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Dive Into Drop-In With OYM; The Queer Scouts Program

Like many nonprofits, Odyssey Youth Movement had to get creative on how to continue programming in the midst of a pandemic that sent many organizations to the virtual realm. For the last year, Odyssey’s drop-in has been entirely digital, taking place on Discord and Google Meet, with a number of virtual connection opportunities available to youth. One such opportunity is Queer Scouts, an inclusive program in which Odyssey youth can learn about topics ranging from fire safety to plant identification and earn badges in each area.

“When we started Queer Scouts, it was a way to teach classes on various topics that interested the youth, but didn't necessarily fit into our current programs like Werk It Wednesday or Gayme Night,” says Jack (he/him), one of Odyssey’s volunteer mentors who manages the First Aid badge. “The youth frequently showed interest in topics such as doing their taxes, getting their first jobs, learning about plants, camping, and the typical ‘boy scouts’ type topics.”

Jack says that for many youth, the ability to join a scouts organization is often unfairly limited by identity. “As a trans person myself, I realized how hurtful it was growing up and wanting to be in the Boy Scouts, but not being allowed because I was assigned female at birth. I didn't want our youth to experience that discrimination either. Now we have various volunteers and staff teaching programs where the youth can earn badges that we design to put on a flag, the way other scouts do on their sashes or uniforms.”

Bethany (she/they), another Odyssey mentor, has enjoyed being able to help make traditional scout activities accessible to LGBTQ+ youth. “I’ve had a great time building both a Plant Identification badge and a Self Care badge with other mentors. The youth get to try new things and practice skills with their friends and family.”

The Plant Identification badge is just one of many badges available for Odyssey youth to work towards. Each badge falls into one of several categories, including topics ranging from LGBTQ culture to professional skills to technology. Many of these badges cover life skills that youth may not have the ability or tools to learn elsewhere, such as cooking, taxes, and resume building. Still other badges are focused on creative endeavors, such as the Photography badge.

“The Queer Scouts Photography badge is a personal passion of mine,” says Mads, an Odyssey mentor with a penchant for pictures. “I think it's an amazing creative outlet for them and it's pretty accessible since good photography can be done on any device. I hope that kids are able to walk away with a solid understanding of what good photography is and come away with a few photos that they're proud of after completing this badge.”

For all three mentors, their favorite part of volunteering with Odyssey is spending time with the youth as they learn and grow. “I think my favorite part of being a mentor is just talking to these wonderful queer teens and hearing their stories and what they're passionate about," says Mads. "They are so much fun and so creative and kind in many different ways."

OYM Digital Drop-In takes place for 13-18 year olds on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4-6PM and for 18-24 year olds on Thursdays from 5-7PM. For more information, visit our programs page.

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