2010 Generation Equality Scholarship Winners Announced
July 23, 2010
Earlier this week, the HRC Foundation announced the winners of the 2010 Generation Equality Scholarship for LGBT and allied students who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to achieving queer equality. The $2000 scholarships are part of HRC Foundation’s Youth and Campus Outreach Program, which aims to provide tools, facilitate connections and empower young people to fight for LGBT equality on campus and beyond. After awarding the inaugural GenEQ Scholarships last year, I was excited to once again be part of the Selection Committee. We received over 400 applications from students across the country, all with an incredible array of backgrounds and experiences. [caption id="attachment_15642" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Click to enlarge"][/caption] The word cloud at the left is a snapshot of how students answered the question “What do you see as the most significant challenge facing LGBTQ young people? What are your ideas for addressing this challenge?” Many mentioned their struggles for acceptance – at school, with their families, in their local communities and among the queer community – and the impact of attending their first Pride or a special person in their life. One student recounted the story of when her opinionated grandma came to the Pride parade and leaned over to her mom and said, “I don’t understand what people have against these folks. They’re just trying to live their lives.” As I can relate to, that “single statement was a catalyst for tolerance in [the student’s] life.” Another student who was a camp counselor was moved by the strength and confidence displayed by an 8-year-old transgender camper. For others, going to college is one of their first opportunities to be themselves, meet other queer people and finally feel not so alone. Still, oftentimes they struggle with reconciling their sexuality or gender with other parts of their identity and culture. Or, suddenly, they become the go-to person on everything queer while still trying to come to terms with everything themselves. As some students pointed out, while Generation Equality – the current group of high school and college-aged young people – is overwhelming supportive of LGBT equality, sometimes that acceptance translates more into indifference. We either ignore the issues facing other members of our community altogether or are content to coast on the momentum of earlier activists instead of actively participating ourselves. Not so for this year’s winners. As Candace Gingrich-Jones, who oversees the Foundation’s Youth and Campus Outreach Program, points out, the GenEQ Scholarship Winners have transcended adversity in their own lives and become true leaders and role models on their campuses and in their communities:
“We know many LGBT students face obstacles in the pursuit of education, whether from a lack of family support or negative experiences in the classroom or on campus. The Generation Equality Scholarships were created to provide exceptional students with the funding that they deserve and need to ensure a successful college experience. Our three scholarship recipients embody the passion and commitment to queer activism that will hasten the day when equal protection and full equality become reality for LGBT Americans.”
This year, students were evaluated and selected in three categories: first-year, returning four-year school and returning two-year school students. An additional student was chosen for an honorary mention and will receive $500. All four will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. in October for HRC’s National Dinner. Short bios on the scholarship winners follow, but for more information about the winners and the Generation Equality Scholarships, visit: www.hrc.org/GenEQScholarshipWinners. HRC has also compiled a list of 250 national, statewide and school-specific scholarships available to LGBT and allied students: www.hrc.org/scholarships.
Ernesto Dominguez -- First-Year Student Ernesto Dominguez will begin his first year of school at Portland Community College (OR). He is a dedicated volunteer both locally and nationally: founder and President of his high school gay-straight alliance, youth leader at Portland’s Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, New Roots Fellow at Basic Rights Oregon, member of The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council and leadership board member of the National Latino AIDS Action Network. Ernesto helped develop the nation’s first Bill of Rights written by and for young people, which was adopted by the governments of Portland and Multnomah County, OR. He plans on using his education in political science and public health, as well as his personal experience of homelessness, to support and empower at-risk youth.
Kevin Hatcher -- Returning Four-Year School Student Kevin Hatcher is entering his fourth year at Emory University (GA). Kevin has a history of activism in his native Detroit, and more recently on campus and in the greater-Atlanta area. On campus, he serves on the advisory committee for Emory’s Center for LGBT Life and was named to Emory University’s President’s Commission on Sexuality, Gender Diversity and Queer Equality. Kevin is a member of the Georgia Gay & Bisexual Men’s Task Force for HIV Prevention and Planning and works with Aid Atlanta’s African-American Gay Men’s outreach program to empower black gay men to make optimal sexual health choices. His personal experiences inspire him to work to create safe spaces where queer people of color don’t have to choose between their sexuality and culture.
Paul Saltz -- Returning Two-Year School Student Paul Saltz is in his second year at Columbus State Community College (OH). Paul has been active from the moment he stepped foot on campus. He helped found Cougar Pride, the Gay-Straight Alliance at CSCC, and currently serves as its secretary. This spring, he coordinated Columbus State’s first Day of Silence event, including creating a display of pictures and bios of some members of the LGBT community who had been murdered in hate crimes. Paul also helped coordinate Columbus State’s first appearance in the Columbus Pride Parade. Also active in Columbus, he volunteers with Stonewall Columbus and is a feature columnist for Outlook Columbus, a monthly LGBTQ news magazine in central Ohio. He believes that changing hearts and minds is the key to LGBT equality.
Charles Girard -- Honorary Mention Charles Girard is entering his third year at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. Charles has been extremely active on his campus and in Virginia. He is a co-founder and current president of the Gender-Neutral Housing Project, formed in 2008 to establish a gender-neutral housing policy on campus, and was selected for a presidential focus group to discuss UMW’s diversity strategic plan. During the remainder of his time at UMW, Charles plans on working with UMW’s queer student group to get gender identity and expression added to the school’s non-discrimination policy. He feels strongly about challenging students to transfer their digital action – such as on Facebook – into the physical world.