INSIDE OUT CELEBRATES 30-YEAR MILESTONE OF SUPPORTING LGBTQ+ YOUTH

This year, Inside Out Youth Services (IOYS) will be celebrating its 30th anniversary of supporting LGBTQ+ youth in El Paso and Teller Counties. Inside Out was founded by mental health expert Regina Dipadova in 1990 to provide LGBTQ+ youth with a safe space to deepen their connections with peers and adults. The El Paso County Department of Health and Environment hosted Inside Out until 1997, when it incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In the past 30 years, Inside Out has grown from serving approximately 20 youth each year to more than 600 and training nearly 1,000 youth-serving adults annually.

Founder Regina DiPadova remarks that Inside Out has achieved so much in the last 30 years, and is proud of their integrity: “Through the 30 years, Inside Out has developed a longevity of integrity, leadership, reliability, and credibility so they can do what they do best—provide a safe space where kids can come and create their own community. At Inside Out these youth have a sense of belonging, adults in their life that are really good role models, and they get to act on the confidence they’re always had to truly become themselves.”

Over the 30 years, many of the initial programs offered by Inside Out haven’t changed. This includes support for substance abuse and youth experiencing homelessness, and creative activities that engage youth in the evenings like community meals. IOYS still remains physically closed due to COVID-19, but our programming has been continuing virtually to provide youth with opportunities to connect, build community resilience, and access vital services from their homes. Recent grant funding for IOYS has allowed the team to expand their programming and age demographic to support young adults through age 24.

Founder Doug Kendrick remarks that a lot has developed at Inside Out too and is eager to see how else they grow. He remarked that organization that once struggled to find funding and board support, has expanded into the community. “Congratulations – it’s fantastic that the organization has thrived and continues to thrive. It’s been amazing to watch their work expand into school education, and program development for the community. There was no safe for LGBTQ+ kids in school when Inside Out was founded.” Inside Out also lobbies at local and state levels to improve health access and increase positive outcomes for youth, and educate youth-serving adults on LGBTQ+ issues and how to be trusted adults to make our community more accepting of gender and sexual diversity.

Executive Director Jessie Pocock acknowledges the achievement of this 30-year anniversary made possible by our community, at various levels. “It is vital to celebrate all the lives IOYS has impacted through our life-saving work and all the donors, funders, staff, volunteers, and the youth themselves that have made this possible.” But, while Inside Out and the local queer community have come a long way in the last 30 years, the hard work isn’t over, she says. “It is equally important we recognize that the impact of discrimination is still far-reaching. LGBTQ+ youth in El Paso County are more likely to attempt suicide, more likely to use illegal substances, more likely to experience violence, more likely to experience homelessness, and less likely to be connected with an adult they trust than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Inside Out and our community have a lot more to collectively achieve in providing safe, supportive, and equitable spaces for our youth.”

Inside Out will be commemorating this special anniversary during their annual Ally Up event, taking place October 8th, 2020 7 P.M. MT for free on their website. The Ally Up event is typically hosted in-person at a local ballroom each year, but the IOYS team is excited about the virtual event that will take place instead. To raise awareness and support for Ally Up, allies in the community are encouraged to set up a personal page through Inside Out’s crowdfunding site. The process is quick and easy and allows individuals to reach out and advocate for Inside Out through their own networks.

Pocock continues, “Your support of IOYS helps us uplift these young people and change our community so that LGBTQ+ youth feel uplifted and supported everywhere they are – yes at Inside Out but also in their schools, churches, homes, shelters, and neighborhoods. Your allyship for the past 30 years has saved lives and will continue to do so for years to come.”