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Friendly City Safe Space launches LGBTQ mentorship program

Randi B. Hagi
Hyacinth Bellerose is the director of the Friendly City Safe Space, a community for LGBTQ+ people and allies in the Harrisonburg area.

A new mentorship program in Harrisonburg aims to pair LGBTQ youth with adults who understand their experiences. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The Pride Partners program is a new initiative of the Friendly City Safe Space, in which LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 22 can sign up for a mentor who's at least 10 years older than them and shares the same identities.

HYACINTH BELLEROSE: We're trying to match as many identities as possible. So, you know, if you're 15 and you're bisexual and you're Latinx, we're trying to find someone who is also bisexual and Latinx. … Frequently, LGBTQ youth don't have mentors, or have access to older people who have their same identities.

Hyacinth Bellerose is the organization's director. While Pride Partners was, in part, inspired by other mentorship programs, they noted that LGBTQ kids might not relate to or even be accepted by a straight, cisgender mentor.

BELLEROSE: Even if you have affirming parents, having an adult who understands exactly what you're going through and has also been through that can be really powerful and affirming and just incredibly important.

They've consulted with the Collins Center, a local sexual assault response and advocacy organization, about what policies to establish to ensure participants are safe.

BELLEROSE: All of the meetings between mentors and mentees will happen at the Safe Space, during our open hours, which means there are always two volunteers present who have gone through a training, and also have background checks. … Mentors and mentees won't have each other's contact information. … All communication will go through the Safe Space.

A handful of mentors and mentees have already signed up, and anyone interested in applying for the program can do so online.

Mentor application

Mentee application

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.