Purpose and History

Center on Halsted's Youth Program, originally known as Gay Horizons, was founded in 1978 by fewer than ten young people. Today, we help more than 1,600 young people across Chicagoland to realize their full potential through our vocational training programs, seminars and leadership development programs. In addition, we directly serve more than 300 LGBTQ and Allied youth as part of our comprehensive onsite youth programs.

Our Youth Program creates a safe and confidential environment for young people ages 13–24 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or who are straight allies (LGBTQA). Youth programming at Center on Halsted offers a nurturing and supportive environment where youth and young adults can thrive. With a variety of programs and services, from cultural and event programming to case management and leadership development, we are committed to supporting LGBTQ youth and young adults in a holistic manner.

We value the contributions that talented, capable, and conscientious youth offer in identifying and shaping the services they most need. We have a diverse and experienced staff with backgrounds in social work, HIV/AIDS prevention, youth leadership, education, group facilitation, and counseling; and who are responsive to the goals and aspirations of our youth. Additionally, we are aware that our patrons have a range of needs and concerns—including but not limited to coming out, identity management, sexual health education, stable housing, and employment—we aim to sustain programming that sees our youth as assets. We have an expectation of excellence for all youth at Center on Halsted and we offer programs that provide a roadmap to a successful future.

How to Become a Member!

As a youth program member, you will be able to participate in youth programming and special events at Center on Halsted. It's easy to become a member. You can call us at 773.472.6469 EXT 418, email us at, or just stop by Center on Halsted and ask to speak to someone from the youth program. Below are some of the programs and services available exclusively to Center on Halsted youth.

Programs and Services

Youth Programming at Center on Halsted is Monday–Thursday from 4:30–7:30 p.m. On Fridays we have Your Gym: Basketball, Volleyball, and Dodgeball from 4:00–6:00 p.m. Youth intakes are available by appointment, generally between 1:00–6:00 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Please take a look at our weekly schedule here:

Workshops and Programs

The youth program offers a wide variety of workshops and presentations each week that are focused on developing skills and knowledge in the areas of arts and culture, critical thinking and education, leadership and activism, recreation and sports, vocational and professional development, and sexual health and identity:

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

  • Movie Mondays
    A weekly film screening followed by a facilitated conversation exploring themes that emerged from the film.

  • Joel Hall Youth Dance Program: An After School Matters Youth Apprenticeship
    In this year-round Dance and Performance internship, youth ages 14–21 earn a stipend while learning the elements and techniques of modern, jazz, hip-hop and ballet from some of the best choreographers and dancers in the community.

  • Choices by Voices
    This music workshop engages youth in telling folks about their life experiences through music and words. Youth will have opportunities to share experiences with their peers while learning a music and vocal skills.
Critical Thinking and Education
  • Creative Writing
    This workshop provides youth with space to craft their writing and storytelling skills through different exercises, prompts, and themes, geared toward a celebration of your own unique and powerful voice. Youth will have the opportunity to not only write stories, poetry, and memoire, but to share their writing in a supportive environment, and receive thoughtful feedback.

  • GED
    The GED program is a collaboration between Center on Halsted and Truman Community College, and aims to help LGBTQ individuals of any age complete 8 weeks of community learning in order to prepare for and pass their GED examinations.

  • Intersections
    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.

  • Youth Leadership Council (YLC)
    Through encouraging youth leadership development, the YLC enables youth and young adults in our program to develop a deeper understanding of how to effect change in our communities and in the world at large. The YLC creates a space for youth to share engage in processes that inform many decisions about programming.
Recreation and Sports
  • Your Gym
    For young individuals who are interested in flexing their athleticism and fitness join us every Friday for Basketball, Volleyball, Dodgeball & other fun activities to get their heart-rate pumping!

  • HULA Hoop Club
    Ana Hoops and America’s Hula Hoop Revival put together a fun workout program for LGBTQ youth and allies.

  • Yoga
    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
  • Youth Work It!
    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.

  • Cyber Center Youth Support
    Come to the Cyber Center to learn how to use basic computer programs including, but not limited to: Microsoft word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Sexual Health and Identity
  • Coming Out Group
    This workshop provides a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth ages 13–18 to help build healthy self-awareness and personal identity through affirmation, conversation, and community building.

  • Let’s Talk About Sex
    This is a workshop for youth to come together to collectively explore topics related to sex, sexuality, and sexual health in an environment of acceptance and understanding. This workshop encourages a shift from a culture of shame and ignorance around sex toward one that supports curiosity and information sharing.

  • How to Deal
    This workshop creates an opportunity for any young person who needs some space to talk about stress in an environment of non-judgment and collective growth. Join us to learn strategies that can help you to deal with the pain, anger, and frustration we all experience.

  • 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.
Community Night

On the third Wednesday of every month the youth program comes together to engage in a community learning activity or experience, and to celebrate youth who are graduating from the program, who have celebrated birthdays in the past month, and to present on youth program member with the Youth Excellence Award for outstanding achievement and effort toward meeting their personal goals. We hope you will consider joining us in celebration of our community.

Adult Ally Support

Adult Allies are available to meet with youth program members one-on-one to offer support with housing, education, employment, and health related needs. Adult Allies work with youth to develop a plan that outlines youth’s strengths, vision, and unique goals; and to identify what is getting in the way of meeting those goals as well as what steps youth can take toward accomplishing those goals. Adult Allies are also able to refer youth to culturally competent, supportive services and programs in order to get additional support in any of the areas listed above.

Health and Wellness

The Youth Program at Center on Halsted is committed to providing youth centered and youth driven health services, education, and advocacy. Health services are non-judgmental and focused on your individual needs.
  • HIV Testing and Counseling
    Youth 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. To get connected with a Youth Health Educator email to schedule an appointment, or send us a message at

  • Medical Clinic
    Center on Halsted in partnership with Heartland Health Outreach offers a free walk-in medical clinic for youth program members every Thursday from 5:00–7:30 p.m. Come in to meet with a doctor, get a connected to health services, and sign up for health insurance.

  • Counseling and Therapy
    Youth Program staff and counselors are available to meet with youth one-on-one to offer counselling and support around dealing with and growing from difficult and stressful situations. To meet with a Youth Program counselor email
Legal Advocacy

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless offers a free walk-in legal clinic for youth program members on Wednesdays from 1:00–2:00 p.m. Come in to get legal advice, learn about your rights, and receive support around obtaining a birth certificate, or changing your name or gender marker.


Center on Halsted in collaboration with Truman Community College offers a free 8 week GED program to help youth and adults prepare for and pass their GED examinations.


In addition to our vocational workshops, Center on Halsted partners with TransWorks, a program of Chicago House, to provide transgender and gender non-conforming youth and adults with support through a 3 week employment readiness skill-building workshop.


After continuing to listen to the needs of young people, Center on Halsted approved a Youth Housing Strategy composed of implementing two goals. The first is for Center on Halsted to operate a cluster site housing program for youth from the existing Youth Program, developing a model to be replicated across multiple neighborhoods in Chicago. The second, and subsequent, is for Center on Halsted to have a new Youth Intentional Permanent Housing building in operation, housing LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness with wrap-around services, in a supportive community.

Center on Halsted is proud to announce it has launched its cluster site housing program, identified initial residents, and is continuing to accept applications as the program expands. To learn more information, click here!

Youth Empowerment Project

Youth Empowerment is a program designed to build community and promote the health and well-being of African-American and Latino gay and bi men between the ages of 16 and 29 years old. Its mission is to prevent or reduce the rate of HIV transmission among these young men through its various program components, all of which offer gift card incentives for participation. Youth Empowerment is comprised of the following:

Most of our services are mobile! In other words, program services are offered at Center on Halsted or we can come to you for HIV testing, M-group or CLEAR.

Youth Empowerment is directly funded by a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To see if you are eligible to participate, please fill out this questionnaire.

To participate or learn more about our programs, please call 773-661-0958 or send a message to

Contact Us

We want to hear from you. If you have questions about our program or would like to become a Center on Halsted youth member, please call us at 773.472.6469 or send an email to  


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