Meet the 2012 Point Scholars

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 14 2012 9:43 AM ET

Editor's Note: All photos and biographies on the following pages are edited versions of those provided by the Point Foundation.

 

Sarah Biscarra-DilleySarah Biscarra-Dilley

San Francisco Art Institute
Urban Studies


The mixed-heritage, lesbian daughter of a strong-willed Mexican and Native American mother and an out, HIV-positive father, Sarah Biscarra-Dilley has benefitted from growing up in an inter-generational network of blood and chosen LGBTQ family. It's a life she credits with many of her skills.

A former high school dropout who is now pursuing her BA in Urban Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute, Biscarra-Dilley is also a voting member of the California Indian Basketweavers Association and a participating artist in the National Queer Arts Festival several years running. Her long-term goal is becoming an arts educator with a commitment to social justice and a mentor to LGBT and Two-Spirit youth.

“As artists, we shape and illuminate the world we inhabit and have the responsibility to incorporate the lessons of those who came before us into the inspiration for those yet to come," she said. "This involved process is much like basketry; it takes great patience and skill to incorporate many fibers into a cohesive whole. This whole holds a history while taking on a new life in the future. The same is true of the role of art in the expression and survival of culture. The responsibility that we hold, as image-makers, artists, cultural stewards, activists and visionaries, is a crucial part of the existence of culture itself. The act of creating ensures cultural and spiritual survival, engages and enlivens our surroundings. In doing so, we create new rituals to supplement those that have been used since time immemorial in the pursuit of a vibrant future."

Josh Blecher-CohenJosh Blecher-Cohen

Harvard College
Philosophy & Classics


Growing up in New York City and suburban New Jersey in a politically active home, Josh Blecher‐Cohen has always had an interest in social justice. It started as a high school sophomore working as a student organizer for Amnesty International. Meanwhile, he was beginning to put a label on his sexuality and coming out as a bisexual man. Eventually Blecher-Cohen’s identities as a human rights advocate and queer man intersected.

Out at school, Blecher-Cohenhelped found a gay‐straight alliance that grew to 90 members. As GSA president, he also led regional youth outreach initiatives, founding and leading a countywide coalition of more than 20 GSAs across northern New Jersey.

As an intern with Garden State Equality, he helped coordinate anti‐bullying initiatives. He's also interned at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & AIDS Project. He's also a National Merit Scholar and United States Presidential Scholar.

After experiencing biphobic remarks, Blecher-Cohen became interested in their marginalization within the LGBT community. He's conducted research attempting to integrate considerations of bisexuality into areas of study as varied as queer theory and Judaic legal tradition. Blecher-Cohen hopes to work in public interest law with a focus on civil rights issues.

Ved ChirayathVed Chirayath

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Stanford University
Aeronautics & Astronautics


As a sophomore in high school, Ved Chirayath modified a consumer digital camera and telescope to detect a new extra‐solar planet, 150 light years away and roughly twice the size of Jupiter. Later that year, he received the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Distinguished Scientist Award and enrolled as the first American at Moscow State University's Physics Department.

In 2009, Chirayath transferred to Stanford University’s Physics Department to study astrophysics. While finishing an additional concentration in Physics, he was accepted to the graduate program in Aeronautics & Astronautics and began researching a novel means to control aircraft. In 2011, Chirayath demonstrated the first controlled flight in history of an unmanned aerial vehicle by using plasma actuators — lightweight, efficient flow control devices blended onto the surface of the wing with no moving parts.

Chirayath says he's determined to become the first openly LGBT astronaut.

Cary CrallCary Crall

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Harvard Medical School Medicine


Cary Crall's activism for the LGBT community began at age 3 when he announced to his playgroup, “I don’t want to be a boy, I want to be a girl so I can wear nail polish.” He then painted his nails bright red.

Born into a devout Mormon family in Temecula, Calif., Crall values his religious tradition for teaching him to serve others as a way to find happiness. But as he became more confident in his sexual identity, Crall often felt the strain of a religious organization that failed to validate some of the most important parts of his humanity. The Mormon Church’s involvement in Proposition 8 was a turning point for Crall.

While a student at Brigham Young University, Crall risked being kicked out of school by submitting an opinion piece to the school’s newspaper challenging the Mormon Church’s support of Proposition 8. The letter drew national media attention after it was censored and removed from the newspaper’s archives.

For writing and then defending his letter, Crall was named one of The Advocate's "Forty Under 40.” But Crall's activism continues, with him fighting for non‐discrimination ordinances in his conservative Utah community and helping to make BYU safer and more supportive for its LGBT students. He is co‐president of Harvard Medical School’s LGBT student group, where he has initiated curriculum reform focused on improving health care disparities that affect LGBT people and other disadvantaged groups.

Shane DuShane Du

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Medicine


Shane Du grew up in conservative, rural China. Battling incessant harassment because of her gender expression, she found solace in academics.

Du obtained a BS degree in Chemical Engineering and came to the U.S. with a graduate engineering scholarship. Based on her experiences and that of her LGBT friends, Du is deeply concerned about the lack of access to compassionate health care for LGBT patients and is determined to lead changes. She will attend medical school in the fall and aspires to work as a primary care physician primarily serving LGBT patients.

Angela FilleyAngela Filley

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Columbia University
Financial Engineering


When Angela Filley came out to her family and close friends, she was blessed to be met with acceptance and love. But Filley was disappointed in how her West Lafayette, Indiana community and school responded. So she launched the “ThinkB4YouSpeak” campaign at her high school and brought the issue of teacher sensitivity into the spotlight. Filley also was active in helping launch her school’s gay-straight alliance. As a firm believer in the power of imagery, Filley created a series of visual art pieces that were posted throughout her school and focused on increasing awareness of the adverse effects of LGBT‐bullying.

Filley’s research at Purdue University introduced her to the challenge of energy security, inspiring in her a strong commitment to developing sustainable energy resources. She helped create a comparative analysis of cap-and-trade policies and worked in the Birck Nanotechnology Center in a lab that develops regenerative solar cells. She now is working on water quality in an agricultural and biological engineering lab.

Filley also has a passion for business and politics. She is State President of the Indiana Future Business Leaders of America and plans on majoring in financial engineering at Columbia University with a minor in sustainable energy entrepreneurship. Filley is committed to becoming active in politics and working tirelessly to challenge the status quo on LGBT policies.

Noel GordonNoel Gordon

Larry King/Jeffrey Fashion Cares Point Scholar
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Political Science


Noel Gordon was born in the heart of Brooklyn, New York and lived there until a few months after the September 11th attacks. His family eventually relocated to Las Vegas, where he soon excelled in school and extracurricular activities. During his senior year, Gordon was chosen as one of two Nevada state delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth program. He also served as student body 2nd vice‐president and earned the title of Nevada state champion in public forum debate. But even as all of this was happening, the only thing Gordon could focus on was the whether he was going to Hell because of his sexual orientation—a message he constantly received from his family, his church and even some of his peers.

Today, Gordon lives his life as an openly queer man of color at the University of Michigan, where he is an undergraduate. He is majoring in political science and double‐minoring in moral and political philosophy, as well as LGBTQ and sexuality studies. He is the co‐founder of rXs, an intragroup dialogue program for queer and questioning students of color, as well as a social justice advocacy group known as the Coalition for Queer People of Color. A 2012 Truman Scholar, Gordon eventually hopes to pursue a career in public interest law and social policy.

Isaias GuzmanIsaias Guzman

University of California, Berkeley
Political Science


Isaias Guzman was born and raised in a predominantly low‐income Latino community in Southeast Los Angeles to Mexican-immigrant parents. His family struggles financially. But Guzman learned early in life that education is key to success, and so he took charge of his own education and is the first in his family to attend college.

Guzman struggled with his sexuality and came out during his sophomore year of high school. His LGBT activism subsequently flourished, and he became president of his school’s gay‐straight alliance and joined the national Gay‐Straight Alliance Network. As president, Guzman launched awareness events and worked with his school administration to create a harassment and discrimination complaint form. Thanks to his involvement in GSA Network, Guzman became a Youth Council member, youth trainer, Statewide Advocacy Council member and a board member. He has helped empower hundreds of youth as they work to fight homophobia in their schools, and he has lobbied for legislation in Sacramento that would create safer schools for students.

Guzman also attended the first‐ever UN Consultation on anti‐LGBT bullying in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He hopes to continue to fight for social justice as a political science major at UC Berkeley by learning how government can eliminate social inequalities and how he can assist marginalized communities through a career in public service.

Navidra HardinNavidra Hardin

Emerson College
Broadcast Journalism


Throughout grammar school, Navidra Hardin was known as “the gay kid.” So when high school began, he was determined for a fresh start — a straight start. Hardin made it a priority to show off how straight he was by being antigay. But shortly after Hardin's father passed away in 2009, he realized life is too short to have regrets. He came out of the closet despite his family’s belief that being gay is "unnatural" and "sinful.”

To his surprise, Hardin’s school community was mostly supportive. Still, being the only openly gay student in a Catholic school presented obstacles. He was discouraged from starting a gay-straight alliance and other LGBT-related activities. Things proved even more difficult at home, and his family cut off all financial assistance.

Still, Hardin has persevered and said he uses negative events as motivation. In keeping with his love of writing and speaking, Hardin is attending Emerson College to study journalism.

Marco HerndonMarco Herndon

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Dartmouth College
Economics and Government


Marco Herndon was born in Atlanta to a Peruvian mother and American father, and raised between Peru, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Though his upbringing was marked by instability, it brought him closer to his Peruvian heritage and made him more independent and introspective.

During middle school, Herndon experienced verbal and physical assault because of his sexuality — an experience that had a profound effect on him. Herndon came out in the tenth grade. And although he frequently relocated, he nonetheless led a gay‐straight alliance and formed a Latin-American student organization. In Washington, D.C., he took advantage of the city’s highly developed network of non‐profits and focused his interest on issues affecting marginalized youth by interning at an LGBT youth rights organization and as a mentor and instructor to urban youth.

After graduating, Herndon continued to pursue his extracurricular interests on a gap year with City Year – a national service program – and created community service projects for under‐resourced D.C. public schools and communities.

Now as a student at Dartmouth College, Herndon plans to concentrate in government and economics with a focus on international development. He hopes to one day lead community revitalization efforts that expand socioeconomic diversity and youth development.

Adaobi KanuAdaobi Kanu

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Columbia University
Finance and Marketing


Upon beginning her career in art and homeless outreach services, Adaobi Kanu learned of the disproportionate number of LGBT people who rely on shelter services or who live on the streets. She heard from countless LGBT homeless adults that their experience began with LGBT oppression in their teenage years. So Kanu soon began helping LGBT teens and their allies create inclusive school environments that would help youth feel safer. In this work, Kanu educated more than 1,600 students on ways to support LGBT justice. Along the way she met LGBT teens who had been kicked out of their homes due to familial homophobia, or could see the future in homelessness ahead of them, and wanted to do more to support homeless LGBT teens.

Kanu founded and now runs a nonprofit called Art in Motion, an arts organization that serves homeless teens and young adults. Art in Motion’s goal is to use art as a medium to give young people the personal development and educational tools that will help them stay out of homelessness. Through specialized partnerships with local high school gay-straight alliances and LGBT youth homeless shelters, Kanu and Art in Motion have empowered hundreds of LGBT teens to embark on a journey to confidently pursue their dreams. Kanu plans on using the skills she is acquiring in the pursuit of her MBA at Columbia Business School to focus on tactics for creating systemic and sustainable change for LGBT youth and other disenfranchised communities.

Kathryn KendallKathryn Kendall

Boston College Law School
Law


Kathryn Kendall was raised in a traditional, privileged Southern family. Expressing individuality often meant ostracization. So her coming‐out experience at the end of high school was harsh. Thankfully, Kendall soon found a small but accepting group of friends at the University of Virginia through the Queer Student Union and the University of Virginia women's rugby team. She turned to her new friends in these social networks as she struggled with family problems and worked to accept her identity as a lesbian woman.

After being accepted into Teach for America, Kendall was placed in a school in rural Eastern North Carolina. Kendall quickly discovered that she would have to sacrifice her identity as a lesbian because North Carolina is a state where it is legally permissible to fire a teacher because of their sexuality. So Kendall concealed her sexuality, dodged personal questions and listened to homophobic comments from her co‐workers and administrators.

All the while, Kendall struggled with remaining silent. But after having had this experience she now fully understands the necessity of LGBT legal reform. The marginalization she faced has inspired Kendall to go to Boston College Law School. And she is looking forward to being an agent of change so that one day equality can overcome injustice.

Tyler Kissinger

Motorola Solutions Point Scholar
University of Chicago
Physics and Mathematics


Growing up in a small, suburban town outside of Winston‐Salem, North Carolina that put a large emphasis on "traditional" family values and heteronormativity, Tyler Kissinger realized that he didn't fit the role expected of him. He drew in and focused on academics to avoid confrontation about issues of sexuality. Then Kissinger transferred to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), a public, residential high school located in Durham, N.C.

At NCSSM, Tyler pursued a number of academic interests that he did not have the ability to pursue at his old school, such as the NASA Balloonsat High Altitude Flight competition, in which he led a team that designed and carried out a NASA‐funded experiment. He worked with a professor at Duke University to complete a long‐term research project on the statistics of supernova neutrino detection.

His personal interests expanded, as well. He served as co‐president of his school’s Spectrum Gay-Straight Alliance and as director of a group trying to organize a network of families in the Durham area willing to provide homeless LGBT youth with a safe and accepting home. He campaigned against an anti‐same‐sex marriage amendment to the North Carolina state Constitution. And his advocacy work has been recognized by his high school, which gave him its "Golden Cupola" award for his leadership, citizenship, and community service. Kissinger plans to study physics, mathematics, and philosophy at the University of Chicago and hopes to one day become a university professor.

Tanner LiechtyTanner Liechty

Paul W. Speier Point Scholar
Johns Hopkins University
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


Born in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, coming out was a frightening task for Tanner Liechty. He started coming out to his close friends and family his freshman year of high school and gradually branched out, telling more friends and family members as his high school years went on. Despite harsh criticisms from many of his peers, Liechty became captain of his high school football team, dance captain of a show choir, and always made sure to give back to his community through service and leadership.

After graduation, Liechty spent a gap year abroad with Rotary International in Brazil. Much of his time in Brazil was spent in orphanages and learning Portuguese at a local high school. He returned to Iowa realizing how diverse the human experience can be.

Liechty now studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he has become a member of the on-campus LGBTQIA club and has started taking an activist role. At John Hopkins he is studying chemical and biomolecular engineering and Spanish. Tanner plans on becoming a corporate liaison for chemical companies, and he hopes to create a network of LGBTQIA engineers to both further equality in the workplace and encourage queer youth to consider a career in engineering.

Noah Lupica

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Brown University
Program in Liberal Medical Education


When he got to high school, Noah Lupica joined his school’s gay-straight alliance and began organizing programs to increase awareness of LGBT issues. He focused his senior year on producing a documentary film and discussion-based outreach program to address the discomfort felt by Portland, Maine's large immigrant population surrounding issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Lupica is also an aspiring scientist and in 2011 was awarded a research fellowship to conduct microbiological stem cell research at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. He received another research fellowship for the summer of 2012 to conduct Type I diabetes research at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. Lupica has been admitted to the eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education at Brown University; he expects to graduate in 2016 and then go on to earn his medical degree from Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School in 2020. As a physician, Lupica plans to serve the needs of LGBT patients.

Alyssa MandulaAlyssa Mandula

DePaul University
Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies and Philosophy


Alyssa Mandula is majoring in peace, justice and conflict studies and philosophy DePaul University in Chicago while minoring in LGBT studies. Mandula was born and raised in the conservative town of Bloomington, Illinois, where she started her high school's gay‐straight alliance and ran The Central Illinois Safe School Alliance. She has worked as a national ambassador for The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, on the Youth Advisory Council for the The Trevor Project, and as a peer educator for Planned Parenthood. At DePaul, Mandula is deeply wrapped up in the LGBT community and the university’s queer group, Spectrum. In her short career as an activist, Mandula said she's met incredible people, but nothing motivates her more than her older sister, Holly, who has been a mentor, a sister and her best friend. Mandula plans to make a career out of fighting for educational equality for trans and genderqueer youth. She envisions a world where the gender binary is not the only way society knows how to look at and accept gender, and she is making that happen by educating her peers and challenging gender norms.

Monica MotleyMonica Motley

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Social Sciences

Coming out at the age of 16, Monica Motley was fortunate to have a supportive family but still experienced marginalization as a triple minority: woman, African‐American and lesbian. She has chosen, however, to use those negative experiences as a powerful tool to excel beyond stereotypes.

In 2007, she was elected the first African-American Homecoming Queen in 35 years, as well as the first openly gay Homecoming Queen at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her campaign motto was “Be Proud of Who You Are” and her message promoted acceptance and diversity. Motley currently holds a B.S from Virginia Commonwealth University and M.S.Ed from Virginia Tech.

Motley is a dual degree student at Virginia Tech seeking a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in the Department of Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and a Masters of Public Health Degree in the Department of Population Health Sciences. As a native of Danville, Virginia, a medically underserved area that struggles with high rates of obesity and chronic disease, she developed a personal understanding of the many barriers people face to lead and sustain healthy lives. Growing up in a household with a teacher and community activist for parents, Motley was taught to use her talents to be a catalyst for change, and not just to be a beneficiary of change.

And so she plans to become a social scientist and public health practitioner seeking to better understand how various socioeconomic factors influence health behaviors and outcomes in high risk populations, such as the LGBT community.


Patrick OathoutPatrick Oathout

Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Duke University
Philosophy and Public Policy


In middle school in Houston, Texas, Patrick Oathout already excelled in speech and debate. By the end of middle school, he ranked third in the nation in Impromptu Speaking.

Oathout came out as a sophomore in high school to a welcoming family and community. But an unfortunate experience at a summer job with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for teenagers rattled Oathout’s coming out. Determined to move forward, he began mentoring his peers through their own coming out experiences. Oathout now attends Duke University and is double majoring in philosophy and public policy. He is a student representative on Duke’s Board of Trustees, the president and founder of the Duke Colloquium Fellows, and is a founding father of Duke’s Sigma Pi fraternity. Additionally, Oathout is the first openly LGBT Duke student to be elected student body vice president.

Outside of Duke, Oathout has fought to reform the refugee resettlement process, and he has worked at refugee resettlement organizations in Durham, Washington, D.C., and Amman. Oathout has also received awards from the Clinton Global Initiative University and Duke University for his development of a mobile application for entrepreneurial refugees. After graduation, Oathout hopes to serve as a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department.

Kwame OcranKwame Ocran

Hunter College
Philosophy, Politics & Society


Kwame Ocran was born in the Bronx to Ghanaian‐American parents. After coming out as gay in high school, Ocran dealt with issues of homophobia, racism and discrimination. This prompted his work with other student leaders in his school's gay-straight alliance and influenced his ambition to work toward the recognition and acceptance of gays in marginalizing societies. Ocran is now a student at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, studying political philosophy and public policy. He hopes to incorporate an understanding of philosophy into collaborative governmental‐NGO relationships so as to engage disenfranchised communities in oppressive regions of the world.

Nicole OpperNicole Opper

NBCUniversal Point Scholar
San Francisco State University
Film


Nicole Opper was raised in San Diego, Calif. and came out at the age of 17. It didn’t take her long to realize how unique the support of her parents was. Her greatest hope became that one day all LGBT youth could be embraced by their families and communities, and so she committed to doing her part as a filmmaker.

Opper’s work to date includes the Emmy‐nominated 2010 feature documentary Off and Running, which won 10 international awards and aired on the national PBS series, P.O.V. The film tells the story of a teenage African-American adoptee being raised by two Jewish lesbians who goes on a search for her roots. According to Out magazine, the film “brilliantly redefines the concept of the American family.”

Opper has continued to explore alternative and queer family structures and to train her camera on young people making sense of themselves in a world where racial and sexual identities are increasingly fluid. Her hope is to expand to narrative storytelling while in graduate school, further explore the notion of family and identity, as well as to present nuanced and challenging portraits of our community to a wide audience.

Nicholas Orozco

Minton-Spidell Point Scholar
University of California, Berkeley
Medicine


Born in East Los Angeles, Nicholas Orozco grew up in predominantly urban Latino communities. He witnessed inequalities stemming from marginalization due to language barriers, culture, and education in his community and family. These experiences left him with a desire to pursue medicine as a way to provide access to health care, to prevent illness, and to make an impact on his community.

However, Orozco struggled with being gay in a very religious and conservative Latino family. Coming to terms with his identity in the context of antagonistic religious beliefs, attitudes and cultural values was difficult. He experienced rejection, fear, and isolation, but was able to find acceptance and confidence from friends and mentors, and learned of key health issues facing the LGBT community. Like members of his family who were marginalized because of education, culture, and language barriers, LGBT people also experience marginalization and health disparities due to vulnerability and discrimination. This motivated him to work toward eliminating disparities in the LGBT community and other underserved communities.

Nick is a medical student earning his MHS‐MD degrees in the UC Berkeley‐UCSF Joint Medical Program and Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved. He is spearheading the development of a free clinic to serve homeless, low‐income, and uninsured LGBT persons, as well as developing a course on LGBT health for his medical school’s curriculum. Orozco’s goal is to become a family medicine physician who can serve and advocate for disadvantaged and underserved populations.

Xinyi OuXinyi Ou

Allan Gilmour & Eric Jirgens Point Scholar
Grand Valley State University
History and Sociology


Xinyi Ou says her love of learning and activism have been constant even when her difficult experiences with homelessness, sexual assault, and marginalization threatened to obstruct her path to higher education.

Ou is nwo studying history and sociology at Grand Valley State University, the place where she first fell in love with the restorative powers found in academia and social justice. She is pursuing research she loves and creating the kind of change she wants to see on campus, most recently dealing with gender-neutral housing.

But in her sophomore year of high school, Ou left an abusive household to live alone and support herself. She credits her close circle of accepting friends and her many amazing mentors for her achievements. Having found a true family in her LGBT community, Ou strives to ensure that every youth has access to the resources, education, and caring that they need to excel no matter their goals.

Oraia ReidOraia Reid

HBO Point Scholar
Baruch College - City University of New York
Business


Oraia Reid is social entrepreneur with a decade of experience empowering communities on behalf of LGBT rights, socio/political justice, and women’s rights with a focus on ending sexual assault. As the executive director of RightRides for Women’s Safety, Reid was instrumental in launching the organization. She called upon her experience as a low‐income, queer‐identified survivor of assault. And now RightRides for Women’s Safety is an award‐winning, nationally recognized leader in fostering grassroots responses to gender‐based violence.

Reid lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. and attends the City University of New York - Baruch College, where she studies sociology, international relations and entrepreneurship.

Zoe ReidingerZoe Reidinger

Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Biomedical Engineering


Zoe Reidinger is from Brevard, N.C. and pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She has participated in LGBT activism since her freshman year of college at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was the only undergraduate to be elected as the co‐chair of the non‐discrimination policy committee. This committee worked on the inclusion of gender identity and expression in the university’s non‐discrimination policy. She also served as treasurer for Queer Action, VCU’s LGBT political and social activist organization. Reidinger also planned and executed the first, second, and third drag ball to benefit the Fan Free Clinic, specializing in treating patients with HIV/AIDS. After graduation, Reidinger hopes to use her career in tissue engineering to help improve gender-reassignment surgeries, as well as to teach on the collegiate level.

Nicole RobertNicole Robert

University of Washington
Feminist Studies

 

Nicole Robert is the proud mother of two young children and came out later in life after grappling with her own shifting identity. She found herself having to confront the limited representations of gender and sexuality that exist in the world at large and in museums specifically.

Responding to these gaps, Robert earned an M.A. in museology from the University of Washington and is now pursuing a PhD in feminist studies. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, gender and sexuality in U.S. history museums.

In 2012, Robert co‐founded the Queering the Museum project. In 2013, QTM hosted a digital storytelling workshop for local LGBT individuals and will present “Queering the (History) Museum” in collaboration with Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. Robert’s dissertation work connects queer theories, feminist theories and museological practices in what she is calling "Critical Feminist Museology." This approach uses methods of critical reflection to spur new conversations about race, gender and sexuality.

Robert enjoys teaching in both the formal institution of the university and the informal space of museums and seeks to connect the practices of these two spaces in her future work.

Jeff ShengJeff Sheng

Stanford University
Sociology


Jeff Sheng's photographic series "Fearless," a project on out LGBT athletes on high school and college sports teams, was inspired by his own experience and difficulty as a closeted high school athlete growing up in a conservative suburb of Southern California.

Since 2003 he has photographed and interviewed more than 130 individuals for the series and spoken about homophobia in athletics at many colleges and high schools. Between 2009 and 2011, his other photography series "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," focusing on more than 80 closeted service members affected by the government policy, was widely covered by media including The New York Times, CNN, the BBC, and ABC World News Tonight.

A graduate of Harvard University, Sheng holds an MFA in studio art from the University of California, Irvine, and is currently a Doctoral candidate in Sociology at Stanford University. Sheng has taught as a visiting professor of photography and visual studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and most recently at Harvard University in 2011.

Max Staebler

Darden Restaurants Point Scholar
Duke University
Biomedical Engineering


When Max Staebler came out to friends and family, he was embraced and encouraged by everyone — except his father, who is no longer part of his life. So Staebler decided to help others by getting involved in The Trevor Project and starting the first gay-straight alliance in his hometown of Bradenton, Florida. The GSA he started is a focal point of his high school's LGBT community. Staebler wrote and presented workshops focused on bullying and LGBT suicide. Max’s work with the Trevor Project's Youth Advisory Council has made it possible for him to become involved in advocacy through workshops, community events and a leadership position in the LGBTQ community of Bradenton, and elsewhere. Max will attend Duke University in the fall, pursuing a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry. He hopes to work on HIV/AIDS research.

Pete SubkoviakPete Subkoviak

Johns Hopkins University
Policy and Leadership


Pete Subkoviak was born in Madison, Wisconsin to two loving, religious parents. He entered the world physically female but never identified as anything other than male.

From the age of 3, Subkoviak insisted he was a boy. At the time, mental health professionals knew little about gender identity and encouraged Subkoviak to change his identity. By age 10, he had become deeply depressed and suicidal. After several years and with the support of family and friends, Subkoviak finally began to physically transition, gained a second chance at life, and went after it with passion.

Subkoviak became a de facto public speaker during college, teaching medical and education professionals about the transgender community. He also interned for Sen. Russ Feingold. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin ‐ Madison, Subkoviak pursued a career dedicated to the public good, working on state and federal HIV policy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. There, he led the Illinois Alliance for Sound AIDS Policy, a grassroots coalition of AIDS advocates, and sat on the citywide LGBT coalition to progress LGBT rights in Chicago. Subkoviak is now partnering with a local charity to create an innovative transgender employment program that would be the community's first dual housing and employment program.

Subkoviak is pursuing a Masters of Public Health degree with a concentration in policy and leadership at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Kayla WingertKayla Wingert

Larry King/Jeffrey Fashion Cares Point Scholar
Johnson & Wales University
Sports/Entertainment/Event Management

 

Although her school administration turned down her proposal for an LGBT support group and her request to hold an anti‐bullying week, Kayla Wingert wouldn't give up. She had come out as a lesbian at the age of 16. And ever since, she fought for anti‐bullying efforts for her predominately conservative neighborhood and her Catholic high school.

Wingert successfully ran two workshops for students on acceptance and tolerance of LGBT people. And she was asked by her high school's administration to host a mandatory workshop for all staff and faculty about incorporating LGBT students more fully into the classroom. Because of Wingert’s persistence, the administration reached out to other Catholic schools about creating safer environments for LGBT students.

Wingert will attend Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island as of fall 2012, majoring in Sports/Entertainment/Event Management. Wingert dreams of working as the event coordinator for a nonprofit organization that serves the LGBT community.