April 18, 2017

By Courtney E. Eiland, Website & Social Media Coordinator

Our newest board member, Ambrose G. Sayles, is featured in our latest installment of #TellYourStoryTuesday. Sayles previously served on the City of Alexandria’s Commission on HIV/AIDS from 2014 to 2016 prior to joining the Safe Space, Inc. Board of Directors.

Sayles’ reasoning for getting involved with Safe Space centers around one single word — belief. My belief that people within our community can make a difference in the lives of LGBT+ youth who would benefit from it. My belief in the general goodness of our friends and neighbors and their desire to see our society and world continue to progress and become more inclusive. My belief that without the work Safe Space and similar organizations engage in, we would be casting LGBT+ youth aside and not encouraging them to reach their full potential,” he explained.

Safe Space’s target audience is LGBT+ youth within the 14-18 year old age range. According to Sayles, he feels that youth in this age group are old enough to be aware of themselves and their feelings, yet they still feel immense pressure from family, friends, educators, religious leaders, etc. Providing a healthy and positive environment for those young adults to be themselves and to thrive might be the exact validation needed for them to take the next step toward ultimately being happy and productive adults. “Ultimately, fostering an open and welcoming environment at all ages will help defeat stigma, and the 14-18 year old age range is formative on multiple levels,” he said.

As a youth, Sayles experienced judgement that at times caused him to feel that he had to become something or someone he was not. He is glad that an organization like Safe Space exists today for youth who may encounter similar situations. “Self-esteem was a big issue for me. Throughout my life, I often felt that I did not fit in, whether in the heterosexual or LGBT+ communities,” he said. “Safe Space provides a sense of normalcy without social demands and expectations. It is about creating an atmosphere of acceptance within and outside the LGBT+ community.”

Safe Space aims to combat issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, drug abuse, bullying, amongst other situations LGBT+ youth face from society, peers, and in some cases, their own families. “I have witnessed some of these issues firsthand,” Sayles stated. “It is a spiral in a direction that is difficult to come back from if not recognized and countered early on. That is why is critical to reach the youth.”

Sayles brings a wealth of experience from his background in public policy and communications. Along with his professional and personal networks, he strives to support Safe Space as the organization continues to thrive and expand. After two successful fundraisers in 2017, be on the lookout for great things that will further support the mission to serve the LGBT+ youth community in Northern Virginia.