Zebra Youth prepares for 4th annual LGBTQ+ Youth Pride Prom

(Photo by Luis Xavier De Peña)

Zebra Youth is gearing up for its annual LGBTQ+ youth Pride Prom, with this year’s theme “Masquerade,” at The Plaza Live June 14.

Established in 2010, Zebra Youth is a local nonprofit organization that provides drop-in services for housing and mental health counseling to between 300-350 queer youth per year.

“We have a lot of activities and events throughout the year that help youth connect with one another and one of them being our upcoming Pride prom,” says Heather Wilkie, executive director for Zebra Youth.

The first Pride Prom started in 2019 before the pandemic forced Zebra Youth to take a few years off. The event returned in 2022. An idea to host a prom came from multiple years of survey responses from Zebra’s youth members.

“They often feel like they’re not able to be themselves at their prom,” Wilkie says.

While some public schools have loosened dress codes for their proms to allow for more self-expression, on average it is the private education institutions have not changed their rules.

Zebra’s prom is open to all youth members of the community no matter how they choose to express themselves.

“This is an opportunity to really be able to bring who you want, to bring and dress how you want to dress and really have fun and let loose,” Wilkie says.

Last year’s prom saw roughly 150 youths between the ages of 14 to 20 attended the prom, according to WESH 2.

This year, Wilkie says Zebra Youth is expecting around 200 youths to attend between two different age groups: 13-17, whose prom will be from 6-8 p.m., and 18-24, whose prom runs 9-11 p.m.

“They’re going to be very similar proms. It is a masquerade theme,” Wilkie says. “We’re hoping to do a lot of performing arts and some surprises and entertainment around that theme.”

Zebra Youth hosted a Prom Prep May 17 and 18, to help the youth prepare for the upcoming prom next month.

This Prom Prep focused on providing clothing for the attendees with a community buy-in to support the donations. The youth who attended were able to shop the attire at no cost to them.

“We’re also having a Prom Prep Glam Day event right before prom, where they can get their makeup done and their hair done at no cost,” Wilkie added.

Youth members of the community that wish to attend the Pride Prom this year have until a week before the event to register to go. The event is free admission for those ages 13-24, with a suggested donation of $15.

For members of the community that wish to show support for the event or organization, Wilkie says that the Zebra Youth is still open to looking for sponsors for the Pride Prom.

“We are a nonprofit organization, so we have a website that you can go to at ZebraYouth.org that has an Amazon wish list that we update,” Wilkie says. “Of course, monetary donations. We’re always looking for that to support excellent programming that we do.”

Visit zebrayouth.org for more information about Zebra Youth and the Pride Prom

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