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Eric Alva to address Fiesta Youth
QSanAntonio, June14, 2014

Retired Marine Sergeant Eric Alva will be the guest speaker for the June 24 meeting of Fiesta Youth, a group whose mission is to provide a safe, non-judgmental, affirming place for LGBT teens to express and explore who they are through education, peer-support, advocacy and friendship.

Alva will speak to the teen group at one of their weekly meetings which are held every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the University Presbyterian Church. He will also present the organization with a financial contribution to support and further its mission.

In March 2003, Alva was the first soldier injured in the Iraq War when he stepped on a land mine resulting in the loss of his right leg and part of an index finger.

In 2007, Alva became an advocate calling for an end to the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy -- testifying before Congress and speaking at engagements around the country. When the policy was repealed in 2010, Alva stood on the dais next to President Obama as he signed the order to end it.

Fiesta Youth was started in 2013 by Emily Leeper after her then-13-year-old daughter told her that she might be gay. "At that time, I searched the web looking for an LGBT youth group in San Antonio. My search was fruitless," she says.

Knowing that her daughter's experience could not be unique among LGBT teens, Leeper says she knew that a teen group was sorely needed in San Antonio.

Leeper and her daughter began visiting local LGBT organizations to ask for help starting the new group. "The response was overwhelming" she says. "My hope is for other teens to be similarly helped in a place where love and acceptance prevails."

Members of Fiesta Youth during an outdoor activity at one of their meetings. (Photo by Darrell Parsons)

Fiesta Youth meetings, which are open to teens aged 12 to 18, consist of two program components. The first features activities such as games, guest speakers, art projects, videos or karaoke. The second component allows for peer support time. Both components are supervised and facilitated by adult volunteers.

"I'm hearing positive feedback from people active in the community," says Darrell Garcia Parsons, a local psychotherapist who is on the Fiesta Youth board of directors. "The comment I'm hearing most --'It's about time.'"

Eric Alva speaks to Fiesta Youth on June 24, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at University Presbyterian Church, 300 Bushnell Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212.