Encircle hosted its second annual Ignite Summit at the Lehi Adobe building on Dec. 1. The Summit included workshops, performances and discussion groups for Utah’s youth LGBT population and discussions for parents and supporters.
The workshops were meant to foster understanding, empower attendees and help LGBT youth build relationships and self-confidence, according to the event’s website. Art workshops, mentor discussions, writing exercises and musical workshops, along with several service activities were also presented by Encircle volunteers.
According to Encircle volunteer facilitator Channer Sallenback, the number of people attending the summit doubled since last year. The meeting space at Adobe was three times larger than the original space at UVU. He said the biggest change to the event is the amount of recognition Encircle received this year.
Encircle is a resource center for LGBT youth and their families. The non-profit was started in Provo but now has an additional location in Salt Lake City. The organization provides subsidized counseling, activities and community. According to the Encircle website, the organization’s goal is “to embrace and sustain every LGBTQ+ youth, every family and every community.”
“It’s really cool to see what we’ve been able to do within the community and how big we’ve grown,” Sallenback said.
Sallenback said he hopes Ignite attendees leave having experienced a safe space and with a desire to create safe spaces for others wherever they go.
BYU senior Sarah Patterson was one of the new Ignite attendees. The first of three workshops she attended was a discussion called “Tools to Thrive” where she learned differences between gender identity and sexual orientation. She said she appreciated the openness of the discussion and the clarity it provided.
“I’m really impressed at the lengths they’ve gone to make everyone feel welcome, even if they are just figuring things out,” Patterson said.
Mindy Young, the development director for Equality Utah, was asked to choreograph a youth dance for the event’s holiday concert.
“Just to be in the same place as this while it’s happening is a miracle,” Young said. “It’s a miracle for Utah Valley.”
Young said she is proud and amazed at the progress she has seen towards LGBT issues locally, and she feels Encircle’s work has been a huge part of that.
Ignite attendees tied blankets for the Younique Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering female sexual assault survivors. The blankets will be part of a package women receive at the beginning of the Haven Retreat, the Younique Foundation’s four-day program meant to help survivors learn how to heal from trauma, according to Annie Hartvigsen, Younique foundation volunteer coordinator.
Hartvigsen said having locals tie the blankets shows survivors how loved and supported they are by the entire community.
Kathryn Sorenson attended Ignite with the Logan High School Gay Straight Alliance Club. As the club’s president, she said she was glad they could attend. She was surprised by the number of attendees and the outpouring of support from the community.
According to Sorenson, the club faced some backlash from school administrators and is subject to more restrictions than the other school clubs. She said many club members and students are discouraged by the lack of support.
“But I’m just ready for the fight,” Sorenson said.
The Ignite Summit also hosted celebrities like Kalen Allen from “Ellen,” Carmen Carrera, singer Mindy Gledhill and others.
Allen publicly came out as gay in an online post the day before the summit.
In his post, he wrote, “I know that all the love I need lives inside of me. And God has proven to me time after time that he still loves me and that is all the reassurance I need!”
Allen said he hopes his decision to live an authentic life inspires others to live theirs.