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Mom sees need and starts S.A. LGBT youth group
QSanAntonio, July 20, 2013

A San Antonio mother who has a teenage lesbian daughter is starting an LGBT youth group after finding out there is none in the city. Her efforts are well underway with local activists pitching in to help her initiate the new organization named Fiesta Youth.

Emily Leeper told QSanAntonio that her 13-year-old daughter, Jackson, told her about a year ago that she might be gay. "At that time, I searched the web looking for an LGBT youth group in San Antonio. My search was fruitless," she says.

Leeper says she was heartbroken watching Jackson struggle with anxiety, social ostracism and depression after the teenager came out. Leeper eventually found a youth group in Austin and she and Jackson began traveling there as frequently as possible.

"I watched my daughter flourish as she made friends and felt accepted for the first time. She now confidently identifies herself as lesbian and gender-fluid/queer. She is less anxious and more willing to participate in social events," says Leeper.

Knowing that her daughter's experience could not be unique among LGBT teens, Leeper says she knew that a teen group was sorely needed in San Antonio. In April, she and Jackson took action.

The mother and daughter began visiting local LGBT organizations to ask for help starting the new youth group. "The response was overwhelming" says Leeper. "My hope is for other teens to be similarly helped in a place where love and acceptance prevails."

The mission of Fiesta Youth is to provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBT youth to express who they are without fear of rejection or harassment. Many in this age group may be insecure or anxious about their sexual orientation or gender identity and need a place where open discussion with other youth is allowed and encouraged. The group's aim is to assist youth in developing a positive self-identity and a sense of community with peers.

Fiesta Youth plans to hold weekly meetings on Tuesdays beginning on September 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at University Presbyterian Church, 300 Bushnell. The meetings will consist of a program component such as games, guest speakers, art projects, videos or karaoke.

"The second part of the meetings will be peer support time. Both components will be supervised and facilitated by adult volunteers. Adult volunteers will need to submit applications that include references and must agree to a criminal background check and attend training," Leeper explains.

The teen members of Fiesta Youth will be the primary planners of program content through a Youth Advisory Panel. Fiesta Youth currently has a Facebook page, and a website (in progress) fiesta-youth.org.

"I'm hearing positive feedback from people active in the community," says Darrell Garcia Parsons, a local psychotherapist and former HRC governor who will serve as one of the counselors for the group. "The comment I'm hearing most --'It's about time.'"

Anyone wanting more information can contact Leeper at fiestayouthsa@gmail.com