What is SOGI YAC?

SOGI YAC is a group of local leaders and advocates who want to use their cross-system influence to build a more safe and affirming community for youth in the Great Lakes Bay Region (note: the organization was originally named “Saginaw County SOGI YAC” but dropped Saginaw County to include our regional representation and dedication to serving all youth in the Great Lakes Bay Area). Members include representatives from LGBTQ+ advocacy and support groups, mental health, schools, colleges/universities, the faith community, juvenile justice, child welfare, health care, and families. 

Watch this clip of SOGI YAC Board Chair, Heidi Wale Knizacky discuss SOGI YAC's mission with Northern Michigan 9&10 News', Sid Samone and David Lyden.

9&10 News
Good Day Northern Michigan

Real conversations, real people, real issues are being covered on Good Day Northern Michigan.

Chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council, Heidi Knizacky is with GDNM.

SOGI YAC Toolkits: Often, when someone is grappling with sexual orientation and gender identify the individual, and their family, are confronting the revelation with little background knowledge or experience. The purpose of these toolkits is to guide you to information that is reliable, credible and helpful. The goal is to provide the basic tools needed to begin to construct a healthy bridge to accepting, affirming and embracing the child you love. Produced by the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council of Saginaw (SOGI YAC).

From: Sexual Orientation Workshops for Youth - 9 & 10 News (9and10news.com) 

How Was SOGI YAC Formed?

The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council (SOGI YAC) initiative is committed to provide outreach and support to Great Lakes Bay youth who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, two-spirit, etc.). The initiative sparked when Saginaw MAX - the Saginaw County System of Care initiative for increasing coordination of services for youth and families who live with complex emotional and behavioral challenges - received a federal grant to develop outreach and support for under-served youth and family populations. LGBTQ+ youth were identified as one of these groups, and, while in agreement about the importance, defining what this initiative should look like was a ground-breaking and daunting task. Who exactly were the youth that would benefit from the initiative? What specific needs could Saginaw MAX address? Who should provide the support? And how? In 2015, Applied Research Consultants (APPRECOTS) was invited to partner with Saginaw MAX to seek answers to questions like these.

APPRECOTS began by looking into published research articles for information. The findings were conclusive that, when viewed as a whole population, LGBTQ+ youth have needs that are definable and unique. As information gathering continued, no data could be found to specifically define LGBTQ+ youth within Saginaw County. To address this, a group of local experts was identified and approached with a request to share information that would help identify local resources, needs, and gaps. The individuals who convened in answer this plea represented a diverse array of energetic and informed community leadership, including representation from advocacy groups, health professionals, academics, teachers, and parents. Together they discussed risks, needs, and the current lack of safe spaces and supports for LGBTQ+ youth in our community.

After the initial information-gathering task was completed, the collected individuals determined that they had a united and much-needed purpose. The consensus was that this assembly, with its diverse cross-system representation, could have significant influence and could help build a safer, more affirming community by formalizing into an ongoing council. To be as inclusive as possible, the group named themselves the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Youth Advocacy Council (SOGI YAC). Now representing over 20 community partners, SOGI YAC is an active collaborative that meets monthly.


SOGI YAC serves as a resource-sharing consortium and advisory council. SOGI YAC has supported a number of projects including an ongoing data collection project focused on defining the needs of local LGBTQ+ youth and their caregivers; the development of a School Policy Guide for K-12 educators; and training for system partners (to date, over 200 local professionals have received training in SOGI topics). SOGI YAC authored several virtual toolkits that can be used by parents and youth as a support and to point individuals and families to resources. These toolkits can be downloaded from the SOGI YAC website. 

How Can SOGI YAC Help My Me, My Family, or My Organization?

Resources for youth, families, and educators have been created or compiled by SOGI YAC and are available on this website. For one-on-one support, please complete the Contact Us form and a member of SOGI YAC can help connect you to appropriate resources.

SOGI YAC is also committed to educating and training professionals who work with LGBTQ+ youth, as well as community members interested in learning new ways to support LGBTQ+ youth. SOGI YAC can connect your organization to local trainers specializing in youth-focused LGBTQ+ issues.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Support is available 24/7/365.

How Can I Join?

If you or someone you know would like to join SOGI YAC or receive updates and information about SOGI youth needs and local resources and events, send us a message on the Contact page.