A passionate advocate for the LGBT community, Julia Leavitt ’13 is spending her summer interning at Youth Pride, Inc. in Providence, R.I. A drop-in center for LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning), the organization provides youth and allies ages 13-23 with any support and advocacy they may need.
At Youth Pride, Leavitt, a double major in LGBT studies and women’s studies, works at the food pantry and library, updates the organization’s website and helps with fundraising. However, she spends most of her time with the young people who come to the center.
“I feel that there is so much to learn from them,” says Leavitt, the president of HWS PRIDE. “Their struggles and how they overcome them are important to share and celebrate.”
Even though she has been at Youth Pride for a short time, Leavitt believes that she has already learned a great deal.
“So far, I have met many kids; however, it is the young allies that strike me the most because they are the future leaders, the next generation of social change,” explains Leavitt. “They have showed me that being different is okay, and that they believe in nonviolent ways to combat bullying.”
Leavitt discovered Youth Pride through her own experiences coming out as a lesbian while in high school. It was a psychiatrist that recommended the center to her. “It was all very confusing and frustrating for me. I needed a place I could turn to; to find other people were more like me,” says Leavitt. “I showed up one day and met a ton of teenagers that went through – or were going through – similar situations. It actually turned my life around; Youth Pride brought me out of a depression because they showed me that I was not alone – that there were other people in the world just like me. As clichéd as it sounds, Youth Pride proved that it really does get better.”
Leavitt plans to bring her college interests and experiences to the organization by leading her own workshops and activities. “I am thinking about a rugby workshop, substance abuse workshop, a workshop on gender pro-noun preference and I would like to help out with Youth Pride’s LGBTQ 101 workshop.”
As a teenager, Leavitt’s experiences turned her into the LGBT advocate she is today – and she hopes to bring empowering messages to the teenagers she works with.
“We should not allow any institution to teach kids that they are less than perfect regardless of how they identify,” says Leavitt. “Youth need to know that there are people out there just like them that support them and care for them. I feel that it is essential for me to begin my career in social justice by working with youth because they are my peers and together we are the future leaders of America.”
Leavitt plans to attend law school after graduation, focusing on human rights law.
In the photo above, Julia Leavitt ’13 (right) marches and holds the Youth Pride, Inc. banner with Elana Rosenberg, the network and programming coordinator for the Gay Straight Alliance, in PRIDE parade in Providence, R.I.