Holiday Spirit

Kristen Lee, a Fletcher Middle School librarian and faculty adviser to Fletcher's first-ever Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, leads students during a club meeting on Nov. 20. Lee credits the nonprofit Outlet program, which provides mental health and other services to LGBTQ youth, for guiding her and other staff in supporting LGBTQ students. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Posted November 22, 2019

A go-to resource for supporting LGBTQ youth
Outlet helps local educators, families raise LGBTQ kids

by Elena Kadvany

Several years ago, when a transgender student wanted to transition from female to male at Fletcher Middle School in Palo Alto, librarian Kristen Lee reached out to Outlet, which provides services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, to lead a training for the entire staff.

Later, when a student approached Lee to start the school's first-ever Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, her first call for guidance was to Outlet.

When the school administrators started hearing reports of students being harassed while using gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, Lee sought Outlet's advice on how to address it.

And when a series of posters appeared last summer criticizing Palo Alto libraries for displaying literature about LGBTQ issues as part of its Pride Month celebration, Lee brought Outlet to Fletcher for a parent education event attended by more than 75 people.

Outlet's role in Lee's efforts to better support LGBTQ students at Fletcher has been "all encompassing," she said.

"This organization has been key to my work not only in the GSA but my work in parent education, my work as a librarian," Lee said. "It's really invaluable."

Outlet, which is part of local nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services, was awarded a $10,000 grant this year through the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund to support services for transgender youth; counseling for LGBTQ teens struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues; and education, consultations and outreach for hundreds of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto residents.

Outlet was formed in 1997 as an HIV-prevention and education program through the YWCA of Palo Alto. The organization taught volunteer high school students how to lead HIV-prevention workshops, with the goal that they would then teach peers at their schools. It turned out that many of those students identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, eventually prompting Outlet to form a support group for LGBTQ youth.

Today, Outlet runs six peer support groups for different ages (from 10 years old to 25) and gender identities. All of the groups are free, drop-in, confidential and run year-round.

The structure of the groups is flexible, said Ryan Fouts, program director for Outlet. Sometimes, the teens want to talk through challenges they're facing at school or at home, such as difficulty coming out or being misgendered by a peer or teacher. Other groups spend time doing homework, playing games or simply hanging out.

A transgender man who transitioned from female to male while a Gunn High School student several years ago said in a previous Weekly interview that at the Outlet groups, he felt he had "permission to exist."

"These are spaces where youth can come and find support with their peers and have a chance to be who they are," Fouts said. "It gives youth an opportunity to maybe explore and test out their identity, if they're still in a process where they're exploring who they are. This is a safe place for them to do that. And it's an opportunity for them to meet other people who are going through similar things."

The Holiday Fund grant will help Outlet boost its support in particular for transgender students, a group that has "drastically increased" at the program in recent years, according to the Outlet's grant application. Transgender youth now make up one-third of all young people served by the program's support groups.

Fouts attributed this increase to a "slow progression of folks feeling more comfortable coming out earlier."

Outlet is seeing an overall rise in LGBTQ teens needing and seeking mental health services. According to the California LGBTQ Youth Report, more than 78% of LGBTQ youth in the state felt depressed or down in the prior week and only 10% said all of their school staff are supportive of LGBTQ students. In Santa Clara County, students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer are three times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide and are 1.5 times more likely to use drugs and alcohol, according to a 2016 survey.

Outlet staff, all of whom are members of the LGBTQ community, work to communicate to youth that "there's an opportunity to be happy and healthy and successful, despite challenges that you might experience" related to gender identity and sexual orientation, Fouts said.

Lee said that students in Fletcher's Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club have benefited from an Outlet staff member who is biologically female but identifies with they/them pronouns. The staff member comes to the school library, and students can sign up to spend time with them one-on-one or in pairs.

For the students, the staff member is "like a rockstar," Lee said. "The first time they showed up my kids were like, 'Here is a person who identifies within the community. They are out, they are proud and they are thriving.'"

Lee said Outlet's training has helped staff better understand the spectrum of gender identities. She urges teachers to ask students their preferred name and pronouns at the start the school year — and to apologize directly if they get it wrong at any point. She's also become more aware of gendered language, such using as the phrases "you guys" or "ladies and gents" to address students.

"This is the kind of advice I'll get from Outlet," she said. "I'll send an almost-weekly email: 'This came up. What do I do about this?'"

One of Outlet's priorities this year is to be more purposeful in reaching out to local middle schools, which are increasingly requesting support from the program, Fouts said. The program provides training to teachers and school staff on how to create inclusive policies and safe environments and on the laws that protect students' safety at school.

Outlet also offers free consultations to families; provides parent education in school districts such as Palo Alto Unified; and is launching soon a support group for parents of transgender and gender-expansive youth.

Outlet anticipates serving more than 3,000 people this year through all of its services, including 330 LGBTQ youth and straight allies.

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023.

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000


As of December 7th, 165 donors have contributed $145,397 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

24 Anonymous7,075
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Maureen O'Connor150
Martha Shirk1,200
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker1,000
Diane and Brandy Sikic*
Alicia Newman100
Dorsey & Katherine Bass300
Edie Kirkwood1,000
Micri & Bob Cardelli*
George & Betsy Young*
Diana Diamond1,000
Brigid Barton 2,000
Korol Family250
Lawrence R. Yang & Jennifer W. Kuan10,000
Anthony & Susan Wood25,000
Lynn and Andrew Newman*
Katherine Bryant100
Barbara Riper*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Carolyn Caddes*
Kroymann Family250
Marian Adams100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Elaine Hah1,500
Retired*
Julie & Dan Lythcott-Haims250
Tess & Eric Byler150
Denise and Jeff Simons*
Keith and Linda Clarke*
Harriet Benson10,000
Arthur Keller250
Cynthia Costell100
George & Betsy Bechtel200
Ellen M. Lillington200
Tom & Nancy Fiene200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Merele McClure250
Joanne Koltnow400
Christina Kenrick1,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Xiaofan Lin100
Bonnie and Bryan Street*
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jody Maxmin*
Diane and Joe Rolfe*
Diane Finkelstein250
Linda & Steve Boxer*
David & Betsy Fryberger400
Jan Aarts*
Judith Appleby300
Donald Barr150
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Edward Kanazawa300
Karen A. Latchford*
Kingsley Jack250
Richard Zuanich150
Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow100
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Elizabeth Salzer & Richard Baumbartner*
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Dorothy Saxe100
Kieschnick family1,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Art and Peggy Stauffer500
Ed & Linda DeMeo500
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Scottie Zimmerman100
Fran Codispoti250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
The Dong Family200
Bill Reller*
Harry E & Susan B Hartzell100
Ann Burrell & Charles Smith*
Janis Ulevich*
Theradep Technologies500
Jack and Susan Thomas*
Julie and Jon Jerome*
Andrea B. Smith100
Leif and Sharon Erickson500
The Havern Family5,000
Gwen Luce and Family*
Bruce Campbell*
Freddy & Jan Gabus250
Richard & Pat Douglas50
Susan & Doug Woodman150
Donald Price*
Judy Ousterhout*
Judy Kramer*
Kingston Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer500
Roger & Joan Warnke300
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John Keller100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Margaret Forsyth and Glenn Rennels*
Charlotte Johansen200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Donna Silverberg100
Paul & Jane Millman250
In Memory Of

Walter Dean*
Er-Ying and Y.C. Yen250
Jack Sutorius750
Michele Wilson*
Bob Donald350
Leonard Ware*
Robert Spinrad100
August King*
Bob Simoni500
David W. Mitchell*
Paul Seaver*
Gerald Berner300
Ian Halliday250
Ray Bacchetti300
Marie and Don Snow200
Andre Jones *
Jim and Dottie Mellberg*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
David Sager100
Ted Linden200
Lily & Philip Gottheiner150
Chet Brown*
Phil Zschokke200
Nellie Perna Bartello100
Bob Donald*
Steven T. Ross100
In Honor Of

Marilyn Sutorius750
Darla Tupper3,922
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach and Thomas & Louise Phinney1,000
Polly Caddes*
Joe Simitian*
Gabby Perez & Logan Marsh250
Dr Ron Radzilowski*
Businesses & Organizations

Angelo Family Foundation 5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Hearts & Minds Activity Center75
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000