By Leslie Martinez
With the growing number of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, there is no better time than now to create inclusive spaces. That was what Yadi Martínez-Reyna, HSP Summer Session 2020 Alum, had in mind when they founded Color Splash Out with friends from Brite Divinity School. As a queer person living in rural Texas, they know firsthand the need for a safe space. “I wanted to create a safe space for all teens,” Martínez-Reyna said, citing the importance of helping youth feel confident, comfortable, and supported in their journey as they are coming into who they are.
Color Splash Out launched last Summer with twenty teens. This year it already has thirty-two students signed up for its one-week Summer camp in July. Martínez-Reyna, who is also HSP’s Graphics and Social Media Manager, noted six key components that are important to the camp, (1) a safe space, (2) a camp experience, (3) empowering workshops, (4) an interfaith component, (5) making it engaging and interactive, and (6) innovative thinking. Each of these components allow the students to fully express themselves and come as they are.
“I wanted to create a safe space for all teens.”
Martínez-Reyna states that they’ve seen a tremendous growth in the teens’ confidence when they are encouraged to be themselves and supported throughout the process. Building that confidence starts the moment the teens arrive at camp. Instead of automatically being assigned a place to sleep, they are asked if they are “in the right house.” “Instead of having cabins, we have houses. A girls house, boys house, and a nonbinary house. When the teens arrive, we ask if they are in the right house, and the teens are able to choose which house they want to go to that aligns with their gender identity.” In this way, Martínez-Reyna says, instead of just telling the teens they can be brave and safe, they are showing the teens how to be brave and safe.
“Instead of just telling the teens they can be brave and safe, they are showing the teens how to be brave and safe.”
An engaging and interactive camp experience was also important to Martínez-Reyna, citing the importance of play. Oftentimes, teens don’t feel comfortable at their school and therefore don’t partake in school activities such as sports or clubs, so the camp experience is a safe space where they are able to do that. Martínez-Reyna says that the teens at camp are “already being brave by stepping out of their comfort zone and showing up to camp, so how can we honor and protect that bravery?” Camp activities include art projects, science projects, and performing arts. Martínez-Reyna noted that the performing arts are a way to help the teens get out of their shells.
Innovative thinking allows the teens to have ownership over the camp. This year, Color Splash Out is implementing a youth board for the first time. The youth board will consist of camp attendees who will have the opportunity to provide feedback to the camp directors about what they liked, didn’t like, and what can be improved on. Martínez-Reyna states, “These teens are brilliant and we wanted to create something that would build skills for them to take back to their high school and use for college applications.” Many students from last year who have since graduated from high school, loved the camp experience so much that they will be returning this year as camp leaders. Additionally, Color Splash Out is in the beginning stages creating a mentorship program for students who are interested in specific careers. The Color Splash Out team will match a student with a mentor who can provide professional insight to the mentee.
“These teens are brilliant and we wanted to create something that would build skills for them to take back to their high school and use for college applications.”
Overall the team at Color Splash Out is excited and proud of what they have created. Martínez-Reyna states that they would have loved to have something like this as a kid. The next step for the non-profit is to apply for grants for more funding so that they can expand with more resources. Color Splash Out is always looking for volunteers who are looking to join the movement of creating safe and brave spaces and creating possibilities for the next generation to live and thrive.
Yadi Martínez-Reyna is just one of the over 1800 Latinx Theological Leaders who have participated in HSP programming since 1989. To connect further with our amazing alumni, check out the HSP Alumni Network today. Visit their website to support the work of Color Splash Out.
The Rev. Yadi Martínez-Reyna (M.Div.) is bilingual Latinx gender non-binary artist, a borderlander, and founder of Color Splash Out, a non profit organization dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth and their ally friends. Yadi was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley in the frontera of Brownsville and Matamoros Mexico. Yadi is certified as as Spiritual Director through the Art of Spiritual Direction at Still Point, NM and member of Spiritual Directors International (SDI). Rev. Yadi serves as a Pastor at First UCC in 2nd Life, UCC. They have a Masters in Divinity (M.Div.) and a Latino/a studies certification from Brite Divinity School located at TCU in Ft. Worth, Texas. Yadi holds an Associate Degree in Graphic Design and Multi-Media.
HSP Fellow for Communications and Marketing
Leslie Martinez is a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary getting her M.A. in Religion, where she is concentrating in Queer Theology, Biblical Studies, and the Arts. In addition to attending seminary, Leslie is also a storyteller and filmmaker having written, directed, produced, and starred in over ten sketches and pilots with her production company, Supervāse Video.