LGBTQ youth in greater Kansas City have had access to a safe space, with relevant health and education information, for more than 23 years now, thanks to continued community support of Passages Youth Center.
Two grant awards announced in September will help Passages deliver its mission over the next eight to 10 months. A $2,950 grant came from the National GLBTQ Youth Foundation, and a $4,000 grant came from the AIDS Service Foundation of Kansas City’s Community Grant program.
For the last two years, the Passages board has been working on several strategic initiatives, including reinvigorating community awareness of the group, updating its mission and vision statement, providing financial transparency to the community, building toward long-term financial stability with a mix of grants and recurring private donor support, and continued focus on delivering resources to metro LGBT youth.
The center welcomes youth ages 14 to 20. It has operated from the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church on East Armour Boulevard for a number of years.
Passages is open Wednesdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Outside groups and facilitators serve dinner, which is often donated by community partners such as Grinders Pizza. Over dinner, youth and facilitators informally introduce themselves and share their “high” and “low” moments of the week. Most weeks, outside guests from the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, KC CARE Clinic, the Good Samaritan Project, or Synergy Services provide after-dinner discussion on topics like Internet safety, what healthy relationships look like, and LGBT-focused health information.
Youth also have access to a computer lab with monitored Internet and wi-fi access, as well as periodicals and a variety of books. Facilitators, who are screened and undergo background checks, provide a good mix of professional and personal insights as mentors.
Each spring, Trinity United Methodist Church plans and hosts a prom for Passages. Prom 2013, the 9th annual event, welcomed dozens of metro youth into an inclusive environment for a great meal prepared by the church and access to Passages resources.
To stay connected with Passages, sign up for the monthly newsletter at www.kcpassages.org or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kcpassages. If you are between 14 and 20, visit Passages on an upcoming Wednesday. Join us for dinner. Bring your friends, make new ones, and connect with our unique resources.
Those interested in helping Passages continue its legacy and grow can make a contribution to the 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity. (Donations can be made directly via our website, www.kcpassages.org.)
Jason Webb is the board chairman for Passages and senior manager at Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
SpeakOUT - The Future of Passages Youth Group
January 9, 2013
by Jason Webb
Happy New Year! As a board member for Passages, Kansas City’s LGBTQIA youth group, I would like to tell you about the organization’s vision for 2013 and beyond. As we focus on the future, please share this information with friends and co-workers and do what you can to help.
Passages has served more than 3,000 unique LGBTQIA youth over the last several years, offering a safe, hate-free space and critical educational resources that are not available in traditional classrooms.
Passages’ vision aspires to a model already in place at a similar organization in Dallas called Youth First Texas. YFT serves a similar age range of LGBTQIA youth in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, and it also shares Passages’ goal of providing a safe space and critical educational resources. The differences, however, are where Passages has room to grow, with your help.
For example, YFT:
These components represent an aspirational vision that works well in a larger metro area like Dallas, but Passages’ vision must be relevant to the needs of our Kansas City community. Moreover, the vision must be achievable. Looking ahead, Passages’ vision is to:
These are tangible and achievable components of the near-term vision. The longer-term vision is dependent on these starting points, but possibilities may include additional days of operation, additional relevant services, and a focus on building a multi-year endowment. Passages has been and will continue to be transparent about its budget so that supporters know that every contribution goes directly to operations and is responsibly utilized. As a reference point, monthly expenses average $1,000, which covers rent and utilities, liability insurance, and phone and Internet costs, making Wednesday and weekend services possible.
Passages is a 501(c)3 organization, and tax-deductible sustained giving has a tremendous impact on achieving the full vision. If you, your business, fellow community members, or corporate leaders are interested in starting or continuing a legacy of supporting critical services to the LGBTQIA youth of metro KC, please contact Passages at www.kcpassages.org or email@example.com.
December 6, 2012
by Jason Webb
As the end of a year approaches, many people take the opportunity to reflect and to participate in the season of giving. I took an opportunity to reflect recently while attending the Out & Equal Workplace Equality Summit. In the last few months, a lot has happened to be thankful for:
These are incredible milestones that foster hope in the march toward full equality in the workplace and in the rights and protections bestowed by local, state, and federal government. Our LGBT youth should have a sense of pride and recognition that the equal rights that so many have fought for are coming to fruition.
Even with this progress and hope for the future, LGBT youth still face more risks in comparison to their heterosexual peers. The odds of entering a predatory or unhealthy relationship are higher as they seek acceptance. Personal health is at risk with the lack of LGBT-specific education in schools. Employment can be at risk if an employer, even for a summer or after-school job, does not have inclusive policies.
Although these risks certainly do not negate the hope for the future of full inclusion and equality, they are part of a stark reality that continues to justify the need for safe spaces and community organizations that provide critical services to LGBT youth.
For several Camp issues now, you have heard from LGBT youth voices from our community in this column. The writers are young adults who have participated in Passages – the metro’s LGBT youth center for the last 22 years — and taken an opportunity to be published.
They have written about topics relevant to them, some highlighting the unique challenges our community faces. The partnerships with Camp Magazine, with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, with the KC Free Health Clinic, with Synergy Services, with the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association, and with others give metro LGBT youth an opportunity to learn about healthy relationships, to gain access to personal health information not available in a traditional classroom, and to be mentored by facilitators willing to share their workplace experiences. These services are critical to providing LGBT youth a path to handle the risks they face today and equip them to be the next generation of our strong community.
In this season of giving, I ask that you consider the agencies in our community actively providing safe spaces and guiding the next generation of LGBT youth. Visit their websites and consider making a contribution.
Passages Youth Center (www.kcpassages.org) is a drug-free, alcohol-free and hate-free center for 14- through 20-year-old lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Passages is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Jason Webb is a board member and volunteer for Passages.
April 6, 2012
by Jason Webb
Why am I passionate about Passages?
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Jason Webb, and I’m a manager at Accenture, a global consulting firm, by day. Among the many other hats I wear are those of a board member and a volunteer, with my partner, Jason Boman, at Passages. It is Passages that I want to talk about here, to share my story with you and give you a glimpse into why our community service providers are critically important.
A college classmate and I recently talked about faith and interpretations of Bible verses. I wasn’t out in college, so I had to first ground the perspective I shared with my classmate in a truthful explanation of who I was. I’m from small-town Kansas, just outside of Topeka. Growing up, I always knew something in my being was different compared to my peers. Given the conservative locale, I had no other points of reference and assumed through high school that there is only one path to happiness: Marry the girl, buy the house, and have kids.
So, although I knew I was attracted to men, I wore a mask because I didn’t know that was a valid option. In my adolescent context, gay was only a derogatory word, not a word I could wear proudly, with a path to happiness. I struggled through the suicide of a friend and contemplated ending my own life.
In college, I was ever more aware that my sexuality did not match the heterosexual norms around me. But I feared losing friends and alienating family, and I made a conscious decision to live, effectively, a double life. Sadly, I was not ready to be truthful to myself or authentic with others.
Finally, a year after college and into the working world, I took some solitary vacation time and came to terms with my identity. I knew my employer had the right protective policies in place. I was no longer financially dependent on family. I had a safety net in place and, for me, the balance of needing to be authentic finally outweighed any consequences from coming out to friends, family, and coworkers. Moreover, I had found love and I patiently await the day to legally marry him.
I realize that my story is not unique. But it is against this background of being fearful to be myself, of not having any LGBT resources in my youth, of not having an adequate support network in place, that I developed a passion for ensuring that youth in and around metro Kansas City have a resource available where they can be themselves, where they can take off the mask, where they can let their guard down, and where their safety is assured with no judgment from their peers. This is exactly Passages’ mission.
Better yet, Passages is not alone. There are a number of locally run LGBT community organizations that fill every niche, from youth activism, to violence crisis support, to parental support, to resources for the homeless, to health-care access. Each is critical to the progressive LGBT community of Kansas City.
Now you know why I’m passionate about Passages and the opportunity to spend time every week helping our youth and their families navigate their own journeys into our community.
I encourage you to look at your personal journey and those of your friends, and unlock a philanthropic passion of your own. Maybe it is at a place like Passages, or one of the other great local service providers. Become familiar with their mission, their leaders, and their operations. Think about how you’re best able to show your support. Consider providing your time as a volunteer or pledging financial support to allow these great organizations to continue their legacies.
In the future, this column will feature community perspectives from Passages’ youth, alumni and volunteers. The goal will be to highlight resources, issues and personal stories relevant to metro LGBTQIA youth.
For Immediate Release
Kansas City, Missouri, October 24th, 2010 – In light of recent tragic suicides of young adults across the country, Passages would like to highlight a long-standing local resource available to metro area youth who need a safe, hate-free space. Since 1990, Passages has provided support to Kansas City youth between 14 and 20 years of age who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or a straight ally (LGBTQA).
Young adults attending Passages have access to a variety of resources:
Local gay-straight alliance (GSA) organizations, educators, and parents are encouraged to continue leveraging Passages’ unique LGBTQA resources to support their members, students, and families.
About Kansas City Passages
Passages is Kansas City''s only youth program dedicated to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth, and straight alliances. We meet every Wednesday and Saturday night in a drug-free, alcohol-free, and hate-free environment for fun, games, music, movies, dancing, and food.
Passages Youth Center is a non-profit organization that aims to help youth grow and develop into strong individuals with confidence in who they are. All youth between 14 and 20 are welcome to attend.
If you are a 14- to 20-year-old looking for a cool place to go on a hot summer night, consider dropping by Passages, a safe, affirming space for LGBTQA youth in the Kansas City area. The only agenda is to have a relaxed, respectful time among peers. Participants may be chatting, dancing, listening to Clyde rehearse "Hey, Jude" on the piano or watching the girls assemble furniture.
Passages is still settling into its new digs in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 620 E. Armour Blvd., having moved from its Westport location over the Memorial Day weekend. After several years at 4007 Central St., the group was straining to fit into the allotted space. Its new home, a few blocks to the northeast, is much larger, with a full kitchen, a banquet room/dance floor and, thankfully, more than one tiny bathroom.
The group offers LGBTQA youth a safe, affirming place to come on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Over the years since its 1990 genesis, Passages has met from one to three days per week, and in 2003, it had a brief union with the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City (LGCCKC) before breaking away as an independent entity once again.
Wednesday nights at Passages begin at 5:30 p.m., and run till 9. Attendees are offered a light meal, which might be followed by specific programming such as a movie or other presentation. Or youth can simply hang in the lounge area, where several forms of media are available "“ books, magazines, music, television and four flat-screen PCs from the former LGCCKC space, which were recently donated by the David Bohnett Foundation.
Food donations for Wednesdays are made on a cyclical basis by Synergy Services SOS (Street Outreach Services) program, bar Natasha, Out There, Kansas City Free Health Clinic (KCFree) and Godfather''s Pizza. Nabisco makes ad hoc donations, and the Leawood Hy-Vee provides snacks for Saturday night''s ClubQueer, with occasional contributions by the Hy-Vee in Shawnee.
Saturday night activities run from 8 to midnight. The $5 admission fee goes toward the modest rent paid to Trinity Methodist. All youth entering Passages must be at least 14 years old, and no one who has reached age 21 is admitted.
Picture IDs are checked at the door, and there is a strict no alcohol-no drugs-no guns policy. Anyone found to be intoxicated or violent or who shows disrespect for others is barred from future entry. On the nights when facilitator Sara Wood is working, canines Presley and Tristan might greet participants. All adult volunteers working at Passages undergo background checks and wear badges while on site.
The church is on the 35th Street Metro bus route and is within blocks of the MAX and 57/South Oak lines and several others. The building has handicapped access on its east side. The gatherings are limited to the basement of the building; access to the upper floors is restricted by an alarm.
Programming at Passages ranges from yoga and Pilates classes to media presentations to poetry snaps, where spoken-word artists are praised with snaps rather than applause. Educators and exhibitors sometimes visit to talk about such issues as relationships, anti-violence efforts and HIV prevention.
The youth screened the film Were the World Mine at this year''s Kansas City Gay & Lesbian Film + Video Festival, and 92 young people attended the 2008 Passages Prom, with the theme "Gays in Space." It was the fourth year the group has had a prom.
Youth DJs spin on Saturday nights, and show director Anita Cox works with the Youth Royalty Court, Passages'' component of the Kansas City Gay Pride Royalty Court, made up of the drag-performing Prince and Princess and the non-drag-performing Duke and Duchess. Throughout the year, the Youth Royalty Court members do fundraising and work on their performances.
Passages board president Paul DiGeorge collects demographic data on attendees. A clear seasonal ebb and flow is apparent, with the colder months seeing higher attendance than the hot months. As soon as school lets out, attendance wanes. DiGeorge noted a recent maximum of 113 people when assessing Saturday night statistics. He also tracks by zip code, and says some youth travel from towns a substantial distance away, among them Lawrence, Kan.; Nevada, Mo.; Odessa, Mo.; and Smithville, Mo., to come to Passages.
Around 35 percent of Passages participants are non-white, and there is a mix of genders, orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. Because of the age limits, new faces come and go as they reach 14 and as they age out. According to DiGeorge, 2,232 non-repeat visits occurred over a 38-month period.
Several community organizations are involved with Passages. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) members volunteer and provide examples of open and affirming parents to the youth. PFLAG hosts an annual taco dinner where queer-positive adults and young people can interact. Street Outreach Services, Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP), KCFree, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and PROMO work with Passages to varying degrees.
Passages youth have participated in PROMO''s LGBT Equality Day, advocating for specific categories to be applied to Missouri''s generic anti-bullying legislation, among other things. DiGeorge said the young people were not intimidated, as most legislators are friendly; the group even had two legislators pulled off the floor so that they could hear from their future constituents. One notable exception was State Rep. Jane Cunningham (R., Chesterfield), who took offense at two young lobbyists'' body piercings, telling them they "were making her physically ill to look at."
Other community events in which Passages youth have participated are Out in Westport, Kansas City Gay Pride and the Show-Me State Rodeo, where they directed parking, picked up trash, delivered ice and cleaned up horse stalls.
Passages is a 501(c)3, and as such its pantry is often nearly bare. Donations of nonperishable foods, drinks, microwaveable meals, snacks, soups, granola bars, Ramen noodles and pastas are greatly appreciated. Some of the young people do not have regular meals, and some are without permanent homes. In-kind donations are also accepted, such as DVDs and books, as are monetary gifts. One of the most useful things a person can give is time. Passages is always looking for responsible, caring volunteers.
In 2007, Camp Fire USA Heartland Council''s Teens in Action partnered with Passages and local filmmaker and former Passages volunteer Lisa Marie Evans to produce a short film. Youth Out Loud: Responding to Hate Crimes as a Human Disaster relates the experiences of queer teens. Funded by Learn and Serve America, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the film is available on DVD from the Heartland Council, or you may view it online here: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/1455981/4979547.Watch the video, and learn a bit about what some Passages youth face on a regular basis, and see why a safe place where relaxed but respectful behavior is so important. Support the future of our LGBTQA community, and help them grow into happy, healthy adults.
Passages Youth Center
Trinity United Methodist Church basement (entrance in rear)
620 E. Armour Road | Kansas City, Mo. 64109
816-931-0334 | www.kcpassages.org
Wednesdays: 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. "“ free admission
Saturdays: 8:00 p.m. to midnight - $5 admission
Group offers environment of acceptance -- Passages offers gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths a place to be themselves.
The Kansas City Star -- By Lynn Franey
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
In the recent American Royal Parade, a group of teens that hadn''t participated before helped build a float and rode proudly on it down Main Street.
They were from Passages, a Kansas City support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens.
The organization now has a partnership with Camp Fire USA Heartland Council, so the young people decorated the Camp Fire float with dozens of other kids, including Hispanic children, kids from Kansas City, Kan., after-school programs and other Camp Fire youth.
The Camp Fire partnership provides one example of how the 15-year-old Passages group is reaching out more than ever to get involved with community activities.
It still offers a safe, nonjudgmental place for youths to hang out on Wednesday nights, dance on Saturday nights and discuss important topics on Sunday nights.
But now Passages also is becoming more visible in other arenas.
The organization recently helped with a Habitat for Humanity project.
Some of the teens have gone the last two years to Jefferson City to help lobby for anti-bullying legislation.
Passages presented performances at "Out in Westport" and at the Pride festival in June and volunteered during a gay rodeo in Kansas City, Kan., over Labor Day weekend. In exchange for helping at such events, the organization hopes to receive donations from the organizations putting on the events.
Through its new partnership with Camp Fire, the youths may get a chance to use the organization''s campground outside Parkville, giving the teens a new, fun activity.
"We''re trying to get them involved," said Paul DiGeorge, the Passages board president the last 15 months. "We''ve expanded our reaching out a lot."
He said about two dozen youths accompanied PROMO, a statewide Missouri group advocating equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, during its lobbying day in the Capitol earlier this year.
The students talked with legislators about the need for a bill protecting all public school students from bullying and harassment. The bill didn''t pass.
Lack of acceptance or ostracism in their high schools and families is what leads some sexual minority youth to Passages warren of brightly colored rooms near the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Westport.
More than one in three gay, lesbian and transgender secondary school students said they were physically harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, according to a national survey of sexual minority youth conducted last year by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
And nearly one in five said they had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
The study also found that students who reported more frequent physical harassment were more likely to report that they did not plan to go to college. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students were twice as likely as the general student population to say they didn''t plan to continue their education after high school.
Some Passages youth have quit high school, said DiGeorge, so Passages is trying to get help for them in completing their GED exam. Some young people also have left home or are being forced out of their homes, so the organization provides them connections to social service agencies that can help them with groceries or rent.
DiGeorge said he hopes the existence of Passages helps sexual-minority youth feel they have somewhere they belong.
"I m helping give them something I never had," said DiGeorge. "I had nowhere to go. I was miserable ... Hopefully, they won''t have to go through the heartache I had to go through."
Passages welcomes young people between the ages of 14 and 20. Adult volunteers hang out with the teens after they ve been screened with a background check, DiGeorge said. They are not allowed to date the teens. Also, no drugs or alcohol are allowed at Passages events.
Besides Wednesday night hang-out sessions, Saturday night underage dance clubs, and Sunday night speaker/discussion events, Passages also holds Thanksgiving and Christmas events along with PFLAG: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Later this month, PFLAG and Passages will host a taco dinner for young people and their parents.
On a recent Wednesday night, a couple dozen young people crammed into the center. They ate donated chicken and rice. They used the computer. One played a guitar. Quite a few jammed themselves onto the big, comfy gray and black couch, giggling over fashion spreads in magazines, gently teasing each other, singing or just goofing off.
Lauren, a brown-haired 17-year-old, sat on a couch with friend Amanda Boyd, 20, of Merriam.
"You can come here and be yourself and you won''t be judged," said Lauren, who declined to give her last name because of the challenges she is having at her school. "It''s a place to be yourself and have fun."
She said being out as a lesbian in her high school has been difficult. She''s been coming to Passages for almost a year. "It''s filled with gay people, so there''s a lot of drama," she jokes, rolling her blue eyes.
Boyd said she started coming to Passages about two years ago. Now she is a DJ for the Saturday night dance club.
She said she struggled with bisexuality in high school, having boyfriends to fit in but also knowing she was attracted to women.
Now, she said, she''s growing more comfortable with just being herself. She''s cut her long hair short, and she''s wearing more "boyish" clothes that feel more comfortable and authentic.
"It''s opened me up to who I want to be instead of trying to hide it from people," Boyd said. "It just makes me happier with myself, being who I actually am."
Passages helps fill the void left by the separation that has developed between her and those who don''t accept her sexuality.
"It''s kind of hard (for gay people) to live life in general. That''s why we need support groups," Boyd said. "We need other people to talk to that we can relate to."
Jonah Thompson first came to Passages about a year ago, after he''d moved to Kansas City from his southeast Kansas hometown of about 800 people.
There, he had never been open about his sexuality, he said, because he feared being beaten up.
Thompson, 19, came to Kansas City to attend Johnson County Community College but now is working as a line cook at a Kansas City restaurant.
He heard about Passages from gay friends.
The first time he went, Thompson recalled, "The people there were really friendly and welcoming, so I continued to go there and the reason why is just that I enjoy it. I enjoy being myself and doing the things I like to do. In most places ... it''s just not accepted if I say, That guy''s hot. "
At Passages, Thompson said, "I don''t have to cover anything up."
For more information on Passages, go to www.kcpassages.org or call (816) 931-0334. The organization''s office is at 4007 Central in Kansas City.
Passages is a 501(c)3 charity and takes donations of money and food for its teen events. Adult volunteers must go through a background check before working with the young people. Passages also welcomes educators to work with the organization as allies.
"It''s kind of hard (for gay people) to live life in general. That''s why we need support groups. We need other people to talk to that we can relate to." -- Amanda Boyd of Merriam
To reach Lynn Franey, minority affairs reporter, call (816) 234-4927 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org