Orlando Youth Alliance coming to Lake County

By : Alyssa Merwin
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Taveres – The Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA) is branching out into (conservative) Lake County.

The OYA is a community group that provides counseling, support and a safe social outlet for anyone between the ages of 13 and 24 in the LGBTQ community. There are currently chapters in Orlando, Lakeland, and Seminole.

“We’ve been around since 1990 and we’ve offer support groups for LGBT youth for the past 24 years.” said Michael Slaymaker, OYA president. “The Orlando Youth Alliance is a great model because we don’t have to answer to the school board.”

He’s referring to the conflict between the Lake County School Board and then-8th grader Bayli Silberstein, an openly bisexual student who was stonewalled from creating a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at Carver Middle School. Silberstein won the rights to the GSA for the remainder of her time at Carver, but she has since moved onto high school.

“There is not a GSA currently meeting at Carver Middle School,” said Christopher Patton, Lake County School District spokesman.

In the meantime, Lake County’s OYA chapter is starting strong. Slaymaker said 11 people attended their first meeting for interested parties.

Former Eustis High School student and Lake County resident Jake Seymour said Lake County is more conservative than neighboring areas.

“I grew up here and I know a lot of people in the LGBT community,” said Seymour. “The OYA would help people realize they can be comfortable in their own skin.”

Slaymaker said organizers are still in the beginning stages of creating the chapter and they’re not sure when they’ll be up and running, but anyone interested in getting involved or volunteering could email Info@OrlandoYouthAlliance.org or call 407-244-1222.

In the interim, the Orlando chapter meets 6:15 p.m. every Tuesday at Reeves United Methodist Church.

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