from the Odyssey Youth Center newsletter Spring 2007:

Skillful listener makes a good facilitator

by Jill Wagner

Corinna Verdugo Corinna Verdugo is modest about her role as an Odyssey Youth Center facilitator. When asked about the volunteer work she does twice a month on Thursday evenings, she hesitates and suggests perhaps she is a bit too shy for the job compared to other facilitators.

At 27, a bisexual woman originally from Sacramento, Calif., with a degree in philosophy and Chinese language from Kalamazoo College, Verdugo is just the sort of mentor that teenagers can look up to and learn from. She has lived in Michigan and Pennslyvania, California and Washington, and studied for a year in Beijing. Currently an employee at the Department of Social and Health Services, Verdugo has also worked at Spokane Mental Health. She volunteers on Saturdays to answer phones at First Call for Help, a crisis hotline where she often takes calls from regulars who just need to talk, who just need someone to listen.

Supportive listening is one of the greatest gifts a place like Odyssey can offer to youths who may struggle to be heard at home or in school. Verdugo’s skills and desire to listen, no doubt, touch the kids more than she gives herself credit for. Life experiences also help Verdugo identify with Odyssey youth in ways that other volunteers may not be able to relate. Female youth will sometimes start dating a guy, Verdugo explained, and the backlash from other Odyssey kids can be tough to handle. As a bisexual woman, Verdugo understands what the girls may be feeling and can help them accept themselves without focusing on other people’s opinions.

She’s been a facilitator for a year, but was first introduced to Odyssey Youth Center about three years ago by her brother. Verdugo organized Odyssey’s 2006 Valentine’s Dance for LGBT youth and their friends. With her parents, brother and girlfriend in Spokane, Verdugo figures she is here to stay. What she likes about the city is an all new sense of security being here brings to her life. “When I was growing up I never really felt as safe as I do here,” she said.