By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com May 08 2012 1:36 PM ET
A gay Iowa teenager has been told that he cannot receive the Matthew Shepard Scholarship at his Catholic school's annual awards ceremony.
Prince of Peace Catholic school senior Keaton Fuller was initially told that he could accept the scholarship at his school's awards ceremony on May 20. According to the Eychaner Foundation of Des Moines, which granted the scholarship, Fuller even learned of the scholarship from his school, and the principal issued a statement to notify the scholarship committee that he could accept the award at the ceremony.
But weeks later, the opportunity to formally accept the scholarship at his high school has been revoked after pressure from the local Catholic diocese. "It is difficult to understand how after I have spent 13 years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s," Fuller wrote in a letter to the student body and staff. "This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by."
The Matthew Shepard Scholarship grants $40,000 to an openly LGBT student attending the University of Iowa the following fall. Fuller won the scholarship based on his academic work as well as his efforts to reduce homophobia at school and in his community.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 4,000 people have signed a Change.org petition supporting Fuller and asking the school's principal, superintendent Leland Morrision, and Bishop Martin J. Amos change their minds.