Out Youth is expanding its reach to youth in Title 1 middle schools and high schools with the help of Lead Clinician for School-based Services, Renée Randazzo, LPC-Intern (1). Thanks to a generous Opportunity Grant from the Saint David’s Foundation, Renée was hired in November to facilitate supportive counseling groups in middle schools and high schools in Central Texas, and is charged with the long-term vision of growing the program.
Renée is an LGBTQ-affirming psychotherapist who has experience working with adolescents and teens in school settings. Before arriving in Austin during the summer of 2016, she worked for one of the nation's leading organizations in LGBT healthcare, Fenway Health, as the Transgender Health Patient Advocate and Community Liaison. Renée also worked as a school-based clinician for the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy, conducting individual and group counseling in Boston Public Schools. She completed clinical internships at the MassArt Counseling and Wellness Center and Boston GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services).
At Out Youth, Renée hit the ground running, facilitating existing groups at Travis High School, Eastside Memorial High School, Manor High School, Dobie Middle School, and Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Academy. She also brought on a new campus for the spring semester of 2017, Del Valle High School. Alongside Clinical Director Sarah Kapostasy, LPC, and two graduate student interns, Renée delivered campus-based supportive counseling to 40 youth, many of whom would not otherwise be able to access Out Youth’s services.
In addition to providing direct services, Renée has drafted a formal curriculum for supporting the social emotional wellbeing of middle school and high school students who are vulnerable to minority stress. The curriculum is entitled “Be YOU: Young, Outspoken, Unbreakable” and combines best practices in LGBT-affirming counseling with developmentally appropriate techniques to maximize cohesion in youth groups.
“The Be YOU curriculum has a solid foundation in the most current research on supporting LGBT youth,” Renée explained. “It is also based on Out Youth’s 27 years of experience serving the needs youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities. In many ways, writing this curriculum was like channeling the wisdom of Out Youth and turning that wisdom into a written product.”
Pending approval from the Austin, Manor, and Del Valle School Districts, Out Youth plans to pilot the Be YOU curriculum through its school based services program over the school year 2017-18, collecting data from participants in order to evaluate its effectiveness. The reach of the program will expand from six campuses to ten, with the launch of groups at Webb Middle School, Mendez Middle School, McCallum High School, and Liberal Arts and Science Academy. Interest in the Be YOU groups is so strong at Manor High School and McCallum High School that two groups will be needed at each in order to meet the demand.
With a total of 12 groups planned, the coming school year promises to be a busy and fruitful one. Our goal is to end the school year with double the number of youth served in the program over the previous year, rich data collected from the pilot demonstrating youth’s improved resilience and self-advocacy, and a well-crafted and thoroughly-tested curriculum to share with the world.
(1) Renée Randazzo, LPC-Intern is supervised by Sara Weber, LPC-S