The Princeton-based nonprofit HiTOPS has received a $15,000 grant from the Bunbury Company to expand its services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
HiTOPS will be implementing new programs to benefit LGBT youth throughout the state. The grant will fund an education and advocacy project to reduce incidences of self-harm, physical assault and bullying.
Adolescence is a challenging developmental phase for most young people. For LGBT youth, the challenges occur within a context of daily harassment, abuse and lack of adult and societal support, according to several studies.
A national report from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network showed that eight of 10 LGBT youth surveyed were verbally harassed, and six out of 10 felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers; 47 percent of all transgender youth seriously thought about taking their own lives; 25 percent report having made a suicide attempt; and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT.
According to HiTOPS, research shows that by fostering pro-social attitudes and facilitating a sense of connectedness amongst students, depression, suicidal feelings, substance use and unexcused absences among LGBT youth decrease.
HiTOPS runs support group for LGBT teens, as well as monthly meetings for parents and families of LGBT youth. To address unsafe school environments and reduce homophobia, HiTOPS has developed in-service training for school teachers and administrators, state-wide conferences, and educational workshops for middle and high school age students. HiTOPS will be participating in a statewide conference for transgender youth on the Princeton University campus next month.