In 2009, Youth United for Change launched its Pushed Out chapter to target students who felt they were forced out of school due to school-based factors, such as harsh discipline and unengaging curriculum. Now, the chapter has a new campaign that focuses on how LGBTQ and homeless youth are being affected by the shortage of counselors.
YUC is calling on the District to increase the number of high school counselors, saying that the shortage could be affecting the academic experiences of LGBTQ and homeless students. Superintendent William Hite recently pledged to place a full-time counselor and nurse in every Philadelphia school by next fall, a plan that is contingent on the approval of Gov. Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget.
“The issues confronted by homelessness and LGBTQ youth are bigger than our capacity as a small organization,” said Rapheal Randall, YUC’s executive director.
“What we are trying to figure out is what the intervention is within the school to help address those issues, and what we identified deals with the issue of school counselors who do a lot of triage necessary when people go to school and they don’t feel like they have someone they can talk to about their issues at home.”
The Pushed Out chapter has included students who are not connected to any school-based program and students enrolled in alternative, accelerated, and disciplinary schools, GED programs, and reintegration programs for formerly incarcerated youth. Many LGBTQ and homeless students are now among the so-called pushed-out population.
Giancarlos Rodriguez, a senior at El Centro de Estudiantes, said YUC supported him during a period when he was homeless and attending Penn Treaty High School.
“My school, the most they did was talk to my mom on the phone and listen to her side. They said they didn't know what they could do, you know, giving me excuses,” said Rodriguez, a Pushed Out chapter member.
“The schools did not help me as much as YUC helped me.”
Rodriguez said the organization gave him a place to talk about his concerns and advocate for change.
“One of the first times I came to YUC, we were helping to change the [District’s] code of conduct against LGBTQ people that was about girls not being allowed to wear suits to prom ... To us that was weird, because every person has the right to wear what they please,” he said.
Rodriguez said that YUC members testified at a School Reform Commission meeting about this issue and got results.
“We went and talked to the School District and they changed the code of conduct. It was only my first week and already big things were happening,” he said.