Jaime Mendoza is RYSE's Member Engagement Assistant and a former youth member.
Read more about his experience below, and give to RYSE for Give Out Day!
How long have you been a part of RYSE and Alphabet Group?
I first joined RYSE when I was 14 years old. I was a freshman at Richmond High School and I needed some help with my school work. I heard about RYSE Center and how they have different types of cool supportive resources. A program that interested me was the Alphabet Group, a safe space for those who identify as LGBTQ or Allies. RYSE also offered Alphabet group at my High School. I enjoyed the program so much that I attended both the group at my high school, and at RYSE.
What activities have you done with Alphabet Group and RYSE?
Some of the Alphabet Group activities I have participated include making art that expresses LGBTQ identity, watching documentaries and going to LGBTQ film festivals, and going to city council meetings and speaking on behalf of the LGBTQ community. I have also participated in leadership retreats at the RYSE center where we learned about LGBTQ activism. RYSE also commits to celebrating Pride Month in June, and I have helped plan many of the activities and programs that are held throughout the month.
How has Alphabet Group helped/impacted you and your identity?
Alphabet Group has helped me gain more knowledge about my identity and how there are so many intersections. It makes me happy knowing who I am today. I learned that there is much more about identities overall and that people should have spaces that allow them to explore their own identities. Alphabet Group has influenced me and given me the confidence to educate others with the knowledge I have gained.
How has Alphabet Group and RYSE helped you develop your leadership skills?
Alphabet Group and RYSE has helped me build my leadership skills by allowing me to get involved in programs like the RYSE Leadership Internship where I learned about community organizing and policy. I also was able to attend the Free Our Dreams: Queer and Trans Youth Summit where I helped facilitate a workshop on Power and Systems of Oppression.
What does your involvement at RYSE look like now?
I am now 19 years old and have transitioned from member to staff and I currently support young people as the Member Engagement Assistant. My job is to hold a safe and friendly space for young people at RYSE so that they feel welcomed and accepted for who they are, and ensuring that their needs are being met. I also help maintain a positive and affirming culture at RYSE by keeping young people grounded in our RYSE values.