A local LGBT health and wellness center is expanding education and outreach efforts through programs benefiting the LGBT community.
Through the Mazzoni Center’s new education department, staff is working on strengthening existing programs and developing new ones, according to Elizabeth C. Kahn, Mazzoni education director.
The education department was established at the end of November and Kahn later came on board to run it.
“We are the education team,” Kahn said. “We have a variety of programs, mostly focused externally, but we are hoping in the future to focus on internal education as well. [The center] recognized a lot of opportunities and ways we could build programs and reach out to a variety of more people.”
Educational outreach programs were previously run through Mazzoni but did not have an independent department. The department has three full-time employees and one part-time.
“Now we have this team who are really focused. We are starting to develop all the programs and gather data of what works,” Kahn said.
The department oversees three separate programs: Ally Safe Schools, How to Love and Professional Development.
Ally Safe Schools focuses on collaboration with schools in Philadelphia in an effort to create a safer and more welcoming, inclusive environment for LGBT youth, Kahn explained.
Although this program was established in 1997, staff in the education department is working to strengthen collaboration and look at what the schools need, she said.
Ally Safe Schools also provides guidance to students and staff for creating Gay/Straight Alliances.
“It’s really about teaching the students how to become advocates for themselves and their communities,” Kahn said. “We don’t come in and say, ‘This is what you are supposed to do.’ That’s what makes it meaningful to them. We are hoping to see the allied program develop a student-led initiative. That’s already in the works.”
Another program reaching out to youth is How to Love, described as a healthy sexuality workshop series in Philadelphia schools. Education professionals go out to the schools and run either a single workshop or a series.
“Some of the workshops are on how to prevent bullying; self-esteem; consent; [and] setting healthy boundaries,” Kahn said.
The Mazzoni education department’s new Professional Development program offers training within organizations. This is an adult program focused on bettering LGBT communities through education.
“There is a need for people to take ownership of the information we’re giving,” Kahn said. “It’s not just an organization saying, ‘Learning about LGBTQAA is important.’ It’s about people recognizing their own ownership and responsibility to understand things they don’t know. I think the most powerful way of doing that is teaching others to be their own advocates and to advocate for each other.”
Kahn added that it is about “meeting people where they are” and working for mutual understanding in a way that may be challenging but healthy.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of education in the Mazzoni Center, keeping us all ‘in the know’ and to make sure the entire agency is on the same page. I’m so proud and excited about this department because we have quality people who are about influencing the communities, outside educating people every day,” she said.
The Mazzoni education department is also developing a new training program for organizations and agencies in Philadelphia who support, treat or advocate for survivors of sexual assault in the LGBT communities.
“This is a whole community of people trying to help these survivors,” Kahn said. “We are creating a training program that specifically teaches and trains communities, agencies, hospitals, any organization who comes into contact with a survivor.”
Kahn said the department plans to introduce this program by spring.
For more information on Mazzoni Center or its educational programs, visit www.mazzonicenter.org/youth/education-and-schools/.