Welcome to our social impact series, called “Five Questions.” On the first day of every month, we will share five questions with a community organization serving children and youth in Jackson County. We hope to inspire you, enlighten you, and connect you with community organizations should you ever need assistance. By sharing this with you, we hope that together we can be inspired to take action to improve our communities!

June is Pride Month – a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, celebrate the Stonewall riots, and recognize the impact that LGBTQIA+ people have had around the world. We thought this was a fitting month to showcase the Jackson Pride Center as our feature organization. Doing the ever-important work of supporting youth in our community, we spoke with Jackson Pride Center Board member Rebecca Calkins to learn more about their mission and services. Keep reading to learn more about this impactful organization.

Five Questions with the Jackson Pride Center

Five Questions with the Jackson Pride Center

1. Tell us about the Jackson Pride Center. What is the mission of your organization?

Our mission statement is “To connect our diverse community to opportunities and each other.” In planning events, we try to focus on creating a safe space for the LGBTQ Community to meet as well as working to make the greater Jackson Community a safer place for LGBTQ people. We do this through advocacy, training opportunities, as well as providing direct services and spaces for the community.

2. What resources and programs do you provide for youth in our community?

Currently, we have a Countywide GSA (Gender & Sexualities Alliance) Club that meets on the second Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Branch Library Auditorium. This is a social club for middle and high school-aged kids in Jackson County. Lately, we’ve been playing board games and watching movies. Any kids aged 10-17 are invited to drop in and hang out. It has been slow and steady so far, about 5-6 kids each time, but some wonderful connections have come out of it. Last time we had two homeschooled kids who were also neuro-divergent and non-binary and they hit it off after they had just been talking about how hard it is to find friends being homeschooled. 

We also support the local GSA clubs at each school. Right now, there are clubs at six different schools. Like any other after-school club, they can be started by students at any middle or high school – all they need is an adult advisor from the school. If you want to form a GSA at your school, check out: https://gsanetwork.org/resources/10-steps-for-starting-a-gsa/ 

This month we will be starting a Young Adult (YA) book club called Reading the Rainbow, starting Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Branch Library Auditorium. This will be our first meeting, so we will be getting to know each other and getting copies of the first book. We will continue to meet on the 4th Thursday of the month. We will be reading YA books, some with LGBTQ themes and some other great YA books. 

Image courtesy of Jackson Pride Center

3. Aside from youth programming, what resources and programs do you offer for parents of LGBTQIA+ youth in our community?

At the same time as the Countywide GSA, we are hosting the Parents and Family of LGBTQ Support Group upstairs at the Carnegie Library Mcintyre Room at 5:30 p.m. We choose to run the 2 groups at the same time to cut down on transportation issues. This is also a drop-in format with no signup needed. This group is led by Stasia Milligan.

4. What advice can you give to youth who are afraid to come out or live as their authentic selves? 

I didn’t have specific advice, so I reached out to my friend Amber Thelen and asked her to share. Here is her advice:

“I would say it’s ok to be afraid to come out, but when you have the right people in your life it makes all the difference. You will probably always be a little afraid, but that should not stop you from being the real you. At the end of the day, you will be happier being the real you versus trying to hide from the world. Hiding from the world is not good for your mental health or your sanity. I know it can be overwhelming and scary, but in the end, it will be worth it, and you will be happier with your life. The people that support you will continue to support you, and those that don’t support you don’t need to be a part of your life. You deserve to be happy, and the real you does not need to be hidden from the world.”

5. We know that LGBTQIA+ youth are at a higher risk of self-harm. What resources can you share with us for people to contact if they are feeling suicidal or in crisis mode?

We are working on an LGBTQ youth mental health support group with Nate Nimtz at the Center for Family Health. Right now, it is held virtually on Wednesdays from 4:15-5:15 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly safe space for teens to express themselves, create community, provide support, and learn about topics that are important to them! This group is open to teens ages 13–19 years old. Call the Center For Family Health office at (517) 748-5500 and ask to speak to Nate or Ellie for more information.

Of course, teens can always call the following crisis lines.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • (800) 273-8255 (Starting in July, Dial 988)
  • Crisis Text Line
  • Text 4HELP to 741-741
  • The Trevor Project (LGBTQ)
  • (866) 488-7386
  • Text START to 678-678
  • Trans LifeLine
  • (877) 565-8860

Bonus Question: June is Pride Month – share your plans for any upcoming community celebrations!

Jackson Family Pride Picnic
Sunday, June 12, 2022, 11 am – 2 pm
Horace Blackman Park
Families of all ages and configurations are welcome. Come as you are!
Family activities, music, and games are provided with a $3 meal available. Bring your blankets and chairs.
Allies welcome! Mix, mingle, and make new friends!
This event is sponsored by our friends at Henry Ford Health.
https://www.facebook.com/events/2808113452825984

Jackson Pride Fest
August 20, 2022
Horace Blackman Park
Our “We’re so Gay” PrideFest kicks off with a Walk of Pride starting at Consumer’s Energy and finishing with a party at Horace Blackman Park.
We have live music from 4:00-to 8:00 p.m., food trucks, and community resources. The party doesn’t end there! Keep the magic alive at the Afterglow downtown with discounts at local bars and restaurants.
PrideFest is generously sponsored by Henry Ford Health.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1352042868595557

Bonus Question: What is your favorite kid-friendly place in Jackson County?
The Jackson District Library, of course!

For more information on the Jackson Pride Center, please visit their website at:
https://jacksonpridecenter.org/front-page

Or their Facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/jxnmipride/

Click here to view our previous Five Questions Features.

Five Questions with the Jackson Pride Center

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