Jeanne Dooley has been hired as the executive director of Out! As I Want to Be.

Joining the organization from her private practice that provides organizational and individual consulting, Dooley brings a wealth of experience to her new position. From her many years in Washington, D.C., working at the national level for the American Bar Association and the American Association of Retired Persons, through her directorship of the Massachusetts state office of AARP, to her recent work with both national and local organizations providing strategic planning, training and marketing support, Dooley is well poised to take Out! to the next level in its organizational development, according to a news release from the organization.

With several grants from the Lerner Foundation and the Haney Fund, Out! staff will be providing more targeted support to enhance gay/straight/transgender alliances in local area schools. A GSTA has proven to be a powerful vehicle in the school environment for creating both safe spaces and providing youth development opportunities.

“Nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth experience bullying and harassment in their schools. The presence of a GSTA goes a long way toward mitigating these numbers for this at-risk group,” Dooley said in the release.

Out! will also be working with Equality Maine’s new initiative to provide leadership training for LGBTQ youth. In a six-month targeted program, the EQME program will provide intensive training in leadership skills, ranging from how to run meetings and build volunteer teams through advocacy skills and working effectively with media.

Dooley points to the long history of Out! As I Want to Be and its beginnings in 1995. Since then, the organization has provided a twice-weekly drop-in program for youth members in downtown Rockland. The drop-in program has provided an ongoing supportive environment for youth through the sharing of meals and their experiences. It also has been an important base for both personal and leadership development. This latter role will be increasing in the next few years.

“We plan to build on this strong foundation and expand the opportunities for our youth to find their own voices and to step into leadership roles, both in their schools and in their communities,” said Dooley. “We hope that the Midcoast community will continue to increase its support for Out!’s work and commit its time and resources to making our schools and communities safe for all youth.”

For more information, to volunteer, or to make a contribution to Out!, visit outmaine.org or email outmaine@yahoo.com.