|Nathan Belyeu of The Trevor Project|
by on FEBRUARY 27, 2013-Empathy if one of City Year’s organizational values. Given the complexity of the problems we seek to transform, the diversity of the communities we serve, and the inclusivity of our own corps and staff, a strong capacity for empathy is essential; it empowers us to collaborate effectively in order to maximize our impact. This value comes alive in our educational partnership with The Trevor Project.
We had the opportunity to interview Nathan Belyeu, Senior Education Manager of The Trevor Project, to discuss empathy and its impact on creating safe spaces for youth.
What is the vision of The Trevor Project?
I love our vision statement – “A future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity..” Our organization really lives that vision in our programs – all of us as a staff and as an organization are really focused on how positive the future really can be for young people, and we have a vision of what we’d like to see the world become so everyone can be who they are in any environment they are in whether that be at home, at school, or in their community.
We live that out by creating a safe space to allow people to be who they are in our online spaces and crisis services and also in our education collaborations, so youth have spaces out in the world where they work and learn every day.
Empathy is one of City Year’s organizational values – how is this value reflected in the work that you do at The Trevor Project?
Empathy is your pain in my heart – is a very beautiful definition that I refer to, personally. At Trevor, we seek to be empathetic and to develop empathy in those we work with, both teachers and youth.
Through our education programs we seek to help people who have contact with youth to develop empathy for students and for each other. Through our resources and education programs we lead students and those who work with youth through educational experiences that encourage and promote understanding and empathy. Increasing understanding and awareness motivates people to change their behavior – to create spaces for young people, for example – to use affirmative language and stop using certain language, and to create environments more conducive to learning.
City Year believes that valuing empathy empowers us to collaborate effectively in order to maximize our impact – how do you envision the City Year/The Trevor Project partnership enabling City Year corps members to better support students in schools?
We hope that through the educational resources that The Trevor Project offers to City Year corps members that they will walk into education environments with greater understanding of LGBTQ students, and that they are equipped with tools to be able to not only work more effectively with students, but with their fellow corps members as well. We hope that the tools we have are things that corps members can use with students in the classroom – and that they can actively change the educational environment that they are in to create a safer learning environment for all students.
Because Trevor’s life-saving and life-affirming services are open to youth through age 24, we also hope to serve as a resource for LGBTQ City Year corps members – to give them a safe space to create community and to help them cope with the challenges they face day-to-day. Whether a corps member needs an affirming voice on the Trevor Lifeline or TrevorChat, or they want to join a safe online community of LGBTQ and allied young people on TrevorSpace, The Trevor Project is a safe resource to support the well-being of City Year corps members.
Why is it important for young people to be empathetic towards others?
There is a real measurable impact on the learning environment when students are not empathetic towards each other. We know from research that many of the the actions that happen in schools that demonstrate a lack of empathy negatively impact the learning environment, especially for LGBTQ young people. If we can build empathy, we know it will create safer spaces, more affirmative environments, and create a space where everyone can reach their academic goals.
Empathy is a key value that we need to teach in our education system, a value that will serve young people well beyond their K-12 years, into college, and into their career. The goal of our education system is to not only learn facts, but to be good citizens. Empathy is a key quality and value that we should model and help our students develop.
What would you say to a young LGBTQ youth who is struggling with a negative environment?
The Trevor Project is here to listen 24/7. You are never alone. Through our Trevor Line and Digital Crisis services we are here to listen and talk with you about whatever you may be experiencing.
We are here for you and we are working hard through our education programs to make sure there are adults in your environment that are there for you too.
Want to get involved with Trevor Project? Check out these resources: