Thursday, January 19, 2012

Communication and Education Weekend Inspires and Brings Families Closer

Students, parents and professionals alike participating with YES Institute.

Four groundbreaking courses on communication, gender and orientation topics welcomed over 70 diverse students and parents, as well as teaching, counseling and nursing professionals. Arriving from all compass points–including South Florida, North Carolina, New York University at Potsdam and Cuernavaca, México–the 7th annual Communicating Powerfully & ReVisioning Gender weekend delivered the YES Institute mainline curriculum in a back-to-back intensive format.

Group breakout dialogue pods.
The Communication Solutions™ course empowered attendees with a new model and an entirely new context to communicate about topics people are most passionate about. At the beginning of the course, Tatiana stated, “I get upset when talking about gender and orientation with others who are not accepting and don’t agree with me. I get agitated. I just end up changing the topic, or giving up.” By the end of the course, Tatiana reported, “This was above and beyond uplifting, as well as educational. When people disagree, it’s not about me at all. I feel I now have the tools to communicate better.”

The Gender Continuum course, Part 1 of the Gender/Orientation Series™, began and concluded with parents and their children shedding tears of struggle and triumph as they wrestled with binary concepts of gender given by our culture in one hand, and their authentic experiences of gender and love for their children in the other.

“This course brought me closer to my mom, and opened up a line of communication that was many years overdue,” reported Ian, a college student. Vivi, a high school student shared, “I learned that I am not the only one who is like myself,” after Evan, a YES Institute youth speaker, shared his harrowing recollection of the time he attempted suicide. When Evan learned that one person did care for him, it was enough to prevent an untimely fate. A Hispanic father commented, “This course was very powerful in every sense. The knowledge I gained will help me better support my son and better help educate others.” A mother wrote, “I previously questioned very young children questioning their gender–I now believe it is true and honest questioning.” Lydian, a college student observed, “This course left me feeling so full–I feel a change in the room after every course. It’s the change of love.”

Brian, a high school student, impressed everyone with his courageous voice. 

Twenty university students from SUNY Potsdam engaged with other attendees at the Deciphering the Matrix of Orientation course, Part 2 of the Gender/Orientation Series™. “This was a great day to learn, think, and reflect on orientation and gender. Hearing the comments from students was insightful,” commented Prof. Ada Santaferra. A student remarked, “This day had a impact on me. I saw the pain the young people deal with all the time. This inspired me to work to make a difference.” Another student commented, “This course helped me understand what some of my future students may go through.” Another student quipped, “There is a lot more than just being gay or straight.”

Part 3 of the Gender/Orientation Series™ concluded with the Being & Belonging course. One student said, “I am now willing to be more vulnerable and not hide myself from other student peers who need someone to talk with.” A teacher added, “It’s so valuable to have an organization I can refer my students to for education.”

Sky talking with Christie at Communication Solutions™.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are You Ready for Chalk?

On Thursday, January 26, Chalk Miami will be hosting a special event to celebrate the work of YES Institute. Chalk is the newest 21 & over billiards and table tennis lounge premiering on South Beach. For $35, you can enjoy complimentary cocktails, light hors d'oeuvres and unlimited games between 7–9pm. Proceeds benefit YES Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. 

Local social groups including Miami Movie Mollies and Miami Pride Social meetups have already let us know they are participating! 

RSVP is necessary to attend the YES Institute event at Chalk. Simply email your name and number of guests in your party to Please type "YES Institute" in the subject line. 

You can also arrive at Chalk without RSVP as long as you bring this printed certificate and present it at the door. Chalk is located at 1234 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida. Nearest SoBe municipal parking garages include 12th Street & Drexel or 13th Street & Collins Avenue. 

Come and be among the first to check out this exclusive new SoBe lounge, all while contributing to the community work of YES Institute! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can Social Media Alone Make a Difference?

by Annie Liu, YES Institute Intern 

Annie Liu
Social media is heavily embedded in our teenage subculture. As a 17-year-old high school senior, I am certainly no exception to the technological revolution. I can shamelessly admit to being an account-holding enthusiast of popular sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube — and the list goes on and on.

Recently, I saw a video that has stayed with me long after I closed my browser. My heart sunk with a devastating thud when I came across the chilling video of a gay 14-year-old student named Jonah Mowry, whose powerful account of enduring school bullying splashed a brutal reality across my screen. 

The obvious fear and pain strewn across his tearful face revealed the experience of many youth like Jonah who feel isolated from their peers as a result of bullying. Even in the tender years of elementary and middle school, the suffocating animosity toward those who fall outside our rigid molds of gender and orientation is overwhelmingly prevalent.   

For many, the shock of this knowledge can fade quickly. We continue to live our lives, clicking the next YouTube video, dismissing the possibility of a world without teenage suicide as a dream. After all, what could we really do to eliminate bullying, anyway? I had no clue.

In June 2011, I walked through the doors of YES Institute for my first Communication Solutions™ course with a mindset similar to many of my peers'. School bullying is something I saw and kept quiet about — I didn't really think I had the power to change anything. But by the end of the first day, a strong sense of hope emerged. More than that, I felt like I had a newfound responsibility to speak out and take actions beyond clicking the “Like” button. I learned that powerful communication, one grounded by a purpose bigger than who is right and who is wrong, can lead to solutions for even the most unyielding of problems. YES Institute demonstrated how I actually could, with some tools and some practice, become a powerful speaker.

Annie practicing tools during YES Institute's Communications Solutions™ course

We live in a world where differences are scrutinized and misunderstood as frightening and bad. These ideas eventually lead to deep-rooted fears and devastating consequences. Many do not even know how to begin talking about these topics, much less generate solutions to address our conflicts in a way that is effective and honest. Today, with my newly-developed communication tools, I feel more equipped to engage in conversations about bullying and suicide in a way that inspires my peers to take action. Modeled from what I learned from Communication Solutions™, I'm creating a plan for the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club at my school to deliver presentations to classes and invite more students to talk about these topics and reduce anti-gay name calling and bullying.

I encourage anyone reading this blog to take the next step beyond the safety of your internet screen and take action now. Social media is great for raising awareness and sharing information, but it won't make the difference on its own. Sign up for YES Institute’s Education Week, taking place during Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, and access new communication tools and cutting-edge education on gender and orientation so you can make the difference in your community. Contact Brittney McCabe, 305-663-7195 or to register. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Get Your Game On at Chalk Miami Benefiting YES Institute

On Thursday evening, January 26, Chalk will be hosting a special event to celebrate the work of YES Institute. Chalk Miami is the newest and trendiest billiards and table tennis lounge premiering on South Beach. For $35, you can enjoy complimentary cocktails, light hors d'oeuvres and unlimited games between 7–9pm. Proceeds benefit YES Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. 

RSVP is necessary to attend this exclusive event. Simply email your name and number of guests in your party to Please type "YES Institute Event" in the subject line. You can also just show up at Chalk and bring this printed certificate to present at the doorChalk is located at 1234 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida. 

Come and be among the first to check out this exclusive new SoBe lounge before their official grand opening, all while contributing to the work of YES Institute!