Reciprocity Foundation Promotes Holistic Youth Wellness
Ten years ago, sick and tired of seeing LGBT youth thrown out of their homes after coming out, Taz Tagore and Adam Bucko founded The Reciprocity Foundation, a holistic, non-profit youth development agency. They wanted to help homeless gay kids become successful adults, and they have succeeded: they have worked to help more than 1,000 youth since 2005.
"Reciprocity works with all youth in need," said Rich Overton, Director of Programming and Operations. "Every young person that we work with has his or her own individual journey, and for some, learning to feel safe with their sexual orientation is a big part of that journey. We welcome LGBTQ-identified youth but also provide a safe environment for gay and straight youth to forge friendships and openly discuss their personal journeys."
Every week, Reciprocity offers workshops that focus on career and college prep -- over half the youth they are currently working with are enrolled in college are in the process of applying. They connect youth with various mentors and industry coaches, and they host speakers at the top of their professions from all industries, who speak to students about how to accomplish their dreams. Past speakers include Levi Kreis, Ari Gold, Bill Coleman, Jason King, Brad Carpenter (producer of "Sex & The City" and "Nurse Jackie"), Sirius XM's Keith Price, and many others.
"We have helped over 1,000 homeless youth go back to college, and the number continues to grow," said Overton. "One of the graduates of the program happens to be Isis King, who was the first transgender model on 'America's Next Top Model.' We also work directly with organizations like Good Shepherd Services to bring our programming to many of the shelters and foster residences around the city."
Another graduate is Lysette Horne, who worked as a producer on PBS' "In the Life," and returned to screen one of her episodes on LGBT youth homelessness. Reciprocity recently honored her at their June 19 Pride event.
A huge part of Reciprocity’s mission is their wellness component. They offer meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, Reiki and more to help teach youth balance and stress-relief, and a healthy spirituality. Reciprocity provides a Vegetarian Meals program during their on-site workshops, classes and events.
"Many times, this personalized engagement, motivation and professional advice instills a sense of confidence in the youth that allows them to take the steps necessary to get back on their feet and on stable ground," said Overton. "We believe in an all accepting spirituality that is defined as ’to work on one’s own soul and spirit.’"
This summer, they had 15 youth work on the Meditation Cushion Project, creating a mandala design that represented the joy, pain and hope of homeless youth. It was printed on Samadhi Cushions sold for $25 to benefit homeless youth with all proceeds benefiting youth programming, and was used in their new logo design.
Reciprocity is determined to highlight the youths’ talents and skills. They also want to bring a national awareness of their mission, and are in the process of working with yoga studios and meditation centers in different parts of the country to carry these cushions for homeless youth.
The Foundation now helps 150 youth a year, and that number is rising quickly. In addition to their on-site programming, they bring their wellness and professional workshops into shelters and foster residences, and work directly with housing organizations in all five boroughs of New York City. When a young person comes to them in need of housing, they are able to refer them to these organizations.
"Extending our mission is one of our goals for our 10th anniversary," said Overton. "We are trying to raise enough money to be able to teach 1,000 vulnerable NYC homeless youth how to manage stress, meditate and receive holistic treatments in 2015."
Reciprocity is privately funded -- but usually under-funded. They receive grants, as well as donations, which allows them to help youth directly regardless of age, sexual orientation or background. But they welcome donations here.
"There are still too many kids being thrown out of their homes for having the courage to be who they really are," said Overton. "We all have a responsibility to help our youth, who are our future leaders."
For more information, visit www.reciprocityfoundation.org