Learning while dancing is definitely one way to get through to youth, and the Hetrick-Martin Institute has utilized that technique to the fullest.
Voguing balls, a dance-filled educational process, is one of the many ways that HMI, the oldest and largest organization dedicated to helping gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning youth to reach their fullest potential, works with youth.
The Institute began in 1979 when Dr. Emery Hetrick, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Damien Martin, a professor at New York University, who were life partners, gathered a group of concerned adults together after learning about a homeless 15-year-old boy who had been beaten and thrown out of his emergency shelter because he was gay.
The adults formed the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth to assist this group of young people; in 1988, the organization was renamed the Hetrick-Martin Institute. To date, more than 2,000 youth per year participate in the HMI's programs, and the Institute is home to the Harvey Milk High School.
"HMI is the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ youth organization," CEO Thomas Krever said in an interview with Playbill.com. "The Q stands for questioning, and it's the realization that sexual orientation and gender identity is challenging enough for adults to figure out who they are. How do we expect 14 or 15 year olds to do that? We offer a safe space where young people cannot just come and be, but grow and thrive and become real, contributing citizens."
The institute is currently collaborating in a charitable partnership with the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell's groundbreaking musical about an East German transgender singer fronting a fictional rock-n-roll band, starring Tony nominee Neil Patrick Harris, is donating a portion of the price from each ticket to HMI. The partnership also utilizes the resources of the production, including representatives from the show meeting with young people in an educational and mentoring capacity, and additional fundraising support.
"We've had a long history with Hedwig and have been beneficiary to its incredible charitable giving and work," Krever said. "For a nonprofit, where you're struggling to get the word out about the mission you're trying to fulfill and the young people that you're trying to serve, this was a godsend. To be included more than a decade later in this new epic performance has just been, once again, another godsend for us to really get the message out there."
Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Hetrick-Martin Institute began their relationship in 2003 with the tribute album "Wig In A Box: Songs From and Inspired by Hedwig and the Angry Inch," which benefited Hetrick-Martin. It was followed by 2006's "Follow My Voice," a documentary film on the HMI School and the making of the "Wig in a Box" album.
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