Based in the Washington, DC metro area, SMYAL supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth ages 6-24. Through youth leadership, SMYAL creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills, and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. Committed to social change, SMYAL builds, sustains, and advocates for programs, policies, and services that LGBTQ youth need as they grow into adulthood.
SMYAL recognizes that no matter the year or time in history, LGBTQ youth will continue to need a safe and affirming environment to explore how their identities intersect their role as leaders and advocates in the community. At SMYAL, youth not only have a safe and welcoming place to be who they are, but are provided with the tools, resources, and support to develop as leaders dedicated to social change.
SMYAL works in communities to provide education to over 2,000 teachers, social workers, youth workers, and medical professionals. The trainings seek to enhance culturally competent services and safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. SMYAL also advocates on behalf of LGBTQ youth to government leaders, stakeholders, and the community.
SMYAL leadership programs are designed to equip young people with the skills, resources, and support they need to enact change as the leaders of tomorrow and today.
Training and Conferences
SMYAL builds the capacity of young LGBTQ leaders through facilitating workshops for schools, GSA clubs, and youth groups. In addition, SMYAL hosts an annual Activist Camp, which in 2020, became its first virtual Rise Up! Youth Organizing Conference. Leading with Pride, an annual conference hosted in partnership with DC Public Schools, convenes 100+ LGBTQ student leaders to network, lead, and attend workshops.
Health Fellowship Program
A select group of youth trained in safer sex methods, HIV prevention, and LGBTQ sex education serve as sources of information, role models, and trusted friends by facilitating workshops for schools, community-based organizations, and the SMYAL community.
Youth Leadership Awards
Launched in 2015, the Youth Leadership Awards recognize the perseverance it takes to be an out leader in their community. Each award comes with up to $5,000 in financial aid to help reduce the financial burden of continuing their education. Meet Youth Fellow and former Youth Leadership Award winner Monet Umana.
A paid Youth Fellowship program enables queer and trans youth to gain professional development experience working within a nonprofit. Meet 2022 Youth Fellow Jesse Steinberg.
Opened in October 2021, SMYAL’s Clinical Services Department provides up to 50 LGBTQ youth a week with bilingual affirming and accessible mental health counseling. Services include individual therapy, group sessions, and alternative therapies such as trauma-informed yoga and sound healing. All services are open to LGBTQ youth ages 6-24 at no cost. In addition, the program trains clinical interns to be the next generation of affirming therapists.
In September 2022, SMYAL launched a new street outreach program serving LGBTQ members of the Latinx/Latina community. The program connects youth to culturally appropriate, language-accessible, resources including housing, legal support, and vital documents. SMYAL is already working with 26 Spanish-speaking youth. Please help us serve more youth and continue to fill gaps in services.
In early 2022, SMYAL launched two housing expansions, making it the largest LGBTQ youth housing provider in the region!
The Healthcare and Housing Program—a demonstration project created in partnership with the DC Department of Health (DOH)—provides beds and case management for up to eight residents at a time. What sets it apart from SMYAL’s other programs is that residents directly access health services through DOH, tying together healthcare and housing to reduce negative health outcomes and decrease homelessness. Program data collected by DOH will be incorporated into reports and shared with youth housing policymakers across the country.
A Rapid Rehousing Program accommodates at least 15 youth experiencing homelessness. Unlike SMYAL’s existing programs, where residents move into a shared apartment-style building, youth in Rapid Rehousing sign their name to a lease on their own apartment. The program is designed for youth who are ready to take that next step towards independence, while still having access to SMYAL’s case managers.
SMYAL works to ensure that queer and trans youth have safe spaces to be their authentic selves:
Virtual Drop-in Programs include identity-based chat spaces, topic deep dives, and kick-back nights where queer and trans youth can build community in supportive and affirming spaces.
Little SMYALs programming for LGBTQ youth ages 6-12 includes art and crafts, enrichment activities, story time, and all-around fun as well as support services in a safe and welcoming environment for youth and parents.