FRESNO, Calif. — As students have begun to settle into distance learning this school year, Equality California Institute is partnering with AmeriCorps and the Fresno Unified School District to launch a unique mentorship program designed to offer support to LGBTQ+ students. Equality California Mentorship Corps will build on the civil rights organization’s Safe and Supportive Schools initiative by deploying trained, culturally competent mentors to California’s third largest school district.
“It’s incredibly important for LGBTQ+ students — and all students — to have caring adults with the tools and training to support their health and well-being and set them up for academic success,” said Equality California Institute Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “All students — regardless of who they are, where they live, their sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status — deserve the opportunity to learn and succeed in a safe and supportive school environment. That’s why we are extremely proud to launch Equality California Mentorship Corps, a first-of-its-kind program that provides that support and continues our commitment to LGBTQ+ and all students.”
Research is clear that youth mentorship programs are effective in reducing high-risk behaviors in young people. Mentorship also has positive effects on social, behavioral, emotional and academic development in teens and young adults.
“We are honored to partner with Equality California Institute and AmeriCorps on this first-of-its-kind LGBTQ+ inclusive mentoring program! We feel that this innovative and affirming programming will be powerful for our students, their families and our staff as we continue to build safe, supportive and inclusive schools for all in Fresno Unified,” said Erica Hasenbeck, Manager of Restorative Practices and LGBTQ+ District Lead for Fresno Unified School District.
Studies show that LGBTQ+ students are more likely to face bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. These disparities can deny students the opportunity to learn and succeed and result in higher school dropout rates and higher rates of homelessness, depression, suicidal ideation and poverty. According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign and the University of Connecticut:
Less than one third of LGBTQ+ youth in California say they always feel safe in the classroom;
Half of LGBTQ+ youth in California report being teased or bullied because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity;
More than a quarter of LGBTQ+ youth in California have been threatened with physical violence at least once because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and
Forty-three percent of transgender students in California say they can never use school facilities that match their gender identity, despite a state law requiring schools to provide such access.
Ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth are safe and supported in school is critical to ending disparities in LGBTQ+ health and well-being and setting students up for success in school and in life.
By providing additional support to students, assisting teachers, counselors and other professionals through a combination of virtual in-class and after-school programs, Equality California Mentorship Corps members will provide Central Valley students the assistance they may need to improve their social and emotional well-being which can significantly reduce depression and improve academic performance and grades.
Every year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members serve through 21,000+ schools, nonprofits, and community and faith‐based organizations across the country. Since AmeriCorps’ inception in 1994, more than 1 million Americans have served, providing more than 1.5 billion hours of service and earned more than $3.6 billion in education scholarships, more than $1 billion of which has been used to pay back student debt.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org