Alumni Story: Tonia
I attended The Attic’s 20th Anniversary Gala in November and was awed by the fact that what I helped to build twenty years ago has grown into such a vital part of our community. I know firsthand the pride, confidence, responsibility, and joy that comes with being an Attic Youth.
I came out in the 1990’s during my freshman year of high school. Being out at school was difficult. Before The Attic was founded, a friend and I attended the gay community center, hung out in Giovanni’s Room, and nurtured other gay youth as they came out. But there were no places specifically for gay youth. One day, I received a folded flyer from a counselor at my school. It was a flyer for The Attic.
My friend and I attended The Attic and we knew instantly that we had found our home. Carrie and Daren, The Attic’s co-founders, were invested in teaching us how to own our space in the world and they made it safe for other adults to be invested in youth. They showed us the difference between accepting a service as a consumer and building a service as a community provider. They empowered us to build what we needed The Attic to be. They educated us about governance, social policy, politics, fiscal responsibility, and commitment to community. With their guidance, the original Attic youth developed the Speaker’s Bureau and the Youth Planning Committee. We protested, we collaborated for change, and we educated the city about gay youth. Most importantly, we became visible.
Twenty years later I am a social worker, a mother of two exceptional children, and a wife to a loving and compassionate woman. Twenty years ago, I was a teenager who was adrift. I came to The Attic looking for a place to hang out with people like me. The Attic provided me a community, a safety net, and a safe space to figure out who I was. I learned how to more effectively use my power and how to advocate for change. Most importantly, I learned how to build community and for that I am forever grateful.
Here is my message for the Attic youth of 2013- When you eventually leave The Attic and transition to adulthood, remember that what you did there was extraordinary and what you learned there will always set you apart from your peers. Don’t be encumbered by trying to fit the mold. You won’t fit. The mold is a trap, avoid it. You will be an Attic Alumnus, which means that you were nurtured in excellence and you will grow to attain personal prominence. At the Attic, you were taught to think and reason for yourself, build community, and to solve your own problems. This combination of vision, compassion, independence, and high level thinking is one of the most important tools that you can ever possess. You are now and always will be innovators, educators, thinkers, and change makers. You are set for living a life of purpose thanks to The Attic Youth Center.