Sarah Kapostasy

Be YOU Expands to Serve More Schools this Fall

Be YOU Expands to Serve More Schools this Fall

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.

Be YOU Curriculum Supports Students in Schools Across Central Texas

Be YOU Curriculum Supports Students in Schools Across Central Texas

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.

Out Youth Receives Opportunity Grant from St. David’s Foundation

In November, the St. David’s Foundation awarded Out Youth $100,000 over two years to help us expand counseling services in area Title I schools.

By the end of the two-year grant period, Out Youth will expand services to at least 9 middle and high schools, serving LGBTQ+ youth who may experience barriers to receiving services at our drop-in center. Out Youth is proud to partner with Communities In Schools of Central Texas to offer both psychoeducational support groups and individual counseling services.  

Out Youth is also honored to partner with the University of Texas at Austin’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Health and Rights Lab as we develop an evidence-based curriculum to promote the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ+ identified students. Should this research-driven curriculum prove successful, Out Youth will be able to share these best practices with other school districts and community-based organizations throughout Texas. 

As a result of this funding, Out Youth has hired a full-time clinician to provide school-based services. Renée Randazzo, LPC-Intern, brings extensive experience with the LGBTQ+ population and teens in the school setting. Renée’s prior experience includes work with Fenway Health and Boston GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services), and she has researched and delivered innovative curricula to middle and high school youth on topics related to gender and activism. 

As an opportunity grant recipient, Out Youth will strive to find innovative ways to collaborate with our partners to promote the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in Central Texas. 

Bullying and LGBTQ+ Youth

Youth of all sexual orientations and gender expressions can face verbal and physical harassment throughout their school day. In a 2011 national survey of LGBTQ+ youth, 82% said they had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, 38% were physically harassed, and 18% were physically assaulted. Nearly 64% of students reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Repeated instances of bullying can create an environment that is not conducive to learning or academic success. Research shows that LGBTQ+ students who experience harassment have higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as increased absenteeism. Some choose to drop out of school entirely.

Fortunately, available research also suggests that school safety is a protective factor for LGBTQ+ youth. School administrators need to assess their school environments to ensure they are fostering a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. All staff should be trained to support LGBTQ+ students, LGBTQ+ history could be incorporated into lesson plans, and safe spaces should be designated throughout the school. Students often report feeling safer when they feel they are protected by teachers, school administrators, and staff. Resources for creating safer school environments for LGBTQ+ youth can be found at:

Further, establishing social organizations such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (https://gsanetwork.org/) and psycho-educational support groups that expand school-based supports for LGBT youth can have a dramatic impact upon student well-being and academic outcomes.

Out Youth is currently partnering with Communities In Schools of Central Texas to provide such support groups in 5 area schools this fall, with plans to expand into at least 9 schools by the fall of 2017. This aligns with the overall mission of Out Youth to promote the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well- being of LGBTQ+ youth so that they can openly and safely explore and affirm their identities.

Creating a Circle of Support for Families of Out Youth

Positive parental and familial relationships are crucial for all youth. For LGBTQ+ youth in particular, families can play a critical role in reducing risks and promoting well-being.

Since youth can express a clear sense of gender identity at various ages, there is greater awareness among some families that an adolescent might be transgender. As a result, more parents are seeking accurate information about gender development and sources of support. [1]

The Out Youth Family Circle of Support aims to give parents and caregivers of trans-identified youth a forum for sharing, support and education. Family members gather on Sunday evenings for six weeks to discuss their hopes and concerns, and to receive psycho-education related to gender identity.

The Family Circle of Support is facilitated by mental health clinicians with experience in family therapy in the context of the LGBTQ+ community. Jessica Fish, co-facilitator of the group this Fall, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

Some of the most meaningful moments as a facilitator is seeing how parents, grandparents and other family members grow in their time during group and how they come to better understand and support their youth through that process.
— Jessica Fish, Co-Facilitator of the Family Circle of Support

“It's amazing to see how dedicated these parents are to showing support and affirmation for their youth," said Jessica, a facilitator for the Circle of Support. “Some of the most meaningful moments as a facilitator is seeing how parents, grandparents and other family members grow in their time during group and how they come to better understand and support their youth through that process. We talk a lot about how to be supportive of our youth by affirming their identities, and letting explore who they are at a very important time in their lives.”

“What I found most helpful was to hear the stories of other families and where they were in their journey,” said Pat, a parent who recently attended a Circle of Support meeting. “To hear parents that seemed to be further along in their journey than myself and get their feedback on how they dealt with their child coming out as transgender. Although my child has only been out to me since March of this year, I feel I have come a long way with not only that but with all that a parent of a transgender youth has to go through.” 

In addition to the Family Circle of Support, Out Youth is implementing innovative ways to connect with the families of the youth we serve.

In December, Out Youth plans to host a panel consisting of parents of transgender youth as well as a local medical provider who specializes in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for transgender clients. This combination of personal experience and professional expertise aims to help parents and guardians feel less alone and leave better informed, so they can best support their child.

The next round of the Family Circle of Support group will start in January of 2017.

For more information about the Family Circle of Support or clinical services at Out Youth, please contact Sarah Kapostasy, Clinical Director, at sarah.kapostasy@outyouth.org.


[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children. HHS Publication No. PEP14-LGBTKIDS. Rockville, MD: 201