Rainbow Youth Alliance (RYA) held its first support meeting in March 2006. The group was conceived by Stephanie Kreps when her teenage son came out to her as gay. Her family was living in Montgomery County at the time and could not find a supportive group for her son to attend locally. They stumbled upon a youth group through PFLAG of Columbia and started making the drive each week. After attending with her son for several weeks, Stephanie decided that the drive was too far and took the initiative to start another group in Rockville.
Along with the help of several good friends (Cynthia Shires-Thurston and Irene Eckstrand), Stephanie turned to her congregation, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville to start RYA. The first meeting was only a few youth and three volunteers one Sunday afternoon in March 2006. RYA has met regularly since and now averages 10 youth per meeting. With one grant from the Unitarian Universalist Association, several from Brother, Help Thyself, plus contributions from other individual sponsors, RYA was able to hire a part-time clinically trained RYA Coordinator to develop programming, recruit and train volunteers, and build RYA’s services. RYA’s first coordinator was Ryan Logue, who left to pursue doctoral studies. Then Shane'a Thomas lead RYA for several years, finally moving on to teach at the university level. Currently, RYA is quite pleased to have Timothy Elliott as RYA Coordinator.
RYA is grateful to the continued support and sponsorship by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville (UUCR), without which RYA would not be able to provide monthly support meetings and other social events for LGBTQ youth in the area. While RYA focuses on youth in Montgomery County, many youth travel an hour or more from all over Maryland, DC and Virginia to attend meetings and events. As our mission states, RYA envisions a future in which rainbow teens have access to safe, nurturing environments where they are respected, listened to, and given information and skills. We strive to provide that type of environment at all of our support meetings, social events, and community programs. RYA hopes to be around for years to come.