Summer is over and the kids are back to school! This can be an exciting - yet stressful - time for both students and parents. What can make it even more stressful is when you don't know what resources are available for your LGBTQ+ child.
If you are the parent or guardian of a LGBTQ+ student, you'll most likely understand what it's like to worry about whether or not your child is being treated fairly at school. Many students on this spectrum have been at risk for things like bulling, harassment, and discrimination. Not only is this disruptive to their education, but also to their mental health and physical safety. Research shows that having support at home, school, and in their community is the strongest defense against attempted suicide among LGBTQ+ youth - and that is why we wanted to spotlight a fellow nonprofit that is doing their part in helping young people in their community get that much-needed support.
Who is the Equality Crew?
The Equality Crew is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides and/or identifies resources and referrals for LGBTQ+ youth, from PreK through high school, and their allies, including parents/caregivers, near peers, LGBTQ+ adults, teachers and community members in Northwest Arkansas and the surrounding areas.
The Equality Crew was founded in April 2021 by a 14-year-old transgender Arkansan named Phoenix. He recognized the need for LGBTQ+ youth to have a strong and supportive community. “I realized there are tons of organizations that support LGBTQ+ adults but very few focused on kids. Instead of waiting for it to happen, I decided to take it into my own hands because I believe that everyone deserves to live in a world that is equal.”
It's safe to say that Phoenix and Hunter are great examples of how teens can make a significant positive impact on their communities when given the opportunity and platform to do so!
According to their website: "Phoenix rallied the support of community leaders to create an LGBTQ+ led board and officially launched The Equality Crew at Siloam Pride in June 2021, and then welcomed over 75 LGBTQ+ youth and allies for its first event in July. The Equality Crew established the state’s first and only Affirming Teacher and School Staff Database ahead of the 2021-22 school year so LGBTQ+ students could identify and connect with affirming teachers in their school building, with over 200 teachers and staff from across the state joining the database within the first quarter of the school year."
You might recognize someone else from their team from a webinar we held last year. In June 2021, Michael Bennett-Spears (he/him) was kind enough to join us for our webinar about how we can better support the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. You can watch the webinar recording by clicking this link.
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The Equality Crew created this free online resource book to help guide students and their guardians through the beginning of this new school year.
The Back to School Guide for LGBTQ+ Students and Families contains back to school tips and resources for anyone facing discrimination/bullying, inspirational bits to encourage young people to embrace their identities, and breathing exercises to try during times of stress!
Plus, they have created an amazing new resource for those they serve in the community of Northwest Arkansas - an online database of affirming teachers and school staff. This unique resource connects NW Arkansas LGBTQ+ youth with affirming teachers and school staff in their school building, and it is completely confidential. All families have to do is fill out a confidential form to receive a list with the name, grade/subject and email address of an affirming teacher or school staff in their attending school building.
While the Equality Crew currently only serves the NWA area, our team at the Digging Deep Project wanted to share what they do as an example of how other communities can make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth.
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Do you have a local or nationwide nonprofit you want to give a shout-out to? Email our community manager at firstname.lastname@example.org about it!