Above: YPAR4Change organizers closed out the YPAR4Change community forum with a group photo on Saturday, June 4, 2016 in Coachella, Calif. (Image: Paulina Rojas/Coachella Unincorporated)
By Paulina Rojas
COACHELLA, Calif. — A new study shows one in ten youth surveyed in the eastern Coachella Valley identify as LGBTQ.
The study, conducted by the Building Health Communities Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) group, collected data on LGBTQ youth issues in the eastern Coachella Valley earlier this year.
The group of students from Desert Mirage High School and Coachella Valley High School originally hoped to collect 200 survey responses from young people, ages 14-24, living in the eastern Coachella Valley but by second day, the group had already received 350 responses. By the end of the two-week survey period, the group received more than 600 responses.
Sahara Huazano, a YPAR coordinator, said she and the group of YPAR scholars strategized to get the survey in front of as many young people as possible.
“[The survey] was being passed through social media and email,” Huazano said.
Huazano also said the young people focused much of their outreach efforts on DMHS and CVHS, where some teachers encouraged their students to fill out the survey.
On Saturday, the YPAR scholars hosted the second of two community forums at Coachella Valley High School to discuss the survey results and make a call to action for an LGBTQ youth center in the east valley. More than 30 community members and partners showed up at the event.
The first forum was held at CVHS on May 25 and focused on sharing the survey results with young people at the high school.
During the YPAR4Change community forum, east valley LGBTQ activist, Alex Portillo shared her coming out story. Portillo, a communications student at College of the Desert, described what it felt like to date men although she was interested in women.
“I started to think that this what relationships were like and then I got to the point where I was honest with myself and admitted I am attracted to women,” Portillo said.
YPAR scholars also said the survey revealed that a majority of LGBTQ youth in the eastern Coachella Valley feel most comfortable at school, though LGBTQ students say they still face harassment and bullying.
Having this data will help bring more resources for LGBTQ youth to the east valley, according to Huazano.
“One of the action items would be to bring a LGBTQ center to our community,” Huazano said.
The center would offer resources such as counseling and educational materials on LGBT issues to the entire east valley.
The YPAR group plans to continue engaging in conversations with local leaders, nonprofits and elected officials about the LGBTQ center in the east valley and hopes to have the center up and running in a year.
“People that represent the community should try to help us with getting the LGBTQ center because it gives you more support and it shows that you are a people person,” YPAR scholar, Alejandro Mesa Aguilar said. “It will get more people to vote for you and apart from that, it shows that you care about the community.”
About the author:
Paulina Rojas joined Coachella Uninc. as a beat reporter in February 2016 after working as a city reporter in the eastern Coachella Valley for more than a year. Although born and raised in New York City, Paulina feels right at home in the eastern Coachella Valley. She loves the warmth of the people and buying fresh bread from her favorite bakery in downtown Coachella. Paulina is a graduate of the University of Houston, and her work has appeared in The Las Vegas Review – Journal, The Houston Chronicle, HelloGiggles and Vivala. View her author page here.