About the Saginaw Sexual County Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council
What is SOGI YAC?
SOGI YAC is a group of local leaders and advocates who want to use their cross-system influence to build a more safe and affirming community for youth in Saginaw County. Members include representatives from LGBTQ+ advocacy and support groups, mental health, schools, colleges/universities, the faith community, juvenile justice, child welfare, health care, and families.
HOW Was SOGI YAC FORMED?
The Saginaw County Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council (SOGI YAC) initiative is committed to provide outreach and support to Saginaw County youth who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, two-spirit, etc.) and who experience significant emotional and behavioral challenges. While in agreement about the importance, defining what this initiative should look like was a ground-breaking and daunting task. Who exactly were the youth that would benefit from the initiative? What specific needs could Saginaw MAX address? Who should provide the support? And how? APPRECOTS was invited to partner with Saginaw MAX to seek answers to questions like these.
APPRECOTS began by looking into published research articles for information. The findings were conclusive that, when viewed as a whole population, LGBTQ youth have needs that are definable and unique. As APPRECOTS continued with gathering information, no data could be found to specifically define SOGI youth within Saginaw County. A group of local experts was identified and approached with a request to share information that would help identify local resources, needs and gaps. The individuals who convened in answer this plea represented a diverse array of energetic and informed community leadership, including representation from Saginaw MAX, advocacy groups, health professionals, academics, teachers, and parents. Together they discussed risks, needs, and the current lack of safe spaces and supports for LGBTQ youth in our community. With this information, APPRECOTS helped to draft a job description for a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Coordinator and a program proposal for the new initiative.
After the initial information-gathering task was completed, the collected individuals determined that they had a united and much-needed purpose. The consensus was that this assembly, with its diverse cross-system representation, could have significant influence and help build a safer, more affirming community by formalizing into an ongoing council. To be as inclusive as possible, the group named themselves the Saginaw Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council (SOGI YAC). Now representing over 20 community partners, SOGI YAC is an active collaborative that meets monthly.
What does SOGI YAC do?
SOGI YAC serves as a resource-sharing consortium and advisory council to the Saginaw MAX System of Care and Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority’s (SCCMHA) SOGI Initiative. SOGI YAC has supported a number of projects including an ongoing data collection project focused on defining the needs of local LGBTQ+ youth and their caregivers; the development of a School Policy Guide for K-12 educators; and training for system partners (to date, over 200 local professionals have received training in SOGI topics). SOGI YAC also distributes a monthly newsletter and hosts community forums on topics relevant to the SOGI needs of local youth.
How can I join?
If you or someone you know would like to join SOGI YAC or receive updates and information about SOGI youth needs and local resources and events, contact APPRECOTS at SOGI@apprecots.com or call (989) 573-8494.
SOGI YAC PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
2019 SOGI YAC Positive Message Project
During June of 2019, SOGI YAC attended local Pride Events and asked attendees to ‘Write a Message to Local Youth’. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and a total of 588 positive messages were collected. The messages were combined into a video, which can be viewed below:
Saginaw SOGI Youth Leadership Camp
The 2018 SOGI Youth Leadership Camp was a project of the Saginaw Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council (SOGI YAC). The Camp was sponsored by Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority. Participants learned and practiced critical leadership skills such as collaborative communication, needs identification, brainstorming, creating action plans, and evaluating outcomes - all while discussing ways our community can support youth of any sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI)! Each participant who successfully completed SOGI Youth Leadership Camp received a leadership certificate. Graduates of Session One were invited to participate in an advanced leadership role in Session Two and were eligible to receive an advanced certificate.
Participants ideas and recommendations were shared with local leaders of community youth organizations. Two participants from the 2018 Youth Leadership Camp developed a video project in which they each offered advice to families of LGBTQ individuals. This video was shared at an LGBT conference held in Saginaw in the fall of 2018. You can view their video below, One of My Many Adjectives.