In September 2013, Fiesta Youth launched the city’s first organization dedicated to LGBT youth. In January 2015, the non-profit will expand to include a twice-monthly support group for young adults aged 18 to 24.
The new group, Fiesta U, will meet twice a month starting January 8.
“The board of directors recognized that in addition to the need for teens to receive support, there was also a strong need to create a safe space for young LGBTQ adults to meet to receive and provide peer support and fellowship,” says Fiesta Youth board member Darrell Garcia Parsons.
According to Parsons, at the first meeting of each month, Fiesta U will offer a traditional style support group for young adults to discuss topics and issues that directly affect them. It also will provide an opportunity to give and receive peer feedback.
The second meeting of the month is a life skills group that will cover topics to help guide young adults through the world as an LGBT person. This meeting will feature guest speakers who will present topics that are relevant to young adults like employment, interviewing skills, communication, legal issues, and financial planning.
“Young LGBT adults often struggle with simple things like meeting people, looking for a job and coming out in general. Fiesta U seeks to address those problems so these young people can manage the extra challenges they face being out,” says Parsons.
Parsons told Out in SA that Fiesta U was originally part of Fiesta Youth’s long-term goals. However, at a board retreat in September, members decided to launch the new group this year because of the overwhelming support the non-profit has gotten from the community. In little over one year, Fiesta Youth has exceeded its financial goals giving the organization the resources to implement new services.
“The ultimate 5-year goal of Fiesta Youth is to have it’s own building with staff that can operate the facility as a drop in center for teens and young adults, open several days per week,” says Parsons. He added that the group hopes to establish a satellite Fiesta Youth meeting on the South Side or West Side of town. The board also wants to start a college scholarship program.
Fiesta Youth was founded by Emily Leeper, the mother of a lesbian teenage daughter who struggled with anxiety, social ostracism and depression after the girl came out. “At that time, I searched the web looking for an LGBT youth group in San Antonio. My search was fruitless,” she says.
The mother and daughter began visiting local LGBT organizations to ask for help starting the new youth group. “The response was overwhelming” says Leeper. Today, Fiesta Youth’s weekly meetings are attended by scores of teenagers.
Fiesta U will begin meeting on January 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Unity Heights Community Center at 8103 Broadway. For more information check out the Fiesta Youth web site.