Five Questions With: Elana Rosenberg

ELANA ROSENBERG is the executive director for Youth Pride Inc. / COURTESY YOUTH PRIDE INC.
ELANA ROSENBERG is the executive director for Youth Pride Inc. / COURTESY YOUTH PRIDE INC.

Elana Rosenberg is the executive director for Youth Pride Inc., a Providence-based nonprofit that works with LGBTQ youth and pushes to end homophobic and transphobic environments for them. In March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Rosenberg was honored by Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza for her work with the nonprofit.

PBN: What does the honor from Mayor Elorza mean to you?

ROSENBERG: It was incredibly meaningful to be recognized by Mayor Elorza. I do the work that I do because I can’t imagine doing anything else. At Youth Pride Inc. we work hard to make sure Rhode Island’s LGBTQ youth are seen and valued. It was a great honor to be given my own moment of visibility, especially alongside such powerful and admirable women.

PBN: The motto for Youth Pride Inc. is “don’t grow up invisible.” What do you feel is possibly holding some youths within the LGBTQ community back from flourishing in society and how can they overcome those obstacles?

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ROSENBERG: Just as it was true 25 years ago, the hatred and rejection that LGBTQ youth are likely to experience has a lasting and devastating impact on their lives.  For example, while we know that LGBTQ folks make up somewhere between 5-10% of the overall population. Meanwhile, 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ and 62% of homeless gay and transgender youth, report having attempted suicide. We also know that roughly one-third of LGBTQ youth fail to graduate from high school. We know students in foster care are over three times as likely as their peers to be suspended or expelled, and 20-40% of foster youth are LGBTQ. At YPI, youth find strength and support in each other, build lasting relationships with youth and staff, receive one on one counseling with licensed clinicians, access our basic needs pantry for food, clothing, toiletries and school supplies, and build the leadership skills they need to change the world beyond our doors.

PBN: Given the current political climate, how much more important is your organization’s role to support the LGBTQ community, youths especially?

ROSENBERG: All youth are impacted by the hate spread through our current political climate. Actions such as banning transgender soldiers from openly serving in the military and revoking non-discrimination protections for transgender youth at school, clearly communicate the to the nation’s LGBTQ community that this administration believes they are not valuable, welcome, or worth protecting. The work that YPI does to validate and support youth, while educating the general public about the experiences and vulnerability of LBGTQ youth is as important now, as ever.

PBN: Which organizations does Youth Pride Inc. currently work with to help the LGBTQ community?

ROSENBERG: YPI partners with many organizations and would not be able to achieve our mission without doing so. We actively partner with House of Hope’s youth outreach program to support folks experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. We partner with the Rhode Island Department of Health and AIDS Project Rhode Island to provide the opportunity for on-site monthly HIV testing to YPI youth. We work also work with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the Department of Justice, and many other community organizations such as TGI Network and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Rhode Island.

PBN: What new initiatives is Youth Pride Inc. currently offering to individuals?

ROSENBERG: YPI recently launched a fourth peer-to-peer support group, facilitated by a clinician, called “What’s Next?”. The group is open to folks ages 18-23 and focuses on building interpersonal skills, healthy coping strategies, and transitioning from high school to college or the workforce. YPI is also planning to bring on two new staff members this May, allowing the drop-center to open for an additional day of programming a week.  We are also partnering with TGI Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island this June, to launch a mentoring program to match gender non-conforming youth and adults.

James Bessette is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Research@PBN.com.