« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Meredith Holt, Published January 13 2013

A safe place: LGBTQ support group gives teens sense of belonging

FARGO - Prompted by a rash of gay teen suicides in recent years, Amanda Logan approached her co-worker Heather Krause.

“We need to do something before it affects our community, because it will,” Logan said.

Together, the two school-based social workers formed Kaleidoscope, a group designed for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) teens ages 14 to 18, those with LGBTQ parents, and their allies.

Angela Rodacker, of West Fargo, says the group, the first of its kind in the area, has given her 17-year-old son a sense of belonging and helped him make new friends.

“The Kaleidoscope group has helped him tremendously,” she says.

Modeled after Duluth, Minn.’s Together for Youth, Kaleidoscope provides teens with a safe environment for education and discussion.

“They’re not going to get teased, there won’t be any hate, they can be who they are, and they can ask any question they want to ask,” Logan says.

Rodacker’s son, West Fargo High School senior Taylor Sandhofner, says the environment at his previous school was closed-minded and homophobic.

“In the community I grew up in, being gay was looked down upon,” he says. “I didn’t know anybody who was gay, either.”

Both Sandhofner and his mom say the move to West Fargo has been for the better.

“Kids are a lot more accepting. They don’t care,” he says.

Fellow Kaleidoscope member Lindsey Kleven, an 18-year-old freshman at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, says that wasn’t the case at her high school.

At Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, she wasn’t open about her sexual orientation until the end of her senior year.

“The kids who were openly gay before were basically isolated from everyone else in our class,” she says.

Now that she’s in college, it’s not as big of a deal.

“It’s like, ‘Whatever, everyone’s a person,’ and it just doesn’t matter anymore. That’s definitely like a breath of fresh air,” she says.

Although Lakeland Mental Health’s Logan and Krause prepared themselves for potential backlash when they started the group, they say the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We were kind of like, bracing ourselves and trying to prepare for what might happen, but it’s been awesome,” Krause says.

Kaleidoscope’s first fundraiser brought in $1,000 for activities, supplies and food.

Speakers who’ve visited the group have discussed topics such as bullying, suicide prevention and healthy relationships.

“They just soak it up like a sponge,” Krause says.

Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, North Dakota’s first openly gay lawmaker, has talked to the group a couple of times.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for young people to find resources in the community and find other students like them,” he says.

In the past year, Logan and Krause have watched some of their regular members grow.

Two sat on a discussion panel following a showing of the documentary “Bully” at the Fargo Theatre. Another started a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school.

In their work with both elementary and middle school-aged students, as well as in Kaleidoscope, the group’s co-founders stress the importance of self-esteem.

Rodacker says her son has always been confident in himself despite what others may think or say, something she says he could help teach other kids involved in the group.

“They look up to me because I’m not afraid to be who I am,” Sandhofner says of his classmates.

If he could tell a new Kaleidoscope group member one thing, it’d be that everything changes.

“When I was in eighth grade and ninth grade, I thought, ‘I hope things get better,’ and they did,” he says.

Meeting info

The Kaleidoscope LGBTQ Youth Support Group meets Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Pride Collective and Community Center at 810 4th Ave. S., Suite 220, in Moorhead, except for special events.

Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send a letter to the editor.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590