The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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Fenway Health’s Young Leaders Council ushers in new era

Members+of+the+YLC+pose+for+a+photo+during+a+Harbor+to+the+Bay+charity+bike+ride+event+meant+to+raise+funds+for+local+HIV%2FAIDS+organizations.+The+YLC+was+founded+as+a+community+for+LGBTQ%2B+young+professionals+and+to+raise+money+and+awareness+for+causes+important+to+the+LGBTQ%2B+community.+Photo+courtesy+Young+Leaders+Council.
Members of the YLC pose for a photo during a Harbor to the Bay charity bike ride event meant to raise funds for local HIV/AIDS organizations. The YLC was founded as a community for LGBTQ+ young professionals and to raise money and awareness for causes important to the LGBTQ+ community. Photo courtesy Young Leaders Council.

Located on Boylston Street, the Young Leaders Council, or YLC, is an initiative striving to provide resources to LGBTQ+ young professionals in their 20s and 30s through community-building programming and fundraising for issues central to the LGBTQ+ community. 

By hosting events such as the hair “Cut-A-Thon” and health equity dance party at the Omni Hotel, the YLC, which is housed under Fenway Health, not only fosters community but also raises money and awareness for causes important to the LGBTQ+ community.

Dana Lyford, a development staff member at the YLC, has been with the council for seven years and was drawn to the YLC for its unique and engaging programming.

“The primary goal of the YLC is to bring people in their 20s and 30s together, to build community and to sort of represent Fenway Health, so they do small events together like bar nights, or they’ll participate in the Wicked Queer Film Festival,” they said “Basically anything you can think of, they’ll do it.”

Founded in 2009, the YLC has been a prominent force in the Fenway community and beyond. However, in the past two years, several members of the YLC have departed from the council and Fenway Health as a whole, forcing the council to redefine itself and its mission. 

Henry Gaylord, a steering committee member in the YLC, has been with the council for a little over a year. As a member of the committee, he and his colleagues are responsible for the planning of council events and recruitment of new members. Throughout the past year, Gaylord has noticed a decline in membership and cohesion following the pandemic and the loss of several people in leadership positions at the YLC.

“We’ve transitioned our co-chairs, and we also transitioned our Fenway Health staff liaison,” Gaylord said. “Both of those roles are really big roles for the steering committee and YLC. So I think that’s the biggest challenge for us right now; we’re kind of re-envisioning what we’re doing.”

However, Gaylord said he believes the council’s massive transition is ultimately for the better, and he is excited for the changes this massive shift in leadership will bring.

“This is an exciting time for the YLC,” Gaylord said. “A couple of our primary goals are to build community support for Fenway Health, which is an organization near and dear to all of our hearts and to build community and engagement for young professionals who have this shared passion.”

The YLC is a council that works closely with Fenway Health, which was founded in 1971 as a part of the “free clinic movement.” Today, Fenway Health provides accessible healthcare, especially to those in the LGBTQ+ community, a group that has historically been restricted from receiving the healthcare it needs. YLC Steering Committee member Mitchell Ambrosino has been with the council since summer 2023. He said he was drawn to the YLC because of the work Fenway Health was doing.

“I am an LGBTQ member myself,” Ambrosino said. “I am passionate about a lot of things that the YLC works on, like bringing health care to marginalized and low-income people, especially with a focus on LGBTQ people having access to things like HIV prevention. Also, [the YLC] blended a bunch of previous experiences that I enjoyed that I no longer get to do in my current role as a professional.”

Fenway Health offers several resources such as its comprehensive AIDS action program which is aimed to assist populations “most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.” Lyford said the YLC plays a unique role in the community through the work it does for Fenway Health. The YLC is crucial in notifying the greater community of all the work Fenway Health is doing to ensure members of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups receive the care they deserve.

“[The YLC is] our tendrils out into the community,” Lyford said. “Having them as ambassadors, both to go out and tell the community the kind of things we offer and what we’re doing for the queer community in general, is super important. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is the community we build for folks.”

As someone who has been a part of the council for almost a decade, Lyford is not pessimistic about the changes the YLC is undergoing. In fact, they are inspired by the promise and enthusiasm of the newest wave of YLC members and what they mean for the future of the YLC. 

“The new members have really good energy,” Lyford said. “They’re really excited to re-engage and get things moving again. So it’s awesome to see and I’m excited to see where things go for the YLC.”

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