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    50 Fund Shines Light on the SF LGBT Center’s Youth Program

    leftjBy Ruth McFarlane, JD MSW

    50 Fund, the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, has made a generous $10,000 contribution supporting the youth program at the SF LGBT Center and spotlights the transformative efforts of local queer youth activist and Center board member, Angel VanStark.

    A recipient of a 50 Fund Playmaker Grant, an award for change-making nonprofits and local leaders, the Center has used the funding to create an LGBT Youth Resource Guide. The Resource Guide is a youth-driven project that was created and produced by Center Youth Council leaders, a group of young community builders who participate in leadership training through the Center’s youth program. The SF LGBT Youth Resource Guide was the Center youth leaders’ response to a need they had identified among their peers. The guide provides an overview of city services that are most relevant to youth, including youth-identified safe spaces and tips on how to “thrive and survive” in San Francisco.

    The 50 Fund grant also spotlights VanStark as a local “playmaker.” VanStark was quickly identified as a leader when he first arrived in San Francisco as a 19-year-old in 2011 and began participating in youth programming at the Center. The Center helped VanStark get connected to basic resources—shelter, food and income—and provided an opportunity for him to begin to experience his own potential to create change in society for people who faced similar challenges being young, LGBT and marginalized.

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    One of the youth leaders who founded a YouthSpace at the Center, VanStark went on to serve on the San Francisco Youth Commission and as a board member for the Center. He is the State Director of the California Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council, a Speaker with the San Francisco LGBTQ Speakers Bureau, and a 2015 True Colors Fellow. In April 2015, he was named Best LGBTQ Youth Activist Under 25 by the Bay Area Reporter.

    As a city known for its highly visible LGBT population, San Francisco attracts large numbers of LGBT youth between the ages of 18 and 24. Local advocates estimate that there are as many as 1,500 homeless LGBT youth in San Francisco, most of whom are deeply marginalizeleft4d—disconnected from family, education and employment. Nearly 40% of unaccompanied homeless youth identify as LGBT. The Center’s youth program provides a safe, accepting, supportive place for over 400 youth annually to meet friends, form community and get the help and services they need to transform their lives. Through this grant, the 50 Fund is also shedding light on local playmakers and creating opportunities for our nonprofit organizations to continue helping the stars of this city to shine even more brightly.

    Ruth McFarlane, JD MSW, is the Director of Programs at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.