Making a Difference in LGBTQ Lives  by  AJ Wolff

Manatee Gay Pride

We will put on our “Standing on the Side of Love” tees and join the celebration at the 4th Annual Manatee County Pride Festival on Saturday March 18th from noon to 6pm at Bradenton Riverwalk Pavilion area for an afternoon of fun, music, food and an opportunity to share our UU values at the MUUF booth.

MUUF’s Third Sunday Special Offering

The Special Collection in March will be March 19 and will benefit Prism Youth Initiative. This is a cause dear to my heart. I wish there had been such a place for my cousin in our youth when he tried to commit suicide because he was a transgender. Luckily it was a failed attempt, but a cry for help that was never really addressed. Today we talk about LGBTQ Equality but it is still very challenging to be a LGBTQ youth in these times. Please read on to learn about the important programs Prism offers.

Prism Youth Initiative is dedicated to supporting, affirming, encouraging and empowering the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13-23 of Manatee County. We are committed to doing this in an environment that is safe, hospitable, warm and welcoming.

Empowerment of our Youth

* Prism strives to empower our youth by facilitating Youth-led support groups.

* Prism provides advocacy and referrals for services. As well as education about bullying, suicide prevention, HIV prevention and other LGBTQ issues.

* Prism has a Youth Council which provides leadership training for our youth.

* Prism enhances our youth’s lives by involving them in community events as well as hosting field trips to theater, museums, etc.

* Prism provides a safe space for our youth ages13-23 to be themselves and build social support networks.

* Prism works with Manatee Children’s Services to provide services for youth ages 13-17

* Prism offers referrals for counseling if needed, that is provided (at no cost) by a licensed mental health counselor.

Prism is seeking donations to expand hours and fund a permanent Youth Center.

 

 Making a Difference in Cultural Diversity in Bradenton by Chris MacCormack

Bradenton is a community full of happy retired people, but there is also a struggling community of hard working people, recent immigrants, poor children and many people with special needs. According to Unidos Now the Hispanic population here is growing very rapidly. In this area, no one is surprised when a 75-year-old has a job or volunteers at Turning Point. Luckily, it seems to be recognized that the senior citizens in our area are still a vibrant part of society and have a lot to offer.

After I retired, I found I still needed structure in my life to get me going in the morning. I still needed the sense of satisfaction that I had done something useful with my day to help me sleep well at night. My one day a week volunteer teaching job at Project Light at 1104 14th St W, turned into a paid part-time director position last November. As a former Spanish and English teacher, I again work with wonderful appreciative students, and caring, mature and interesting teachers.

Project Light offers free classes ($30 registration fee to cover the cost of books) to immigrants in Bradenton 13 hours a week in the mornings or the evenings. We have farm workers, unemployed recent immigrants, landscapers, and well-educated immigrants who currently have jobs at Beall’s or McDonald’s from Mexico, many other Latin American countries, and Haiti. They range in age from 18- 89 and blend cheerfully in small group classes at five different levels of English.

Project Light is somewhat famous in Bradenton. This non-profit school, financed solely through donations and grants, was started 21 years ago by Sister Nora Brick and Ann and Ed Griffen as an English school that would be flexible enough to meet the schedules and complicated lives of immigrants. We still don’t

reprimand students that come 30 minutes late or disappear for three days or two months. My job is to help willing volunteers learn the ropes so they can teach a class once or twice a week on a regular schedule usually in the morning from 9-11:15. With all volunteer teachers, the students have a different teacher every day of the week. Certain teachers like discussing history or culture, explaining grammar, having casual conversation or playing games. The teachers communicate with a log and emails to stay coordinated regarding the work done in the textbooks. The teachers have told me that working at Project Light is a very enjoyable experience and many stay for years and years watching their students’ progress, go to college and get better jobs. Our youngest teacher is a 20-year-old SCF student and our oldest teacher is 84 with a Doctorate in Education.

I am glad that last November, I took the chance to fill my days again with worthwhile work. I don’t see why others my age should put excess value on their free time if they enjoy being part of a project, helping others with their talents, and perhaps earning some extra money. In summary, I would advise others, not to underestimate the possibilities in our community for them to find a place to serve and, at the same time, feel good about making a difference in Bradenton. If Project Light interests you, then speak to me, Carol Bearfield, Bernita Franzel, Jaime Canfield, Walter Pascal, Beverly Willis, or Judith Frye. They all have been working at Project Light as teachers or office support staff.