Local Youth Educator and Advocate Receives Changemaker Award
Kathy Hermes, a longtime educator and advocate for youth, has received the Changemaker Award from the Minnesota Women’s Press. The annual award recognizes women who “have not only changed the lives of women and children but those who are (also) changing narratives of what it means to be a collaborative, connected community.”
Hermes, an early pioneer in work supporting youth of all gender and sexual identities, coordinates Together for Youth which got its start in Duluth 22 years ago. Together for Youth is a support and education initiative through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota that provides a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQIA2S youth. One of the longest running groups of its kind in Minnesota, Together for Youth has hosted more than 1,000 youth through weekly groups since its inception. In weekly groups, youth have opportunities to connect with their peers and allies, find resources, explore issues and navigate challenges.
In her work, Hermes has also delivered hundreds of workshops here and around the nation to nurses, teachers, school counselors, faith communities, mental health professionals, attorneys, parents and caregivers. Her ultimate goal in providing community education is to support other caring adults who can help create and foster an atmosphere where youth of all gender and sexual identities feel safe, valued, supported and welcome.
“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” Hermes said. “We’ve made progress for our youth, but we still have lots of work to do to create spaces where all of our kids feel safe, valued and included.”
Currently, Hermes is working on a discussion guide on gender and sexuality issues that will be available to the community in coming weeks. Congregations will be invited to incorporate the discussion guide into their adult education efforts.
As a longtime advocate involved in sexual violence prevention, Hermes has also worked collaboratively with other local organizations to keep youth safe. Most recently, she facilitated a press conference this month on sex trafficking prevention in Duluth.
Besides the Changemaker award, Hermes is a past recipient of the Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA and a Community Ally Award from Program for Aid To Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA).
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,300 employees and 8,000 volunteers, LSS helps one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives, and build community. Statewide, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of LSS, visit www.lssmn.org.