This past prom season, Pride Foundation was thrilled to fund proms in Oregon City, Ashland, and Eugene, Oregon. We recently chatted with Executive Director of Lotus Rising Project about their work, the success of their recent prom and the road ahead.
Lotus Rising Project is a youth-initiated, compassion-based non-profit in Southern Oregon, dedicated to empowering LGBTQ and Ally youth to stand for equality and social change in our communities. Kathy tells us that the original vision of the organization was “to create an environment free of oppression, where people could celebrate diversity of all kinds.”
With that in mind, Lotus Rising Project staff and volunteers have been running their Not Straight Not Sure program for many years. The program consists of bi-weekly support groups and social network for youth aged 14-25 years. They also support Ashland High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance through social justice training and leadership development. Additionally, they educate youth and adults around important safety programs which focus on eliminating bullying. They do this through their interactive Youth Empowerment Theater troupe – quite fitting for a town known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lotus Rising Project’s work also extends to direct service through Del’s House, which provides basic needs and emergency financial assistance for homeless and near homeless youth and adults while maintaining sensitivity to dignity in an otherwise discouraging and often desperate situation.
Kathy speaks fondly of their most recent event, “Our recent prom truly brought together people of all ages and gender identities. There were literally five year olds out on the dance floor with 85 year olds and every age in between engaging in line and circle dancing, and some dancing that was unrecognizable, but, nevertheless, joyful.”
In January of this year, the Board of Directors and Staff developed worked diligently to develop their next strategic plan to take Lotus Rising Project through 2016. As a result, they are moving from a grassroots support effort to a full-on agency that will eventually have a major impact in the Rogue Valley and beyond.
Kathy says their focus is on strengthening infrastructure to support the vision of expanding Lotus Rising Project’s outreach in the schools and local municipalities. “Our plan is for Lotus Rising Project programs to become models for other communities outside the Rogue Valley.” She hopes that Lotus Rising Project will be the first place someone calls when they need help, or are looking for a partner “to significantly move the community toward a more open, inclusive, and safe place for all to live and work.”
Kathy confesses that their “vision is ambitious,” but assuredly knows that it is “full of passion and heart.” A strong board and dedicated staff who are interested in seeing that vision through most certainly help with their ambitious goals.
She is confident that Lotus Rising Project will create positive change in the Rogue Valley, where their mission that “people will be able to freely express their sexual orientation, and gender identify without fear of retribution” will be true once and for all.
Jett is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Oregon. Email Jett.
For more information on Lotus Rising Project, please contact:
Kathy Bates, PhD
Executive Director, Lotus Rising Project