Marissa Rice - Director of Youth programming
Marissa Rice is the Director of Youth programming at ACR Health. Rice came to ACR Health in the early 1990’s after graduating college. She didn’t feel that there was a proper sexual education program in school systems. She saw her friends struggle as young adults due to the lack of information available to live sexually healthy lives. Rice recalls the early years she worked at ACR Health, three youth committed suicide because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. “It was just unbelievable and I don’t think people understand the depth of it,” Rice said. Rice believes that gender identity can define an individual and if it has to be hidden, it can tear people apart.
At ACR Health, Rice is on a mission to reach every youth with a group that supports their needs. The Q Center has groups that start at the age of eight all the way to 30. These groups include Transgender youth groups, Unity group for gender queer/gender fluid, Women of Color and so on. “At the Q Center, we don’t just accept, we embrace,” Rice said. Rice says it’s about getting a sex positive message out there and not shaming anyone.
Rice’s work at the Q Center and the Adolescent Health Initiative is aimed to eliminate gender stereotypes and change the way our society thinks. The Adolescent Health Initiative is targeted prevention program that works with youth and young adults ages 12-22. It is a peer support group that develops positive social and community norms and healthy decision-making about sex. The program focuses on developing lifelong skills to reduce risky behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy and STD’s. By creating different youth groups that fit the needs of Q Center youth and working on the Adolescent Health Initiative, she creates an inclusive and welcoming environment for youth, families and LGBTQ allies.
Karen Fuller Assistant Coordinator – Q Center
Karen Fuller has worked at the Q Center as the head of the Transgender Parent Support Group since September 2015. She also works with the Transgender Youth Support Group for LGBTQ youth ages 13-17. Fuller began as a volunteer for ACR Health several years ago after her son transitioned. She works with the kids in the Q Center and leads the Trans Parent group.
Since she began, one of her goals is to be a connection for parents of LGBTQ children. Every day Fuller receives a call from a parent who is struggling. Fuller guides and supports them through their child’s transition process. “It’s really nice to give them advice because I’ve been where they are and I know what they’re talking about,” Fuller said.
The Q Center opened its doors in 2006, early on in her son’s transition. Fuller and her family came for the opening day in hopes of connecting with other people and finding programs her son, Shane, could join. Shane joined the Trans Kids group when he was nine, and when Shane turned 13 he was able to join the upper-age group LGBTQ Youth & Allies, and Fuller began volunteering.
Every day Fuller gets to see kids grow into themselves at the Q Center. “It’s really exciting to see kids come in here after being places where they haven’t been supported,” Fuller noted. She sees the fear in their eyes, but as kids come to the Q Center and see other kids just like them, with a staff that understands them, they blossom. Fuller says it’s a bonus as an employee to get to see how a supportive environment like the Q Center can really impact a kid, just like her son. Fuller saw all the things her son learned, his skills, growth and progress after being involved with the Q Center. “Being here, [Shane] was able to do things that we wouldn’t have expected him to do,” said Fuller.