Supporting Refugee and Migrant Children

Picture of children

Families and children from across the world are escaping to our borders in the hopes of living in a country where they will be safe from harm and have opportunities for a successful future. These children and families are changing the landscape of immigration as we know it. In the past few years, the immigrant population has shifted dramatically at our southwest border from 90% single adult Mexican men to 60% families and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) from Central America.

Women with two children

Maritza Flores with her two daughters

The increasing anti-immigration rhetoric in the U.S. portrays immigrants as dangerous criminals, but gangs, drug trafficking, corruption, and weak national laws all contribute to the prolific violence that is sending families and children running for protection. Conditions are so bad that in 2016, Honduras and El Salvador even had the two highest rates of homicide in the entire world. Maritza Flores, who traveled to the U.S. border in 2018, said in an interview,

“Many people think we left because we are criminals. We’re not criminals – we’re people living in fear in our countries. All we want is a place where our children can run free – where they’re not afraid to go out to the shops.”

Children who leave their countries in the wake of trauma and make the long journey to the U.S. find themselves re-traumatized upon arrival at the border and at risk of severe mental health and development challenges. On the southern side of the border, metering practices at ports of entry have resulted in long wait times in dangerous, squalid refugee camps, prompting families and children to make the difficult decision whether to cross the river and enter illegally, or stay where they are for an indefinite amount of time, potentially endangering their lives. On the U.S. side of the border, however, conditions are barely better. If traveling as a family unit, children may be separated from their guardians. Additionally, UACs and accompanied children alike often find themselves in detention centers long past the legal limit of 72 hours, resulting in dangerous health environments and even death.

What Can We Do?

There is no easy fix to the immigration crisis; it will require a collaboration across borders to address the root causes in violent, war-torn countries in Central American as well as throughout the world. The voices of refugee children escaping violence in other parts of the world, including Africa and the Middle East, have been quieted at the moment due to less news coverage and stricter policies that prevent many from entering the U.S. and telling their stories. But we cannot forget them, and while we in our communities may not be able to solve the world’s crises, we can at least care for and support the world’s children.

We can support the children trying to reach our borders and support their well-being in every step of the immigration process. Importantly as well, we can help those who are beginning new lives in the U.S. as they navigate the challenges of integrating into our schools and communities. We need to protect and restore their mental health, give them the support they need to succeed, and eradicate hateful discrimination against them.

Advertisement for webinarThese children are our future. Everyone from community members to professionals to educators can help. Join us for our Alliance for Positive Youth Development Best Practices for Youth Conferences on August 5-7, as we discuss this issue further and learn best practices for supporting refugee and migrant children. The second day of workshops is devoted to this topic and includes an expert Q&A panel featuring Bhairavi Asher, Children’s Representation Project Managing Attorney at ImmDef, and Nicolas Hernandez, Organizing Director at RAICES Texas. Following this will be a presentation by Sarah Kim Pak, UCLA Public Service Fellow at the National Immigration Law Center. Register for free at



Education Reform: Redefining School Safety & Violence Prevention

Kid in front of a school gate

School shootings have become rising occurrences that have plagued American culture. In fact, school safety has been a growing issue around the world. About 150 million 13 to 15-year-old students worldwide have said they experience violence in the form of physical fights, bullying, physical punishment by teachers, or attacks on classrooms and campuses. This is an attack on our most vulnerable, yet most important population. Increasing safety means redefining what school safety and violence prevention mean.

One proposed response to school violence is increased security—armed teachers, school security, or police officers on campuses. Equipping teachers with guns, police with guns, and having more guns on campus is essentially fighting guns and violence with more guns and violence. While I understand that could be appropriate in very specific situations (e.g., when schools are under attack), there are negative implications of having armed authority on campuses. Teachers are often not adequately trained, and minorities often bear the brunt of punishment when armed authority is placed in schools. Minorities are more likely to be treated as adults and viewed as a threat. Accordingly, minorities are more likely to be involved in “in school” arrests or referred to law enforcement. Ultimately, research shows that there are increased risks to children when there is the presence of a gun, and we should do whatever we can to reduce this possibility.

An appropriate response to school safety and violence prevention may not be armed protection on campuses. Instead, a better response may be instilling mental health education and services in schools and changing the culture of the environment of schools. Looking at the problem as we have traditionally, elicits responses that typically reflect political agendas, false narratives, groupthink, and band-aid surface-level solutions. When kids are facing threats at school, it is a time to come together, think like social workers, and come up with real solutions that will create sustainable change.

Prioritizing Mental Health in Schools

School Social Worker PictureAn appropriate response to school safety and violence prevention should come from the consideration of big-picture thinking, systems analysis, and bio-psycho-social analysis. As a social worker, I advocate for looking at problems from a “systems” approach so that we can create effective and holistic solutions. This often requires redefining the “problem.” While school violence has been on the rise, youth mental health statistics have as well. In fact, mental health problems are a risk factor for school violence, though not the cause. This tells us that maybe school safety and violence prevention is a school climate problem.

Therefore, a more appropriate response to school violence may be paying more attention to incorporating mental health education in schools, teaching kids positive conflict resolution skills, and developing a positive conflict culture. We teach physical education in schools as a requirement a part of the curriculum. When are we going to prioritize mental health education and make it a part of the curriculum as well? Schools that have made this attempt have shown favorable results so far. School-based mental health programs have resulted in reduced anxiety, improved grades, lowered substance abuse rates, and reduced school bullying. Essentially, mental health education programs in schools can help prevent violence and create a positive learning environment.

Our focus should be empowering youth to make better decisions, improving relations, and creating the change we want. The solution is to invest in our youth. Instead of looking at “go-to” solutions and legal remedies, let’s try education reform—it’s the social work way.

Ready to Learn More?

For further discussion, join us for the Alliance for Positive Youth Development Conference (APYDCON) happening August 5-7, 2019. The first day of workshops will focus on School Safety and Improving School Climate. The first event will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Aaron Kupchik, Juvenile Justice/Sociology Professor at the University of Delaware, and Robert Hernandez, Senior Lecturer at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Dept of Children Youth and Families. Following this session will be a presentation by Andrea Vasquez, Co-Director of the Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network in Toronto, Canada. The panel and presentation will offer tangible solutions to help create safe school environments. Register for this free unique virtual conference at

Flyer of APYDCON 2019




Puerto Rico After María: Sicómoro Inc.

Sicomoro Inc is a Christian faith based organization helping the children and families in Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria

Sicómoro Inc. is a Christian based organization that started in 2005 in Barrio Obrero, Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and serves disadvantaged communities. This organization provides bible studies, educational workshops, and food and clothing banks. Sicómoro Inc. has worked with the communities of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane María. Volunteers from Sicómoro helped after Hurricane María by cleaning homes, restoring access in roads, and distributing food and water. This organization also provides educational and recreational services for youth and children. Sicómoro Inc. promotes social values, build self-esteem and promotes activism and leadership in the youth by preparing them through involvement in the different programs and services. After Hurricane María, resources have become more limited and like other nonprofit organizations, Sicómoro is facing challenges with sustainability due to the economic crisis.

Help Puerto Rico Rebuild

Sicómoro Inc. is an excellent example of the impact Hurricane María had in local agencies in the Island, and how organizations have cope to serve their communities. One great way to support Puerto Rico is to continue to support a specific cause.  To support Sicómoro Inc., you can visit their website, or you can visit “Con Puerto Rico en el corazón” (with Puerto Rico in our heart) to purchase a shirt-100% of the sales are used for their programs. Our organization, SISGI Group Beyond Good Ideas Foundation also has a Hurricane fund where you can donate and support Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.

View the video below for an interview with Julio Gonzalez from Sicómoro Inc., and click here to watch the rest of the “Voices4PR” video series.


Versión En Español

Sicómoro Inc. es una organización de base cristiana que comenzó en 2005 en Barrio Obrero, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Esta organización proporciona estudios bíblicos, talleres educativos, y maneja un banco de comida y un banco de ropa para la comunidad. Sicómoro Inc. ha trabajado con las comunidades en Puerto Rico antes y después del huracán María. Los voluntarios de Sicómoro ayudaron después del huracán María limpiando casas, restaurando el acceso a las carreteras, distribuyeron alimentos y agua a quienes lo necesitaban. Esta organización también ofrece servicios educativos y recreativos para jóvenes y niños. Sicómoro Inc. promueve los valores sociales, fomenta la autoestima, promueve el activismo y el liderazgo en la juventud al prepararlos a través de la participación en los diferentes programas y servicios. Como cualquier otra organización sin fines de lucro, el desafío de Sicómoro es la sostenibilidad debido a la crisis económica, y después de María, los recursos se han vuelto más limitados y los voluntarios necesitan apoyo.

Sicómoro Inc. es un excelente ejemplo del impacto que tuvo el huracán María en las agencias locales de la isla, y de cómo las organizaciones se las arreglan para poder servir. Una excelente manera de apoyar a Puerto Rico es continuar apoyando una causa específica. Hay muchas áreas en las que Puerto Rico necesita ayuda, y tal vez usted pueda brindar apoyo a través de conexiones y recursos que puedan satisfacer necesidades específicas. Para respaldar a Sicómoro Inc., puede visitar el sitio web o visitar ‘Con Puerto Rico en el corazón’ y donar. Nuestra organización, Sisgi Group BGI Foundation tiene un fondo para huracanes para donar y apoyar a Puerto Rico.


Puerto Rico After María: Relief for Puerto Rico

Relief for Puerto Rico is in need of services and donations to help rebuilt Puerto Rico

Relief for Puerto Rico (Relief4PR) was established due to the need for reputable organizations able to distribute supplies and resources after Hurricane Maria impacted the Island. Relief for Puerto Rico works as a collaborator with other organizations and people’s donations, by distributing supplies like food and water. In Puerto Rico, the pipes distributing water work with electricity and if people don’t have electric power, they don’t have water. Relief for Puerto Rico is working to replace fossil fuel equipment with renewable solar energy. The intent to promote renewable solar energy is having some obstacles, starting with the new tax on solar technology imposed by the president of the United States, Donald Trump. This new tax obligates Puerto Rico distributors and companies to only purchase to Americans suppliers, and impose a rise of 30% increase in imports on solar energy materials. Relief for Puerto Rico and other agencies are looking to partner with other organizations to provide the needs in the hard to reach communities on the center of the Island and on Vieques y Culebra.

Puerto Rico Needs Your Help

If you would like to partner or donate to Relief for Puerto Rico, please visit their website at To become a short-term $25 monthly donor, visit the SISGI Group Beyond Good Ideas Foundation Hurricane Fund. The SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation will provide mini-grants and supplies to individuals and community-based groups in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands to help meet their needs, and supplies to begin to rebuild their lives. There are no operating costs and 100% of the fund is used directly to support residents and communities recovering from the hurricane. 

View the video below for an interview with Betsy Collazo from Relief for Puerto Rico.

Versión En Español

Relief4PR (alivio para Puerto Rico) se estableció debido a la necesidad de contar con organizaciones acreditadas capaces de distribuir suministros y recursos después de que el huracán María impactó a la isla. Esta organización trabaja como colaborador con otras agencias y como distribuidor de las donaciones de personas, de cosas como alimentos, agua y alcanzando comunidades que no tienen actualmente electricidad. En Puerto Rico, las tuberías que distribuyen el agua funcionan con electricidad y si las personas no tienen energía eléctrica tampoco tienen agua. Esta organización también está trabajando para reemplazar equipos que utilizan combustible fósil por equipos que utilizan la energía solar renovable. La intención de promover la energía solar renovable está teniendo algunos obstáculos, comenzando con el nuevo impuesto a la tecnología solar que impuso el actual presidente de los Estados Unidos, Donald Trump. Este nuevo impuesto obliga a los distribuidores y empresas de Puerto Rico a comprar solo a proveedores estadounidenses e impone un aumento del 30% en las importaciones de materiales de energía solar. Relief4PR y otras agencias están buscando y tratando de asociarse con otras organizaciones para satisfacer las necesidades de las comunidades que no son accesibles y que se encuentran en el centro de la isla. Esto incluye las islas de Vieques y Culebra.

Puerto Rico necesita su ayuda. Si desea asociarse o donar, visite y también visite SISGI Group para obtener información sobre nuestro fondo para huracanes.


Puerto Rico After María: Tarps for My People

relief after hurricane maria

One goal of the SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation #Voices4PR social media campaign is to raise awareness of the current situation in Puerto Rico. Many families in Puerto Rico are still without electricity stability, clean water, roofs, and resources to satisfy other basic needs. The mental health traumatic effects after María are still untreated, and the suicide rates continue to rise after Hurricane María. The suicide hotline rate increased 246% from people who attempted suicide, and 83% of people who had suicide ideation. Not only the people who were affected by hurricane María need mental health services, but the existing network of mental health providers are in need of psychological support too. As a SISGI intern, I had the opportunity of interviewing three representatives of organizations working on the ground to help rebuild Puerto Rico. The organization’s Tarps for My People, Relief for Puerto Rico, and Sicómoro Inc. are working on specific causes and have direct contact with the people in need of services. 

After hurricane Maria, 370,000 homes did not have a roof, and FEMA only repaired 75,000 homes. Unfortunately, this situation has left hundreds of homes without roofs and resources. Experts predict Puerto Rico’s rebuilt process will take around ten years. Tarps for My People began three weeks after the impact of Hurricane Maria when the nonprofit founder, Amarilis Gonzalez, watched an elder couple taking their clothes and mattress out to sundry every morning on her way to work. After experiencing and observing how people without roofs were struggling daily, Amarilis wrote a Facebook post where she expressed her frustration about the delaying relief response. Soon after, Tarps for My People started installing tarps for the houses without roofs. After a year of service, the organization has been able to build trust with the communities and use social media as a channel to connect and network with other organizations. Tarps for My People biggest challenges are: they only work on Saturdays due to the need of volunteers, the need of a truck to mobilize the materials, and the ability to have carpenters available to work for free.

If you would like to contribute and lower the expected years it will take for Puerto Rico to rebuilt, and help families in need; you can go to to donate to this organization. You can also donate to our Beyond Good Ideas Foundation Hurricane Fund at There are no operating costs and 100% of the fund goes directly to individuals and community-based organizations impacted by the hurricane.

View the following video for an interview with Tarps for My People Founder, Amarilis Gonzalez.

Versión En Español

El principal objetivo de la #Voices4PR campaña en las redes sociales es crear conciencia sobre la situación actual que los puertorriqueños continúan viviendo aún después de un año del huracán María. Hay muchas familias sin energía eléctrica, agua limpia, techos y sin recursos para satisfacer sus necesidades básicas. El trauma que dejó el paso del huracán María y el efecto que tuvo en la salud mental de muchos puertorriqueños son consecuencias de la negligencia de un gobierno que no se preocupa en preparar y educar al pueblo para enfrentar un desastre natural de esta magnitud. Después de María muchos puertorriqueños todavía no reciben el cuidado médico y el tratamiento de salud mental adecuado para poder superar el trauma, los daños y pérdidas. La tasa de la línea directa PAS (Primera Ayuda Psicosocial) del Departamento de Salud aumentó 22,500 llamadas más que en el año 2016. De esta cantidad de llamadas, 24.607 fueron de personas con ideas de suicidio y 7,456 fueron de personas con intentos de suicidios. Puerto Rico es la tercera jurisdicción de Estados Unidos con mayores problemas de salud mental, no solo las personas afectadas por el huracán María necesitan servicios de salud mental, sino que la red existente de proveedores de servicios de salud mental también necesita apoyo psicológico. Tuve la oportunidad de entrevistar a tres representantes de organizaciones que trabajan en la isla directamente, tratando de ayudar a reconstruir a Puerto Rico. Las organizaciones “Relief for Puerto Rico”, Toldos pa’ mi Gente  y Sicómoro Inc., están trabajando en causas específicas y tienen contacto directo con las comunidades y las personas que necesitan los servicios. 

Después del huracán María, 370,000 casas no tenían techo y FEMA solo reparó 75,000 casas. Desafortunadamente, esta situación deja a cientos de hogares sin techo y recursos que han sido provistos por organizaciones como Toldos pa’ mi Gente. Los expertos predicen que el proceso de reconstrucción de Puerto Rico tomará alrededor de diez años. Toldos pa’ mi Gente comenzó tres semanas después del impacto del huracán María. Amarilis González, es una de los muchos puertorriqueños que sentía empatía y dolor al observar todos los días camino al trabajo a una pareja de ancianos sacar su colchón para secarlo al sol, por que no tenían techo en su hogar. Después de experimentar y observar cómo las personas sin techo luchaban diariamente, escribió una publicación en Facebook, donde expresó su frustración por la respuesta tardía para ayudar a los puertorriqueños. Toldos pa’mi Gente, comenzó solo instalando toldos azules enviados por diásporas y organizaciones que deseaban ayudar. Después de un año, la organización ha podido demostrar y construir una gran reputación en las comunidades donde han servido.

Esta organización, como otras organizaciones en Puerto Rico, enfrentan muchos desafíos, uno de ellos es que solo trabajan los sábados debido a la necesidad de voluntarios, la necesidad de un camión para movilizar los materiales y la capacidad de tener carpinteros disponibles para trabajar gratis. Si desea contribuir y reducir los años que tardará el reconstruir a Puerto Rico, y poder ayudar a las familias necesitadas, vaya a para donar para esta organización. Además, nuestra organización SISGI Group, tiene el sitio web del fondo para huracanes


Puerto Rico After María: The Exodus from Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had the largest exodus in island history. Currently, 500,000 Puerto Ricans have left the Island in the past decade. I am part of the group of Puerto Ricans who left the island in search for better opportunities. The island of Puerto Rico, like other countries, is going through a social, political and reconstruction crisis. Puerto Rico has been part of the United States of America since 1898, and Puerto Ricans have been American Citizens since 1917. Citizenship was granted through the Jones Act. The political crisis affecting Puerto Rico, from the local government in the Island to Congress involvement on the decisions about the island economic problems have contributed to the political identity crisis for many Puerto Ricans. Since Puerto Rico does not have voting representation in Congress, this social media campaign will give Puerto Ricans a platform for their voice on the conversation. The intent is to motivate Puerto Ricans who are in the mainland to go to their political representatives to exhort participation and support from the U.S. Congress and government officials.

View the following videos to hear from Puerto Ricans that left the island after Hurricane Maria.

Many Puerto Ricans will not agree with the idea of Puerto Rico becoming a State and may have valid points, but I believe Puerto Rico has the right to a voice and vote on the Congress and in presidential elections. One of the main reasons the name of this campaign is #voices4PR is the missing voice of 3.3 million Americans who live at this US territory without being able to decide about their future. Congresswoman Jennifer González Colón is the Resident Commissioner and Puerto Rico’s representative to the US Congress. She currently the sponsor for the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018 that intents Statehood for Puerto Rico. By passing this Act, Puerto Rico would officially become the 51st U.S. state no later than 2021.

Click here to view the complete “Voices for Puerto Rico” mini-series.

Versión En Español

Actualmente, 500,000 puertorriqueños han migrado a los Estado Unidos durante la última década. Soy parte del grupo de puertorriqueños que se han ido de la isla en la última década en busca de mejores oportunidades. La isla de Puerto Rico, como otros países, atraviesa una crisis social, política, económica y de reconstrucción. Puerto Rico ha sido parte de los Estados Unidos de América desde 1898, y los puertorriqueños han sido ciudadanos estadounidenses desde 1917, ciudadanía que fué otorgada a través de la Ley Jones. La crisis política que afecta a Puerto Rico, desde el gobierno local de la isla hasta la participación del Congreso en las decisiones sobre los problemas económicos de la isla, contribuye a la crisis de identidad política de muchos puertorriqueños. Dado que Puerto Rico no tiene representación con voto en el Congreso, esta campaña de medios sociales es una intención de aumentar las voces de los puertorriqueños. La intención es motivar a los puertorriqueños que se encuentran en los Estados Unidos a que acudan a sus representantes políticos en sus respectivos Estados de residencia y expresen, comunique los problemas actuales de la isla, exhortando la participación y el apoyo del Congreso de los Estados Unidos y los funcionarios gubernamentales.

Muchos puertorriqueños no estarán de acuerdo con la idea de que Puerto Rico se convierta en un Estado y puedan tener puntos válidos, pero creo que Puerto Rico tiene derecho a tener voz y voto en el Congreso y en las elecciones presidenciales. Una de las razones principales por las que el nombre de esta campaña es #voices4PR es la voz pérdida de 3.3 millones de estadounidenses que viven en la isla,  territorio de los EE. UU. Sin saber o poder decidir sobre su futuro. La congresista Jennifer González Colón es la Comisionada Residente y representante de Puerto Rico en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos, actualmente es patrocinadora de la Ley de Admisión de Puerto Rico de 2018, que pretende la estadidad para Puerto Rico. Al aprobar esta Ley, Puerto Rico se convertiría oficialmente en el estado número 51 a más tardar en 2021.


Ending Anti-Transgender Violence

Although Trans Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance have passed, the violence perpetrated against this community will not end unless we continue to fight against it year-round. As a survivor of multiple forms of anti-transgender violence, and a friend to many other trans and gender nonconforming victims and survivors, I have seen first hand what silence around this topic will bring, and that’s more violence. Please, listen and believe the stories of trans and gender non conforming survivors, and fight on for the victims of fatal violence, who can no longer advocate for themselves against those who continue to perpetuate heinous acts against this population.

As the current administration continues to attempt to roll back protections for this community, we must fight that much harder to keep trans and gender nonconforming folk safe. Trans women of color are especially at risk, and currently have a life expectancy of just 35 years. Enacting and enforcing sensible gun laws is one way we can protect this population, as gun violence is the primary cause of fatal violence against this community. Trans youth are also at considerable risk, with 21% not graduating in a K-12 setting due to the violence and harassment they face. Together, we can change these statistics, and create a world where trans and gender nonconforming folk can live out fulfilling lives from childhood into adulthood. To do this, we need your help. Take a stand against anti-transgender violence and rhetoric when you are confronted by it in your communities, don’t allow this epidemic of violence to progress any further.

View the video below for additional statistics and interventions that can help end anti-transgender violence, and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #TRANScendviolence.


Anti-Transgender Violence: The Continuing Epidemic

I was raped at the age of 19, and a year later was threatened with death and sexually assaulted once more. I have been told that I “should be brought behind a barn and shot”, and that I should be “put on an island with people like [me] and have bombs dropped on [us]”, among countless other violently harassing comments. I have been pushed, struck, groped, and spat at. I am transgender, and my story is not unique within my community.

At the time of these victimizations, I did not have the knowledge or experience necessary to understand that these acts were part of a larger systemic issue of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people. I did not know that each year, more and more of my fellow trans folk are killed. According to reports by The Human Rights Campaign, 2017 was the deadliest year yet for transgender individuals, with 2018 already close to meeting or exceeding those numbers. The vast majority of these murder victims are transgender women of color, who have a life expectancy of just 35 years.

The intersectionalities of race and gender-identity become all-too apparent when faced with the numbers. Of the more than 100 reported murders of transgender individuals since 2013, over 85% have been transgender people of color. These numbers hold true for this year, as 84% of the reported victims are trans people of color, and 80% are trans women. Still, few people are talking about this issue.

This could be because it deals with (at least) a trifecta of oppression: being transgender, a person of color, and female-identified. These super- oppressed populations are often overlooked because people are more likely to focus on a single oppressive factor and how it relates to victimization. For instance, violence against the black community today easily brings to mind the names and faces of black boys and men shot down and strangled by police, less so does it bring to mind all of the women who have suffered similar fates. This is also true for the transgender community, which is typically lumped together as one uniform segment of the overall population.

I experienced traumatizing events due to my transgender identity, but I can in no way imagine the compounding oppressive factors that transgender women of color experience. I can not imagine being the same age I am now, and seeing data that overwhelmingly purports that I will only survive into my thirties. That is the reality for transgender women of color, as they are shot, stabbed, and beaten to death. Still, their lives and their deaths are ignored by the vast majority of the population, especially people in positions of power.

The current administration has opposed and at times attacked the rights of the LGBTQ+ population as a whole, as well as largely ignoring violence against people of color, especially transgender people of color. The President has been moving to forcefully discharge all transgender members of the military for the past two years, an action the further isolates this community from the general population and will likely result in increased homelessness and unemployment for these discharged service members, placing them in positions where there is a greater risk of experiencing violence. Recently, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a summit organized by an LGBTQ+ hate group, and he has worked to oppose and reverse bills that allow transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, an act that increases violence against this community as other community members take up “policing” roles and begin to question who should or should not be using a particular restroom.

So, what can we do?

We can bear witness to the unique experiences of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people, especially transgender women of color. We can read their stories, say their names, and urge our elected representatives to take a stand for the transgender and gender nonconforming members of their communities, to put an end to the violence they experience. Call your local, state, and federal representatives. Work towards understanding the specific protections that transgender people have or lack within your community, and then strive to fill in the gaps. This may mean creating more support groups in rural areas, creating a community that not only reduces isolation but also increases the protection of the individuals within it. It could mean working with a group of your legislatures to draft a bill increasing the protections of this community. It could be counseling your neighbor on how to embrace the fact that their child just came out to them. It could be marching against gun violence, knowing that it is responsible for an overwhelming number of the murders of transgender people. The following graphic reiterates and expands on many of these means to end anti-transgender violence. Together, we have the power to end this violence and create a future where everyone can look forward to the years beyond their thirties.


#APYDCON 2018: LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings

The Alliance for Positive Youth Development (APYD) is getting ready to launch it’s 6th annual Best Practices for Youth Conference (APYDCON) on August 6-8th. This 3-day free virtual conference consists of expert panels with Q&A sessions and afternoon lectures. This year’s themes are Trauma-Sensitive Education, Youth Homelessness, and LGBTQ Bullying in School Settings.

Our SISGI intern, Gabriel Reyes choose the LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings theme. Gabe is a Master of Social Work student from the University of Southern California. For the past six months, Gabe has assisted in the conference planning. We recently interviewed him about APYDCON 2018, and this is what he told us:

Why did you choose this topic?

I chose to address LGBTQ+ bullying because I have personally been bullying because of my expression and sexual orientation. This was really hard for me in school, and it led me to have very depressive thoughts and feel like I could not be my true self.

Why does learning about LGBT+ Bullying matter?

This topic matters because the rates of bullying towards LGBTQ+ are extremely high. This often leads to mental health disorders and high rates of suicide among this population.

Can you tell us a little about your speakers?

At the conference, you will meet a set of experienced professionals who have worked in the field with LGBTQ+ youth. In the panel, we will hear from experts that work with LGBTQ+ youth, and in the afternoon presentation, we will hear from Laura Kanter. Laura has been working in this field as an advocate for many years, and she currently works at the LGBT Center in Orange County.

What discussions can attendees expect from the panel and lecture?

We will talk about the prevalence of LGBTQ+ bullying in school settings and what students can do when faced with bullying. We will also address how schools are perpetuating environments to encourage bullying, and how school administration, parents, and communities can help stop school bullying.

Why should people register for APYDCON 2018?

My biggest takeaway for everyone is to learn about this matter and how it truly affects the lives of many who are still faced with bullying. Like me, I endured many challenges because I was not prepared to deal with bullying nor did my school have policies to create safe environments for LGBTQ+ students. Learning how to address bullying when it happens, help many young people who are facing this problem.

On August 8th, 2018, APYDCON will be wrapping up its last day of workshops center around the topic of LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings. If you want to learn how to create safe school environments to prevent bullying, register to be a part of this unique virtual experience for FREE at


#APYDCON 2018: Youth Homelessness

Approximately 4.2 million young people experience homelessness during the course of a year. A runaway or homeless youth can be anyone between the ages of 14 to 24 who do not have a stable place of residence. This includes living on the street, shelters, “couch surfing,” sleeping in cars or public transit systems or living temporarily with friends. The pathways to youth homelessness include:

  • Experiencing the death of a family member or guardian
  • Experiencing financial hardship
  • Being kicked out of their homes
  • Running away
  • Sexual orientation
  • Aging out of foster care
  • Being abandoned, abused or neglected

On August 7th, 2018, the Alliance for Positive Youth Development (APYD) is having free workshops on youth homelessness at their annual Best Practices for Youth Development Virtual Conference. The first workshop will be a panel Q&A with experts that work with homeless youth, and the day will end with a presentation by Erin Chapman-Smith, Director of Housing Services at YouthCare Seattle. Both workshops will address best practices for engaging and providing services to youth experiencing homelessness.

Our SISGI intern, Ninah Bell is a Master of Social Work student from the University of Southern California, and she will moderate the Youth Homelessness panel discussion.  We recently interviewed Ninah about her work in APYD, and this is what she told us:

What inspired you to join the APYD team?

All of my work thus far within the field of social work has been within youth services and youth development. For the last ten years, I have worked in various capacities such as Youth Services Senior Case Manager, Support Services Coordinator and currently as a Youth Development Program Coordinator for an NYC based foster care agency. Be it working with Run Away- Homeless Youth, LGBTQ Youth, justice-involved or victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children/ commercial sexual exploitation, working with youth has always been a strong passion of mine, being a part of the APYD team is a natural and rewarding fit.

What kind of work are you doing in APYD?

Currently, I (along with my cohort members) are focusing on gaining financial sponsors for the upcoming Best Practices for Youth Conference as well as creative advertising and marketing strategies.

What has been your most rewarding activity or role in APYD?

So far, I think the most rewarding has been being a part of something that is way bigger than I. Being able to help other professionals and those interested in working with youth develop their skills to deliver best practices.

How do you think APYD addresses issues facing today’s youth?

For one, I think on a very mirco level it is the exchange of information on a digital platform which is progressive in its self. On a macro level, it is addressing the needs and concerns of what we see youth challenged with every day and how to better utilize the systems that we are in some fashion all a part of, to enact change.

What advice do you have for professionals working with youth?

Make sure this is your passion and that you have been “called” do the work, not because you are good at it but because it is a part of who you are. It is your natural gift. Ask questions when you are unsure, seek mentors and be genuine, non- judgmental and honest in your intentions when working with youth.

Ending youth homelessness requires collaboration and teamwork. Join Ninah, and hear from our speakers at our Youth Homelessness webinars on August 7th, 2018. Register for free at