Introducing, Ally LaGrange, an 8th grader who has been attending our Richmond Middle School Program for a year and a half now.
Ally had always been a lively and outgoing gifted student involved in dance, choir, and band. A year before she came out, her parents noted a drastic change in behavior. She became withdrawn and quiet, isolating herself in her room, developing social anxiety, and ultimately battling depression. Through counseling and self-discovery Ally came out as a lesbian to her counselor and her family. The counselor referred the family to us and to Ally’s surprise, her parents were completely supportive and immediately followed up on the counselor’s referral.
For Ally and her family, the Side by Side experience fit the bill from the beginning, says Ally, “My first visit to Side by Side was great! I discovered these other kids who are like me!”
Ally’s experience at her school has been more of a mixed bag, “the kids at school aren’t super accepting, and there are no LGBTQ+ student groups there, while the kids at Side by Side are so thoughtful, fun and very kind to one another. It was really nice to find support here at Side by Side. Before I came out and really knew what was going on with me, I just felt off. Afterwards, I had a realization about everything that was going on with me, it was like, wow, ok – this is my norm now.”
At Side by Side, Ally was able to find a community, explore her identity, build trust, and find lasting friendships. Ally describes that community of support as, ”my second home and the facilitators and volunteers here are incredible, I love them all, they’re just wonderful people.”
In supporting our middle school youth, Side by Side offers a parent’s group that meets at the same time. Ally’s mother notes that, “the parent’s group has provided a tremendous amount of support. We share stories of our experiences with one another and feel free to speak very openly. The facilitators and staff make a ton resources available to us as well. It’s been all around supportive for our family.”
In reflecting on Ally’s experience, her mom had this to say, “I’ve seen a huge difference in my daughter. I really love seeing how confident she’s become. Her creativity is exploding and she’s back to being an honor student once again. She was hiding and alone and now Ally is very proud of who she is and I think that’s great! I think she’ll have a lot of success in the future.”