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Head In The Game Grantee Spotlight: Rainbow Labs (California)

Read about Dani's story and how Rainbow Labs (a non-profit organization) provides a safe and inclusive after-school environment for LGBQT+ youth.

An ‘active’ sense of community for Dani, with Rainbow Labs

In the hallways of elementary school, Dani endured hurtful comments from classmates who criticized their voice and expressions. Phrases like “You have a high-pitched voice” and “You scream like a girl” left Dani feeling isolated and feeling shamed for merely being themselves.

Throughout Dani’s education, they yearned for something that could have made all the difference – LGBTQ+ role models among their teachers and administrators. Reflecting on their experience, Dani passionately states, “It would have helped me in my journey to have an LGBTQ+-identifying teacher, starting from elementary all the way to where I am now.” Generally , there is a large gap for a safe, inclusive, peer-driven community in after-school programming for Queer Gender Non Conforming (QGNC) Youth. So much so that only five of the 5000+ mentoring programs focus on serving this community in California.

In 2021, during the 10th grade , Dani’s life took an unexpected and transformative turn when they became a part of Rainbow Labs. Rainbow Labs is not just an organization; it’s a lifeline for LGBTQ+ youth, offering a safe space to embrace their identities, foster a sense of community and engage in sports without fear of discrimination. The organization provides a safe and inclusive environment after-school, where young people can participate in various activities, from discovering the power of storytelling with the Storytelling Lab, to sports such as soccer dodgeball, softball and basketball.

“We’ve built a family. And we’ve built a place where we have that shoulder to cry on. We have someone to ask us about our day.”

Dani, a student

Dani’s empowering journey serves as a testament to the transformative work of Rainbow Labs, an organization dedicated to providing unwavering support, cultivating a sense of belonging and empowering  youth through sports and community building.

A group of people, standing and kneeling for a photo on a school playground.

More about Rainbow Labs

Rainbow Labs creates a series of after-school programming (both in-person and online) to mentor and support underserved QGNC youth ages 12-18. The content of the labs are designed by QGNC youth for QGNC youth, led by a team of mentors who are trained in trauma-informed care, cultural competency and youth development. It is a safe space to explore identity, life skills and encourage QGNC youth to participate in real-world applications. The labs use evidence-based research to develop programs in mentoring, youth development, mental health and supportive services, aligning with their theory of change.

Participants of Rainbow Labs also receive workshops to gain knowledge, skills and mindsets to develop healthy identities, manage their emotions and achieve personal and collective goals. With opportunities to learn about the history of queer culture and some of the significant moments and advocates in queer history.

Rainbow Labs is committed to harnessing the power of sports and community to empower LGBTQ+ youth. All of its sessions are led by adult LGBTQ+ coaches and Rainbow Labs staff, ensuring that every participant feels welcome, accepted and supported. Dani’s journey, intricately woven with Rainbow Labs‘ mission, exemplifies the organization’s unwavering dedication to uplifting LGBTQ+ youth.

To learn more about the ‘Head in the Game’ program click here. Young people can also explore resources to support their mental wellbeing by clicking here.