negative or antipathetic atmosphere around any form/topic of the LGBTQ+ community. Though, programs such as Teach For America and Prism have helped teachers understand the situations and aid students who have been discouraged to change the school’s environment.

Of the teachers you’ve had, who stood out to you and why?
At Vance, the teachers who stood out the most to me are Ms. Dutton, Mr. Impton, and Señor Duckery, because they have encouraged me to go beyond our school’s boundaries and create change on a higher level. They’ve helped begin the process of change in our school through our GSA and much more.

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Do you have specific goals or aspirations for the future?
In the near future, I aspire to major in therapeutic recreation so I may continue and complete my goal of providing assistance for people in need of all ages, not as a career, but as a person with a heart of kindness and patience.

Aside from LGBTQ issues, are there other causes or issues that are important to you?
Aside from LGBTQ+ issues, I feel that People of Color and Feminism need to become more of a vital focus point as they are becoming more attacked, and not respected as much as they truly need to be.

Picture your “happy place.” What do you see?
My definition of a Happy Place is honestly just a space where people may come to an agreement to set aside their differences and instead bring joy along with love to the table.

Who or what has been your biggest motivator or inspiration? How so?
My biggest motivator in life has been my grandfather. He’s always told me to strive above and beyond. I remember back when I was younger, I saw him in a newspaper article and always wanted to achieve the same thing as he did. Now, that dream has become a reality.

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