As the executive director of the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ youth-service organization, I am continually aware of the many challenges facing our youth. Challenges such as bullying and the specters of suicide, poverty and homelessness offer a never-ending array of obstacles our youth must confront daily as they struggle to survive and continue "the good fight." But I am also blessed to witness something else -- maybe not as "attention-grabbing" as the non-stop headlines jostling for our attention -- but rather something truly wondrous: the strength and tenacity our youth possess. These precious gifts allow them not just "to exist," but "to rise above" and grow and thrive.
Today, I am thrilled to share with you just a few of the essays written by our youth as part of our "Proud Leaders: HMI Youth Members Speaking Out" series hosted here on HuffPost Gay Voices. These three compelling pieces were written by HMI youth members Barbie Brown, Julien "Kamari" Perkins and Kemar McIntosh. Kemar is also the winner of an HMI college scholarship, as well as the winner of the Perry Moore Hero Fund, which is an artistic scholarship that was started by Hunter Hill to celebrate literature's ability to inspire and have a positive impact on the lives of young people. This award is named after the notable author and producer Perry Moore who dedicated his life to spreading a message of tolerance and empowerment for all, and firmly believed in the power of the written word to change the world. This scholarship is awarded annually to young writers who best express stories of understanding, tolerance and strength within the LGBT community.
I hope you will read these words and, like myself, be inspired by our amazing young people. To learn about HMI's work with them and thousands of other LGBTQ youth, please visit us at www.hmi.org.