Built around the premise of providing a safe space for queer youth to develop physically, mentally and spiritually into confident adults, the nonprofit offers a variety of useful services to gay, transgendered and questioning youth, including counseling and support groups, free HIV testing, life skills training and leadership councils.
Like many nonprofits, however, the organization has gone through a number of significant changes in leadership over the past couple years. Former Executive Director Candice Towe departed for a new nonprofit position in March, and beloved Program Director Lisa Rogers was let go in August of 2011.
Before becoming the new ED, Wilkerson had been on the OY board for the past four years and acted as the board chair during 2011. Before then, he was a volunteer in the drop-in center and a regular figure at many of the youth events such as the annual Queer Prom.
In a press release posted on their site Wednesday, former OY board chair Libby Sykora expresses her support of Wilkerson by saying, "I am very happy to hear that Aubrey has been selected for this role. It makes sense to have him lead Out Youth [as] he has demonstrated a strong commitment to the organization."
As a senior development officer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT, a strategist in local political campaigns and a fundraiser for other nonprofits like the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Wilkerson has demonstrated a successful background in fundraising.
With the constant struggle by nonprofits to find the large funds available to sponsor their noble goals, Wilkerson's skills would make him a sensible candidate for the position.
Even so, reactions to Wilkerson's position announcement are mixed amongst a loud minority of longtime supporters of the organization, including former volunteers and employees.
An incendiary blog post from a former paid intern of the organization (who has a significant beef with the new director after the incidents of her removal) calls Wilkerson out for his and the board's lack of accountability toward the youth of the organization.
"No action displays this lack of accountability more than in their recent hiring of Aubrey Wilkerson as the new Executive Director," she says in the post. "So, not only did the board hire someone who had a stake in the decision-making process, but they hired someone who the young people don't even like."
Strong words that will be put to the test when the new ED takes his position beginning July 9. In his position, Wilkerson will continue the work of Towe and others before them who have helped spread the very necessary message of equality, well-being and leadership to queer youth throughout the Central Texas region.
Hopefully, Wilkerson's background will help the organization raise the funds needed to continue expanding and developing more offerings both in the Out Youth drop-in center and througout Austin-area schools. We look forward to 22 more years of continued success for this pivotal Austin-area nonprofit.