UCAN’s focus on diversity and inclusion goes beyond our hiring process, employee training and spending. We strive to understand the unique needs of the youth and families we serve and to provide better service to youth, UCAN launched the Positive Relationship Outreach Support for Youth (PROSY ) program in 2015. The pilot program, developed and facilitated by Eddie Burks, a Schweitzer Fellow and graduate student at Loyola University, was a multifaceted 6-12 week mental health program aimed at providing clinical, educational and social support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
Revamped and renamed Quest in 2016, the program now offers a wide range of new ideas and activities and focuses largely on helping participants understand their whole identity.
The program is facilitated by UCAN’s interns in art therapy and social work. The curriculum uses a variety of art therapy and traditional intervention strategies, along with open dialogue, to help youth identify and cope with situations they may encounter. What differentiates Quest from other group therapy programs is that it is not specifically focused on helping youth in an area where they have a deficit such as self-esteem or anger management; instead it is a growth-oriented program.
“The youth who come to Quest don’t have to be struggling with their identity. We have some kids who are just coming out and then we have others who are very confident in who they are and their identity. So it addresses all levels and isn’t just for kids who are struggling,” explained Michele Grimes, insert title. Quest currently has six youth participants and is accepting new youth ages 14 to 21.
The first half of Quest is focused on internal identity and self-development. It helps youth to identify their values, understand who they are and determine their goals. Halfway through the program, the group watches a movie in which the main character is a lesbian youth facing struggles related to coming out. The latter part of the program focuses on coaching youth on navigating in various situations and handling relationships with people who may or may not accept their identity.
“Our young people really need ways to get connected within UCAN with other kids who are like them. When you bring kids into a group with other youth who are like them that is when they start to form a community at UCAN as opposed to just coming to us for a service,” stated Michelle.
She continued, “I think it is huge for really maintaining kids for the long term versus giving them therapy for a while and then they disappear.”
Michelle aspires for the program to become more established at UCAN like the agency’s Phenomenal Woman and Project Visible Man programs.
For more information on the program please contact Michele Grimes at email@example.com or 773-234-4383.