By Joseph Ciolino
The Center’s Young Professionals Council takes ‘community’ to the next level
Smiles and laughs were exchanged as bowling pins were knocked over, or in some cases, missed, during a Young Professionals Council (YPC) social event on March 19 at Kearny Mesa Bowl, which coincided with a YPC Academy class.
Among those present was Rick Cervantes, class of 2014 and now co-chair of the YPC executive committee, who was anxiously waiting for his bowling ball to reappear from the ball return before sending it down the lane again. Along with Cervantes enjoying the afternoon was a handful of past YPC academy graduates, members of the current academy class and their friends.
The YPC Academy — created by Dr. Delores Jacobs, chief executive officer of the San Diego LGBT Community Center — was established in 2012 to “expand the ranks of young LGBT leaders” and prepare them for work in the community through nonprofits or public service. According to The Center’s website, the YPC “fosters a culture of diversity, service, leadership, advocacy and camaraderie among young LGBT San Diegans while developing the next generation of LGBT and LGBT-allied civic leaders.”
Jacobs, a former professor before taking over The Center in 2001, established the curriculum herself and has taught every academy class since day one, according to staff.
“Our community is full of young leaders ready and willing to serve, and whose voices are desperately needed,” Jacobs said. “The YPC Academy is designed both to give them the tools to make a difference and to continue to build the network of young leaders who care about equality and equity. They are bright, talented, bring enormous energy and have a very valuable perspective to offer all of our boards, organizations, and our entire city and county.”
Events such as the bowling social are held monthly by YPC organizers to encourage networking and personal connections between academy students and other LGBT professionals and allies and they are a small part of what going through the academy offers.
“It is helpful learning what the San Diego community is working toward,” said Derek Hanley, YPC class of 2016 and a recent transplant from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “The Center is so well-connected and it’s great to be able to build a network.”
One leader produced from the very first academy class in 2012, is Georgette Gomez, who is currently running to represent District 9 on the San Diego City Council.
“YPC helped me look at more issues and exposed me to the elected officials that have done amazing work in San Diego,” Gomez said. “It gave me the power to see how change can be made — I got my marching orders when I left YPC.”
The issues Gomez is concerned about are the many challenges and inequalities still facing the greater LGBT community, such as high suicide rates among the transgender community and LGBT housing discrimination, she said.
“I was exposed to intimate conversations with our local and state elected and because of this, I left with a bigger challenge to be involved,” Gomez said.
One of the elected officials Gomez is referring to — who is very much an advocate of the YPC Academy — is Councilmember Todd Gloria. Gloria spoke to this year’s academy on their first day of class March 5.
In addition to Gloria, Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni G. Atkins also speaks at the academy every year, and The Center has developed strong relationships with both public servants. They are active participants in YPC events, according to Ben Cartwright, Director of Community Outreach at The Center, and a graduate of the 2012 inaugural class.
“One of the big, important parts of going through the academy is this might be the only time where a lot of the members will be able to meet these people — this intimately,” Cartwright said.
YPC members are encouraged to give out business cards and shake hands with the elected whenever they attend events. Along with meeting officials and other young professionals comes a variety of leadership-building skills as well.
“YPC really teaches you how to start a movement, how to advocate for causes that you’re passionate about,” said Prabha Singh, co-chair of YPC executive committee and class of 2015. “It taught me how to fundraise and how to gather people together.”
Singh is now involved with the Narcan program, involving the development of a type of EpiPen used for controlling overdoses, and she attributes YPC for giving her the nudge she needed to start this type of program. She also joined the board of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.
“YPC propels you to move forward, it opens up opportunities,” she said. “It’s a way of creating leaders who have a strong backing — I met 22 people through the YPC who I know will always support me.”
Both Cartwright and Cervantes put weight on the idea that the YPC and The Center’s movement can’t operate in a silo, and the LGBT community and its allies must unite together to make changes.
But the driving force of the academy is to teach “intersectionality,” Cervantes said.
“We need to honor all of the various identities that exist and work together with other social justice movements to achieve full equality,” Cervantes said. “We need more progressive folks making decisions and by training more of them, we’ll get to a more just society.”
The academy holds one class with approximately 20 students each year, and the YPC executive committee looks over applicants and selects who will enter the program. The committee bases decisions on diversity, the applicant’s commitment to the community and their ability to be involved with the community in the future.
Enrollment is open to members of the LGBT community and their allies between the ages of 21 and 40 and the academy consists of six courses held on Saturdays over a three-month span.
The current class will continue meeting through June 4, with a graduation brunch scheduled for June 18. Applications for the next class, YPC 2017, will be accepted from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.
For more information, visit thecentersd.org and find YPC under Programs.
Editor Morgan M. Hurley contributed to this report.
—Joseph Ciolino is an editorial intern for San Diego Community Newspaper Network, the parent company of Gay San Diego, and a senior at SDSU. Reach him at email@example.com.