My name is Katrina, and I first learned about The Attic in 1996 when The Attic Speakers Bureau (now The Bryson Institute) did a sensitivity training for a group of youth. During the training, it all of a sudden hit me – they were talking about me. My coming out journey began. It was scary, and my first trip to The Attic was a bit overwhelming, and I wasn’t ready to face myself. Even though the place was warm and welcoming, it took me almost a year to go back. When I did, it changed my life.
As a teenager I was isolated and felt very alone. I had few friends and my family was unable to provide any emotional support or comfort. I learned not to trust people. At The Attic the adults cared about me and for the first time I felt like I mattered.
By my senior year of high school, I was going to The Attic regularly. I was on the youth leadership committee, attended all the groups I could, was a member of The Attic’s theater troupe Thesbians and Drama Queens, and walked in marches and parades. I also had the opportunity to travel with The Attic to San Francisco and Arizona. The Attic was my first community, my first chosen family, the first time I got hugs. The Attic helped me learn what it meant to be a young person and what it meant to become an adult.
After graduating high school, I went to Swarthmore College to become a teacher because I wanted to help young people heal. I’ve been a teacher for 17 years now and I have referred many youth to The Attic. Quiet kids find their voice, and come away feeling like there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. They learn about systemic oppression and that they can be part of ending it. It’s like The Attic produces this wave that just knocks down oppression throughout Philadelphia. I have also seen a shift in the kids I teach, they’ve become more accepting. I’ve thought a lot about how this happened. I believe that The Attic was at the forefront of this change because of the thousands of youth who have gone out into the world and become teachers and leaders, fostering positive change in the City of Philadelphia.
The most valuable lesson I learned at The Attic was that there is a place for me in this world. I belong here and have a purpose and I get to choose the people who will support me in reaching my purpose.
I recently became a foster parent to a 17-year-old, and I can only hope that I can do for this youth what The Attic did for me.