Center on Halsted is Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQIA Youth from the South and West Sides

This week we took The 77 Project to community area #6, Lakeview, to visit with the CEO at Center on Halsted. See our interview with Modesto Tico Valle on The 77 Project Instagram Highlight at Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people of Chicagoland. We were inspired when visiting Center on Halsted, and being guided on a tour of the state-of-the-art facility by CEO Modesto Tico Valle, to tell the story of the Center’s youth programming.

In the words of Valle, Center on Halsted is a “place for all,” with programs designed for LGTBQIA youth to seniors and all ages and demographics in between. When it comes to the LGTBQ youth in the Chicagoland area, Valle shared with us that most who seek the programming at the Center are from the South and West Sides of our city, and oftentimes find themselves homeless. This is why each of their programs end with a meal, to ensure that those who participate have at least one balanced meal that day.

In an effort to share more about the Youth Programming at Center on Halsted, we curated a list provided by their team—selecting one program from each category—for the community to take part in. Learn more and see the full breadth of their offerings here.

Arts and Culture

StART: Art Therapy Group:
A weekly art therapy group which provides a safe space for LGBTQIA youth to use art and the creative process to advance personal identity, self-expression, healing and growth.

Critical Thinking and Education

This is a weekly discussion workshop where staff and youth interested, not just in gender, race, class, and sexuality intersections, but also a multi-disciplinary approach to discussing such topics, come together to explore connections related to social justice. Each week, we explore a different topic and discuss the implications for a world many of us dream can TRULY live up to the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Leadership and Activism

Youth Service Corps:
Affectionately known as VolunQUEERS, this program provides opportunities and support for young people to develop leadership skills through volunteer service in the youth program and beyond.

Recreation and Sports

Youth interested in cultivating some mindfulness and meditation head this way. This workshop is designed to help you come in decompress from the stressors of the outside world. Each yoga session is followed by a half hour of tea and talking. Let’s take some time out of our busy days to rest and relax.

Vocational and Professional Development

Ya Betta Werq!:
This workshop will provide you with support around job interview etiquette, email etiquette, creating or updating a resume, and researching and applying for vocational or educational opportunities.

Sexual Health and Identity

Beauty Group:
Beauty group is a workshop for transgender and gender non-conforming female identified youth to come together to discuss and explore what it means to be beautiful, both inside and out. This workshop offers support around how to carry and present yourself in a way that helps you to feel both confident and fabulous.

Health and Wellness

HIV Testing and Counseling:
In collaboration with the Center on Halsted’s HIV Department, Health Educators are available to answer questions you might have, offer free and confidential HIV testing and counselling, and provide support with linkage to medical care.


Center on Halsted also helps the youth through Legal Advocacy, Employment, and Housing programs. Know someone who could benefit from the programming at Center on Halsted or want to get involved yourself? Learn more about becoming a member today. Center on Halsted is open to the public every day of the week from 8am to 9pm. The team at Center on Halsted is always open to suggestions from the youth community on how to evolve and improve their programming. Learn more at


The 77 Project is a storytelling and media project presented in partnership with Xfinity to help redefine the narrative of our neighborhoods from the inside out. We’ll spend the remainder of 2018 shining a light on organizations and individuals in each of the 77 community areas of Chicago who are making a positive impact. Know someone we should speak with? Recommend them here.




Vanessa M. Buenger is the director of marketing & content at Chicago Ideas. She is passionate about storytelling and the power it has to change the world.

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