Lancaster LGBTQ+ Leader: Rebecca Cox-Davenport, Supporting Youth Mental Health

At Touchstone Foundation, we provide scholarships to students who are passionate about children’s mental health. We previously sat down with Rebecca Cox-Davenport, a LOHF nursing scholarship recipient. Rebecca recently graduated with her Family Nurse Practitioner degree, and for many years, she has volunteered with the LGBTQ Center of Central Pennsylvania, to offer a regular support group for teens in Lancaster. In celebration of PRIDE and to honor the importance of youth mental health for the LGBTQ+ population, we spoke about her work as a nurse and community volunteer. 

Rebecca Cox-Davenport, FNP

Can you please introduce yourself, your current role in nursing, share a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to become a nurse?

I graduated from Millersville University’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program in May of 2021. I started soon after at Alder Health, a community health center that originated during the HIV crisis of the 1980s, and now an LGBTQ and family health center. I see not only LGBTQ clients but cis and straight clients as well. I see mostly adults at Alder Health, but I can see older teens for transgender care.

I’m still working with my “Friday night kids.” Volunteering for the LGBTQ center of Central PA with 12–18-year-olds in a drop-in social group in Lancaster. It is a bit smaller than before COVID, but I’m there every week with dessert, a game, or an art project to work on.

What is your connection to LOHF/Touchstone Foundation and/or how do you see your role as a nurse helping to improve children's mental health?

The scholarship I received took much of the pressure off financially since I had to go part-time at PA College of Health Sciences. The scholarship allowed me to pay that tuition bill and focus on finishing my education with less stress.

I hope to work in pediatric endocrinology. I love my work at Alder Health, and my dream is to work with transgender clients exclusively. My eventual dream job would be transgender care, allowing me to do peds a few days a week and adults a few days a week.

Can you please tell us about your work with LGBTQ+ youth?

I’ll tell you that I might get emotional. I was very content in my career before finishing my FNP. I have a PhD in nursing and worked as a nursing educator. I think I’m an excellent educator. But then you’re around these kids and realize they have changed you. They don’t know that they’re changing you, but they’re changing you. As the chaperone, I go in and carry the watermelon every week, so to speak. I bake the brownies and hang out with them on Fridays, but they completely changed my life. I’m so grateful they did that, and I’m so grateful for my future. I love them.

What are some of the biggest needs you see among the youth you serve, especially teens and young adults who identify as LGBTQ? And/or why is it important for people to understand the mental health needs of you identifying as LGBTQ?

Really, it’s just simple things, like respecting pronouns is a simple start. It is suicide prevention and basic human kindness that doesn’t hurt anyone to do. Respecting the name someone wants to be called is another important step. Study after study supports that this is suicide prevention, plain and simple. It’s not giving in or caving to a whim. I look from the perspective of if it saves a teen’s life, why not?

If one week they want to be called Ocean and the next week they want to be called Happy, just roll with it. All kids want is for people to be kind to them. It’s amazing when these kids come to the group and share, “I’m so happy! My grandma called me my name and respected my pronouns.” I don’t think that their grandma knows how much that meant. I don’t know how anyone can think they are in the right when causing harm to a kid. I love the Rivers and the Ravens, all of them.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

No, but I appreciate your organization and their belief in me. I was humbled by it, and I’m always going to be.