Celebrating Pride by Celebrating Our Staff

In our June newsletter, we celebrate Pride with our staff and recognize our CEO's appointment to the Alaska Mental Health Board.
Collage of four portraits of VOA Alaska staff smiling.
Pictured are four VOA Alaska staff that are featured in our Pride Month video.
Collage of four portraits of VOA Alaska staff smiling.
Pictured are four VOA Alaska staff that are featured in our Pride Month video.

Below is VOA Alaska’s June 2024 Community Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Happy Pride! VOA Alaska is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment in which all young Alaskans can thrive. We hope you will join us this month and all year long in wrapping our arms around our youth, supporting them, validating them, and loving them in their process of discovering or defining their identities.

To celebrate Pride Month, we highlighted stories from our staff in a new video. Hear their experiences discovering their identity and finding support among their friends, family, and colleagues at VOA Alaska.

Bre Baines, Director of Residential Services, shared that she doesn’t really define herself by any labels. She explained that finding this fluidity of loving freely without letting gender be a barrier was liberating. “[I] didn’t really care what anyone else thought of me at that point,” she says. “And when you do that, you find your right group of people, and then when you have your right group of people, nothing else matters.”

Brian Belcher, Behavioral Health Counselor, says that he knew “what was going on by sixth or seventh grade,” but he didn’t come out until his late 20s to his family and friends. He says, “I always knew I was not like all the other guys, [and] you just knew ‘Brian was special,’ as my mom would sometimes say.” Working as a counselor for VOA Alaska’s Integrated Services program, Brian expresses, “It fills my heart with joy every time [I come to work] because I get to come and spend time at a place that is happy to have me.”

Chrys Williamson, Behavioral Health Associate II, says that her discovery of self had some challenges, but she’s been helped by a support system of friends, family, and colleagues. Working at VOA Alaska’s Adolescent Residential Center for Help (ARCH), Chrys says, “I feel like it’s easier to have pride in myself so that way the younger generation sees that, you know what, maybe they have anxiety about coming out, [but] they know there is someone safe.”

Desiree Cameron, IPS Employment Specialist for VOA Alaska’s Supportive Housing program, explains there was some pushback from her family when she expressed her identity to them. But after some time of learning, she was soon able to embrace the acceptance she was looking for. Working for VOA Alaska, she feels empowered; she says, “they’ve accepted me for who I am, as I am.”

CEO Julia Luey Appointed to Alaska Mental Health Board!

CEO Julia Luey, recently appointed to the Alaska Mental Health Board by Governor Dunleavy, speaks during a mental health panel during the 2023 Alaska Principal’s Conference.

Congratulations to VOA Alaska’s President and CEO Julia Luey for her appointment by Governor Dunleavy to the Alaska Mental Health Board. The board is comprised of field professionals and community members and charged with advising, planning, and coordinating behavioral health services funded by the State of Alaska.

“I have long admired the work of the Alaska Mental Health Board and feel grateful to work alongside such passionate individuals committed to improving our behavioral health system of care for Alaskans,” Julia said.

Save the Dates: Upcoming Community Events!

On August 15, join VOA and community partners for our Back-to-School Community BBQ! Enjoy free food and fun activities, and learn about resources to help you and your family throughout the school year. Raffles prizes will include gift cards and fully stocked backpacks!

On October 6, join VOA, community partners, and special guests for our biggest community event of the year, our 3rd Annual Fall Festival! Enjoy live music, activities, community resources, raffle prizes, tasty food, and more! Entry is free for everyone.

Sponsor Shout Out: ConocoPhillips

We extend our heartfelt thanks to ConocoPhillips for their generous contributions to VOA Alaska, helping to enhance telehealth capabilities across our continuum of care. From individual mental health and substance use counseling to family therapy, telehealth is breaking down significant barriers to accessing care.

Recently, a family with a youth resident at ARCH faced challenges in traveling to participate in family therapy sessions. Our residential team collaborated with our Family Mental Health Clinician to provide therapy and psychoeducation remotely, facilitating a successful transition as the youth prepared to graduate from the ARCH program. Thanks to telehealth, and the financial support of Conoco Phillips, we can ensure all families receive the support they need, regardless of location. Thank you, ConocoPhillips!