Meet the 36 Point Scholars That Make Up the Class of 2015
The 2015 Point Foundation Scholars come from come from different states, ethnic backgrounds, and academic fields, but they all share one ambition: to rise above from the adversity they've faced and empower themselves to create progressive contributions to the community.
“Helping students stay in college is only part of our mission. Students also need support and encouragement to complete their degree programs,” said a statement from Jorge Valencia, Point Foundation's executive director and CEO. “Point provides our scholars with guidance by pairing them with caring mentors, as well as helping our scholars develop their confidence and professional acumen through our leadership training program. We are helping LGBTQ young people build peer and intergenerational relationships that will be there for them even after they finish school and head out into the world.”
Almost 2,000 students applied for the Point Foundation Scholarship during the application period from November 2014 to January 2015. The foundation selects its scholars according to their promising leadership skills and academic excellence, and takes into consideration those candidates who have experienced discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, or family rejection.
Through its scholarship program — which now supports 83 full-time students, including this year's class — the Point Foundation strives to create a reliable community of networking and brainstorming that will surely benefit each scholar's personal, professional, and academic goals. Every Point Scholar is paired with a professional mentor, receives training to further cultivate their leadership skills, and completes an individual community service project.
Learn more about the new Point Scholar class here.
Occidental College, Los Angeles
Critical Theory & Social Justice
Growing up in Las Vegas, Adrienne Adams understood “his” developing queerness, gender queerness, and multi-ethnic identity as personal, rather than political. Engaging in the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity and taking courses in the Critical Theory and Social Justice Department have challenged Adrienne to realize the necessity to engage in “personal as political” activism. At Occidental College, Adrienne has worked toward creating spaces of healing, solidarity, and cultural conscious-raising in order to ensure that other queer and trans students of color understand the importance of participating in intersectional, political movements. Adrienne’s activism at Occidental has included creating a peer mentorship for LGBTQ+ students, co-establishing a separate branch of student government that holds Occidental administration accountable to diversity and equity, and organizing a large-scale event centered on the poetry of a South Asian trans art collaborative.
After completing “his” undergraduate degree, Adrienne plans to complete a law school degree, a public policy degree, and/or a Ph.D in ethnic studies. Adrienne intends to focus on practicing radical collective care with other activists, increasing affordable housing resources for lower-income queer and trans people of color in Los Angeles, and co-creating children’s literature that illuminates the complexities of queer and genderqueer identity.
Angie Gonzalez was born and raised in Farmingdale, N.Y., and is a first-generation college student. During her first year at New York University, Angie became a member of the First-Year Queers and Allies program and joined the student staff at the NYU LGBTQ Student Center. During her second year, Angie became an OUTSpoken Peer Educator at the NYU LGBTQ Student Center, the president of an LGBTQ club on campus, and a site leader for an Alternative Break trip to Puerto Rico. Angie’s mission for the remainder of her time at NYU is to engage in communities outside of the LGBTQ community to educate those communities on LGBTQ issues. Inspired by her stepfather, Angie aspires to help create and innovate technology for disabled adults and children. She also hopes to pursue a master’s and a doctorate in engineering.
University of Alabama Law School
After interning for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor this summer, Atticus DeProspo is attending the University of Alabama Law School. He received his B.S. degree in industrial and labor relations from the School of Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell University in May, graduating with honors. He wrote his senior honor thesis on LGBTQ inclusion in sports using human resource analytics. Atticus created a survey tool to measure the level of LGBTQ inclusivity in NCAA collegiate athletic departments.
Atticus was a member of the Cornell varsity men's soccer team for four years, helping the team win an Ivy League title in fall 2012. He was the founding president of Cornell's chapter of Athlete Ally, leading one of the most active chapters in the country and helping to make athletics a more inclusive space for LGBTQ individuals.
Brian Kaplun grew up in Los Angeles. There, although immersed in a vibrant LGBTQ+ neighborhood, he observed much of the stigma and inequity associated with this community, which molded his desire to become a staunch advocate for equality. Brian spearheaded the Health-Ed Equity Project campaign to enact LGBTQ+ equality in health education in California, calling for the inclusion of topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and safe sex for all in the education curriculum. After coming up with this proposal in high school, he worked with various elected officials, community members, and the California Parent Teacher Association to lobby on the issue across the state. At Stanford University, Brian is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a concentration in public health and health policy and possible academic minors in modern languages and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. His particular academic interest is LGBTQ+ health disparities, which is the focus of many of his internships, including at the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Commission of San Mateo County, and is what he hopes to focus on as a physician. Brian is also a peer counselor at the Stanford Sexual Health Peer Resource Center and a Flourish Mentor at the Stanford LGBT Community Resources Center, a volunteer health teacher at a local middle school with the HELP Project, and a member of the Health Stories Project of the LGBT Medical Education Group, which seeks to improve the education of health care providers on LGBTQ+ topics.
Eastern Washington University
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Brit Ouchida was born and raised in Milwaukie, Ore. She loved school and leadership, and dreamed of finding and creating new spaces in the world. At the age of 19, she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in biochemistry. Still, her true passion was cultivating and activating community, and she began training as a young pastor in a local evangelical church. Brit then attained an M.A. in theological studies, focusing on feminist and ecological theologies. It was in the evangelical church that Brit learned to be a leader and an activist, and she led numerous projects, conferences and communities where she advocated for a more progressive and welcoming religious practice. However, when she came out, it was clear that it was time to move on. She began a doctor of physical therapy degree program at Eastern Washington University in 2013. On campus, Brit is co-president of an LGBT health care advocacy group, SULE, which promotes education about LGBT health for future health care practitioners. As a physical therapist, Brit plans to specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor physical therapy, and work with transgender patients following gender-affirming surgery. She will also continue as a leader in LGBT awareness for health care providers in her field.
University of Chicago Law School
Brittany Ellenberg grew up in La Porte, Texas, where she graduated valedictorian. After coming out and grappling with prejudice that threatened to overshadow her achievements, Brittany transformed her experience with the intolerance of a few into a passion for social equality for the LGBT community. Brittany graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at Dallas. During college, she created the Diversity Council, a forum for improving diversity and inclusion on campus. Brittany also served as political liaison for PRIDE, an LGBTQ student organization. After founding the university’s College Democrats chapter, Brittany was appointed vice-chair of the LGBT Caucus for the national organization, College Democrats of America. During college, Brittany traveled to developing countries conducting international human rights research and providing aid to indigenous, refugee, and LGBT populations in Costa Rica, Peru, Jamaica, and Thailand. In 2013, Brittany received the Archer Fellowship, under which she worked at the U.S. Department of State on issues of civilian security and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. At the University of Chicago Law School, Brittany is the events coordinator for OutLaw and on the executive board of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. She was named the 2014 Grant Folland Scholar for her commitment to LGBT rights. In summer 2014, Brittany received the International Human Rights Fellowship to work at Minority Rights Group International in London doing impact litigation for minority populations around the world. She represents LGBT refugees through the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and serves as an advocate for immigrant children through the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She hopes to continue to work on LGBT and immigration issues in her career as a litigator.
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
When he was growing up in Louisville, Ky., Casey Hoke’s first efforts as a participant in Day of Silence were met with homophobic remarks from students and teachers, and Casey never expected to become a confident activist. With aid from his supportive family, Casey did just that in high school as he transitioned from female to male. Casey became a gay-straight alliance officer and peer educator at duPont Manual High School, where he studied visual arts. His efforts to provide a safer community were noticed by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, and in July of last year he became a student ambassador, organizing national events, contributing to media, and speaking at the GLSEN Respect Awards in New York City. These opportunities helped Casey further develop leadership skills in the LGBTQ+ community when he began writing for The Huffington Post last September about his art and transgender identity, ally-ship, and the anti-transgender bathroom bills that arose in early 2015. Casey combined his passions for art and the study of LGBTQ+ identity when he created and presented a lecture titled "Art & Identity.” The lecture, intended for LGBTQ+ youth and arts educators, includes LGBTQ+ art history, guides of support for educators, Casey's journey and work as a transgender artist, and an activity where attendees share their own artistic expressions. Casey plans to take his innovations and activism further to help others tackle marginalization with creative solutions.
Harvard Law School
Since her junior year in high school, Chanda Brown has stood out as an openly queer woman and an advocate and leader for LGBTQ people. During her sophomore and senior years at Brown University, Chanda was co-president of the Next Thing, a group for LGBTQ and two-spirited students of color. During her senior year, Chanda also served as the queer person of color coordinator for Brown’s Third World Center, ensuring that the various history months and weeks were inclusive to LGBTQ people of color. After college, Chanda was an active participant in the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia’s Homeless Food Ministry, Nursing Home Ministry, and Homeless Hypothermia Shelters. These ministries respectively provided food to the homeless, companionship to the elderly, and food and shelter to the homeless during the winter months. By participating in these ministries, Chanda and her fellow church members provided a positive representation of the LGBTQ community to the people around them. At the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, outside of her regular duties, Chanda served as an LGBTQ leader and advocate. Chanda was an instrumental part of the first LGBT Pride event at the agengy. She worked with the EEO Office to have the agency sponsor its first Pride event to create a more inclusive program for LGBT individuals. She found and secured one of the key speakers and served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Mount Holyoke College
Critical Social Thought
Dani Planer came out as transgender nonbinary at age 16 and has advocated for transgender rights and inclusion ever since. Dani has helped to designate an all-gender restroom option at school, raised awareness of nonbinary and transgender identities within the academic community, and led solidarity campaigns. Dani has combined a passion for social justice with writing poetry and critical essays as a means of presenting information about the transgender community and how to support transgender individuals in an accessible way. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, a national alternative news source that focuses on juvenile justice reform, has featured Dani’s writing on multiple occasions, and one of Dani’s poems appears in the writing journal Two Serious Ladies. Dani's passion for social justice extends beyond the LGBTQIAA+ community, as reflected in Dani’s many photojournalism articles about the importance of honoring different cultures and traditions in respectful ways as well as a commitment to participate in many protests calling attention to police brutality.
Public Policy/Latin American Studies
Erick Daniel Aguilar was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he lived until he was 6, before moving to the rural town of Mount Olive, N.C. He was an undocumented student in the United States for almost 11 years, and he encountered various obstacles due to his “illegal” status. At the age of 16, Erick moved away from his rural town to attend a public boarding school, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. At NCSSM, Erick became involved with the school’s LGBTQ-Straight Alliance and became a co-president of the organization his senior year. Aside from pushing for administrative reforms to create safer environments for LGBTQ students at NCSSM, Erick is very interested in studying public policy and Latin American literature. He hopes to continue to create safer environments for LGBTQ students at Duke University and the Durham community.
Gabriel Maffuz-Anker is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He attends Rice University in Houston and is studying violin performance and linguistics. An alumnus of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, he is not only an avid orchestral and chamber musician but also a zealous proponent of LGBTQ causes and music education. Gabriel’s experiences with bullying during middle school encouraged him to become involved in building affirming learning environments for queer students. As co-president of his high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (PVA-GSA) from 2011 to 2014, he collaborated with students and administration to promote inclusion and create an empowering space for dialogue. PVA-GSA provided educational materials about the pervasiveness of cisgenderism and other systems of oppression, held relevant discussions, hosted a variety of speakers and events, and campaigned within the school. In 2012 and 2013, Gabriel was also a GLSEN Student Media-Ambassador and a cofacilitator of youth-led events and workshops for GLSEN Houston’s Jump-Start team. Beginning in the summer of 2014, he volunteered for local advocacy group Out for Education, and in 2015 he became external vice president of Rice’s Queers and Allies. In addition, Gabriel works to make the arts an accessible resource for helping youth realize their creative potential. He is involved with a local nonprofit organization, Music Doing Good Inc., and he performs in the organization’s benefit concerts and interacts with aspiring young artists.
Philadelphia native Ibrahim Vicks has been a leader in the local LGBTQ community since high school. He grew up in a large family that did not accept his identity, so he sought out those like him and found a community of people who loved him for the person that he was. Ibrahim has held many leadership roles, including president of the youth leadership council at the Attic Youth Center (Philadelphia's only LGBTQ youth center), an Equality Rider with Soulforce, and with Philadelphia’s Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council. After getting his B.A., Ibrahim plans to get a master's degree in business administration and management. He looks forward to one day working in the programming department at an LGBTQ nonprofit organization that provides direct services to queer youth and their allies.
At age 15, Jack Andraka created a simple paper sensor for the accurate detection of pancreatic cancer at a cost of as little as 3 cents that returned results in five minutes. Now a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Jack is working on inkjet-printed biosensors for environmental monitoring, explosive detection and disease diagnostics for HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and cancer, as well as nanorobots for the treatment of cancers. In addition to his scientific work, Jack is an avid advocate for LGBT diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and has talked in more than 25 countries about the topic as well as publishing a memoir, Breakthrough, with Harper Collins. The book details his story as an LGBT youth in science and his fight against bullying and homophobia in school. Jack has worked with multiple corporations and organizations for LGBT diversity in STEM, including Intel, Booz Allen, and the National Association of Gifted Children. Jack’s work and advocacy efforts have earned him worldwide recognition winning him the Gordon E. Moore Award at Intel ISEF, the Out 100, The Advocate's 40 Under 40, the 2014 Jefferson Award (one of the nation’s highest honors for public service), and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award. He has also been interviewed by 60 Minutes, ABC World News With Diane Sawyer, The Colbert Report, NPR, Time magazine, The View, The Washington Post, and Oprah magazine, among many other media outlets worldwide. In his free time, Jack is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Team and competes in international math competitions.
Oklahoma State University
Jay Moore grew up in Houston in a very culturally and ideologically diverse school and community. It wasn't until late in middle school that she found out that being called gay was considered derogatory to some people. The privilege she enjoyed living in a progressive community ended when she moved to Tahlequah, Okla., during her junior year of high school. Jay immediately witnessed the effects of widespread racism, sexism, and homophobia on her fellow minority students. Instead of letting her experiences get her down, she channeled her frustration into changing the system. It started with creating Tahlequah High School's first gay-straight alliance. Jay also sought change on an academic level, creating a new curriculum for history and health classes that were more inclusive of LGBTQ and two-spirited individuals. Her advocacy in school earned Jay recognition, and she was invited to help organize Tahlequah’s first Pride event under the banner of “TahlEquality.” The event was a massive success and garnered widespread public support from not only figures from Oklahoma, but on a national scale through news outlets like The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Headline News. TahlEquality has continued to organize events, including a town hall meeting discussing marriage equality in Oklahoma, an equality fun run, and annual Pride celebrations. Having enrolled at the University of Oklahoma’s Honors College, Jay is majoring in microbiology and has plans to conduct research on HIV and AIDS.
Bowling Green State University
Raised in the small town of Hartville, Ohio, Joan Mosyjowski faced adversity when she came out as gay at age 13. After surviving a suicide attempt, she began to combat homophobia in her school, her town, and the Northeast Ohio region. As a sophomore in high school, Joan rallied local organizations to form the first regional prom for LGBTQ+ high school students. The organizations later joined to form the Teen Pride Network, an organization whose purpose is to connect LGBTQ+ youth in a safe, accepting environment. As a junior, Joan was the president of her high school's newly formed GSA. The club helped to find safe teachers and allies through open dialogues and the school's first Day of Silence. Joan also worked with PFLAG to support struggling teens and advocate on their behalf to parents, religious leaders, medical professionals, and educators. Joan aspires to pursue a career in human rights advocacy, particularly LGBTQ rights.
University of Pennsylvania
Jose Lopez has a constant drive to bring about positive change in the world. After a terrible coming-out experience in the summer of 2013, he dedicated himself toward making the lives of other youth like him as easy as possible. Since then Jose has gotten involved with various legislative advocacy and policy implementation programs for the LGBTQ community through the GSA Network of California. He has had the opportunity to visit the California state capitol and advocate for bills that would create safer, more inclusive schools for LGBTQ youth. After finishing his bachelor's degree in political science, with a concentration in civil liberties and minority studies, Jose plans on becoming an advocate and an elected politician so that he can achieve his goal of bringing about change in not only this country but the world.
Julia Horwitz was born and raised in Southern California. After years of struggling with her mental health and suppressing her sexual orientation, in her junior year of high school, two life-changing things happened: She came out of the closet and discovered spoken-word poetry. Finding the spoken-word community was not only healing but very empowering. As a queer woman, Julia feels that it is her responsibility to tell her story as honestly and often as possible, since LGBTQIA representation in the media is minimal and often inaccurate. She is a two-time member of the internationally recognized Say Word slam poetry team, which competes at Brave New Voices each year. Independently, she has had the opportunity to perform her poetry on platforms such as TEDx, Russell Simmons’s All-Def Digital, and Yale University’s speaker series. Aside from her work in the spoken-word community, Julia facilitated an LGBTQIA support group at her high school, was the head of her school’s newspaper, and Feminist Club. She is also a visual artist and illustrated the therapeutic children’s book The Elephant in the Room: A Children’s Book for Grief and Loss. Julia is a firm believer in art’s power to heal and create social change, and she will continue to refine her passions for literature and social justice in college.
University of Southern California
Growing up in a small town near New Orleans, Julian Turner experienced racism, homophobia, and discrimination from the moment he stepped into the world. In the summer of 2014, Julian came out as gay to his father in the backseat of his sister’s car. By the time they left the car, there was a permanent rift between him and his father. Unlike in the past, when he would have been spiteful, Julian saw an opportunity to make a difference. He realized the altercation with his father provided him an experience to use to impact the world. From that moment on he opened up about his sexuality and the resulting ostracism he felt from his community, including his family. As a result, he had begun to make his community more knowledgeable about the struggles LGBTQ youth face. In his senior year of high school, Julian started his area’s very first gay-straight alliance. After years of battling depression in the process of finding himself, Julian decided that he would use his experiences to help others have a more peaceful process of self-acceptance. Whenever asked why he tells his story even though it brings up painful memories, he responds, “If we stop talking about the issues we face in the world, it makes it easier for others to ignore them. Sweeping dirt under the rug does not make it disappear; it just makes a bigger mess somewhere else.”
Georgia Regents University
Kevin Robertson was born in Caribou, Maine, but grew up in Georgia, which became his home state. His entire education, starting with elementary school through college and medical school, has been in Georgia, and he is well-acquainted with the trials and tribulations of being LGBT in the South. During his medical education, Kevin worked to advance the health of the LGBT community in Augusta, Ga. Along with a group of his medical student peers, he helped establish the Equality Clinic of Augusta, an LGBT-focused free clinic. He has served a number of roles in the clinic — first as a student coordinator and webmaster to the clinic's website, and later as a member of the clinic's nonprofit board of directors. A particular focus of his has been HIV awareness and prevention, and he established opt-out rapid HIV screening for the clinic's patients as well as offering pre-exposure prophylaxis. Kevin was elected president of GRU Equality in 2014, and he has worked to carry out the organization's goals of education, advocacy, and outreach on behalf of LGBT faculty, staff, students, and patients in Augusta's medical community.
Yale School of Management
Kylie Aquino Waddy was born and grew up on the south side of Chicago, but spent most summers of her childhood among the hills of Buckingham, Va. In 2001 she enrolled at Whitney Young Magnet High School, one of Chicago’s premier public secondary institutions. Kylie pursued studies in linguistics and pre-law at New York University and earned her B.A. in 2009. Three years later, Kylie earned her M.S.W. from the same institution. While at Yale, she will focus her studies on economics, operations and venture capital in emerging markets. Since 2012, Kylie has worked as a psychotherapist at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City. Over 95 percent of Kylie’s clients identify along the LGBT spectrum. In addition to providing therapeutic services for survivors of various forms of trauma and anti-LGBT marginalization, Kylie facilitates two weekly support groups for women of trans experience. Kylie has also worked in various capacities with the LGBT community in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Outside of work, Kylie is deeply passionate about saris, salwar kameez, and other garments native to the Indian subcontinent. This passion has inspired her to design her first business, Urban Sari, which will bring saris to nontraditional markets in the U.S. Her enterprise will also help Indian handweavers stay competitive by offering them novel means to reach untapped markets.
Florida International University
Master of Social Work
Landon “LJ” Woolston is an advocate and artist, a youth worker, and a trans-pan-queer Miami native. Through his own personal journey navigating social justice issues, LJ dedicated himself to using his privilege to interrupt oppression, standing alongside and amplifying the narratives of those who are most marginalized in our communities. Through his work in LGBTQ youth homelessness, as well as in his volunteerism and activism, LJ is committed to affirming and empowering queer youth. By equipping young people with community support, resources, and knowledge around self-advocacy, LJ hopes to see the eventual elimination of the many barriers that prevent LGBTQ youth from living whole and authentic lives.
In addition to his work and social justice advocacy, LJ uses his art and photography as a form of activism — a means of sparking critical dialogue around body and sex positivity, gender, and race. His images have been published in several queer publications and The New Times, and he has a permanent collection on display in Miami Beach. LJ sees photography as a particularly powerful, radical medium for trans/queer folk to explore themselves, and to document their varied paths toward self-discovery, body love, and self-love.
Culinary Institute of America
Baking & Pastry Arts Management
The summer before sophomore year of high school Lane cofounded QueerNC, a social group in North Carolina that connects queer youth in rural and urban areas by providing a safe space both online and in person. Lane then established gender-neutral restrooms at school, added gender identity and sexual orientation to the school's nondiscrimination policy, and became youth chair of the LGBT Center of Raleigh as well as president of the school's Queer-Straight Alliance. Lane was also involved in the drama department and improv club, and worked in an artisanal bakery.
Mastering the skills for creating extraordinary cuisine is Lane’s goal at the Culinary Institute of America. Lane will mix a passion for creating community with a passion for pastry to make change in the world.
The University of Utah
Lauryn C. Hansen was born and raised in Salt Lake City. When she was 3 years old, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then died when Lauryn was 7 years old. Having experienced this loss at a young age, Lauryn gained the ability to empathize deeply with those around her. Looking back, she sees this as her most defining and influential characteristic in the formation of her activist identity. Lauryn is an undergraduate at the University of Utah studying metallurgical Engineering. Her experience in the STEM fields, which continue to marginalize queer women, has prompted her to seek institutional change. She served as one of the first student cochairs of the university pride week planning committee and is deeply involved with queer and social justice–based student groups on campus. As an undergraduate researcher, Lauryn has had the opportunity to be published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental and present her research to Utah state legislators. Lauryn most looks forward to gaining the intellectual capacity to grow and change, having the discipline to understand technical engineering problem-solving strategies while also rejecting the parts of STEM field institutions that continue to oppress minority populations and contribute to climate change. After graduating from the University of Utah, Lauryn plans to pursue a graduate degree specializing in an environmental engineering–related field. She will always be involved in community-based activism because, in her words, “once we cease social justice work, we have failed.”
University of Washington, Seattle
Lindsey Kirkham is an undergraduate at the University of Washington studying public health. She grew up in Idaho, where she struggled to come to terms with her bisexuality, but fortunately she had supportive friends and family when she came out shortly after her high school graduation. Her primary interests as both a public health student and a social activist include HIV/AIDS, women's and LGBTQ health, sexual assault, and social determinants of health. She volunteers with queer and sexual assault activist organizations at her university as well as Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Seattle’s Northwest Network, an organization for LGBTQ survivors of abuse. As Student Health Consortium director at the University of Washington, Lindsey is initiating projects on queer and trans health, mental health, and HIV. As a bisexual and queer survivor, she considers her greatest accomplishment as an LGBTQ activist to be founding the Bi Women Support Network in the fall of 2014, the first sexual violence recovery resource for bisexual women. She plans to join the Peace Corps after graduation and pursue a master's degree in public health.
University of Pennsylvania
London Nicole Cluff was raised in Nauvoo, Ill., a small Mormon tourist attraction town of only 1,100 residents. As a result of the town’s highly conservative atmosphere, she was 17 before she met anyone who shared her convictions on LGBTQ rights. Musically and artistically inclined, London has studied piano for more than 12 years and cello for nearly as long. While she was in high school, she enjoyed performing in orchestra and ensembles, eventually graduating a semester early in December 2012. Less than a month after graduating high school, London became a part of the inaugural American Honors class at Ivy Tech Community College, where she studied literature, philosophy, and sociology. During her time there, London was the events chair of the American Honors Council, vice president of service and fellowship of the local Phi Theta Kappa chapter, vice president of Inked Alliance, a member of Co-Exist (LGBTQ Alliance), and a student senator. She feels a strong affinity toward student success, especially for LGBTQ, low-income, adult learners and other students facing challenges. London again graduated a semester early, finally receiving her associate's degree in liberal arts with honors, magna cum laude. She has since completed two internships, with Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and with American Honors, and had her artwork published in New Voices student magazine.
University of Chicago
Scholar-activist Marcus Lee is from Charlotte, N.C. He is a member of the class of 2015 of Morehouse College, a Mellon Mays Research Fellow, a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago, and a member of a variety of community organizations and initiatives oriented toward racial justice, gender equity, and sexual liberation. His academic research concerns the emergence of black gay organizing, and the impact of AIDS and the nonprofit industry on the trajectory of black/queer movements. After earning his Ph.D., Marcus hopes to teach and continue to do research on black politics and contemporary social movements. Marcus is passionate about being part of intentional communities; he is deeply committed to building a set of politics according to the needs and desires of his friends and the larger black/queer community. Motivated in large part by a past of self-neglect, Marcus works daily toward living into/taking care of himself, and he pushes for a society in which everyone is made to feel empowered and enthused about life.
Matthew Kaplan was born and raised in Phoenix. Growing up in a conservative state, he carried the weight of knowing he was different, and at times the weight felt crushing. However, his family’s unconditional support allowed him to come to see his orientation as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, which enabled him to empathize with others. When his younger brother fell victim to bullies at their middle school, Matthew wanted somebody to do something about it. The summer of his eighth-grade year, Matthew created the Be ONE Project, a community-building and bullying-prevention nonprofit organization for middle school students. Through team-building games, activities, and guided discussions, the Be ONE Project empowers students to be positive role models and to celebrate similarities rather than tear each other apart over differences. As a Robertson Scholar at Duke University, Matthew is studying history as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. He plans to use his education to continue to create inclusive school communities, especially for LGBTQ students grappling with their identities, and he also hopes to implement his antibullying curriculum in middle school classrooms across the nation.
Mia "Tu Mutch" Satya is an LGBTQ cultural humility trainer, social justice advocate, and community organizer. In her home state of Texas, Mia endured bullying, reparative therapy, and spiritual violence before migrating to San Francisco, where she also survived discrimination, homelessness, and violence. Her story of surviving a hate crime and organizing a massive rally in response is featured in the Not in Our Town documentary A Prosecutor’s Stand. Mia has brought her message of LGBTQ liberation to more than 30 universities and conferences and she is also featured in the documentary What’s the T? now available on Hulu. While serving two terms on the San Francisco Youth Commission, Mia advocated for Free Muni for Youth, and for affordable housing, and cocreated a landmark LGBTQ cultural competency training for 9,000 San Francisco Department of Public Health employees. Mia has experience coordinating wraparound services for homeless youth, internships for LGBTQ youth, and HIV prevention programs for transgender women. As a fellow with Transitional Age Youth San Francisco she provided platforms for young people to engage with city departments to inform policy decisions that impact their lives, and was instrumental in expanding the City’s Children’s Fund to include disconnected youth 18-24. Mia has served on 10 committees of five City of San Francisco departments, including the Department of Public Health and the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families. Mia is dedicated to creating innovative and sustainable policy solutions that improve the health, wealth, safety. and power of LGBTQ people and people of color.
Born in Baltimore, Samantha Grant was raised there collectively by her parents until they divorced, forcing her to bounce back and forth between two households. It wasn't until she felt more stabilized as a young person in high school that she really began to question her sexuality and think about her queerness as more than just "a phase." It was a learning experience for herself as well as her family as a newly identified queer woman in a religious household. Samantha had constant battles of depression, many of which stemmed from her lack of understanding about her sexuality. She eventually learned to channel her sadness into social activism as a member of various marginalized groups. Having struggled with mental illnesses most of her life, Samantha joined a mental health organization on her campus at Spelman College to broaden the scope of discussions about mental wellness to include black and brown LGBTQ people. She also served on the executive board for Spelman's LGBTQ organization, Afrekete, which worked to create inclusive spaces for queer and trans students at Spelman. During her junior year at Spelman, Samantha studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, and there served on the diversity committee at the Danish Institute of Study Abroad. Once returning to the states, Samantha continued her work as a fierce queer femme activist committed to creating a world that does not disenfranchise LGBTQ people and one that prioritizes community building. As a clinical psychology doctoral student, Samantha combines her love for psychology, community building, LGBTQ people, and people of color to shift the ways that we understand, value, and love ourselves wholly amid constant discrimination.
Harvard Law School
Public Interest Law
Growing up in Mississippi, Sarah Bacot learned to appreciate her queer identity for the unique perspective it provided and for the empathy and strength it helped her to build. As a student at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., Sarah developed resources for queer students on campus and in the larger Memphis community as an activist and student leader. As the co-president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, Sarah worked with other queer students and allies to create safe spaces on her campus, including a Queer Resource Room and designated LGBT-friendly housing. Sarah also worked as an intern for the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center and created and found funding for an LGBT Community Development Fellowship. In 2013, Sarah was one of 40 students awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, the legacy fellowship of the founder of IBM, given to students to pursue projects of personal passion. She spent the year after graduation in Poland, Argentina, India, South Africa, and Canada pursuing her project “Out of the Closets, Into the Streets: Exploring Queer Identity through Community Organizations and Pride Parades.” Her year abroad strengthened her desire to work for social justice. She will continue her work with queer people through a career in public interest law.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Shayle Matsuda's interest in biology began with his battle with cancer as a 3-year-old, never suspecting that science would someday provide him the confidence and support to come out as transgender. The mixed-race son of an art historian and an industrial designer, Shayle developed a creative mind, while acquiring a deep appreciation for the transformative power of art and the possibility that one person can change the way people see the world. Shayle quietly struggled with gender and sexuality growing up in Illinois. He found a supportive community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he identified as queer. After graduating with honors in environmental studies and women’s studies in 2003, Shayle worked with disadvantaged and minority youth and hosted a weeklong LGBTQ art, music, and film festival to raise funds to start an LGBTQ youth group. While working on his master’s degree in biology at San Francisco State University (CSU Trustees’ Award 2014), Shayle came out as transgender. Shayle studies climate change and reef coral resilience as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology (2020). Actively involved in science communication, he frequently speaks about his research and experience being a transgender scientist. Shayle hosts the interactive science event series “Science, Neat,” which brings scientific and LGBTQ communities together. He uses art and digital media to make science more accessible to wider audiences, and he facilitates unique research experiences for high school students underrepresented in STEM fields.
Lewis & Clark College
Master of Education — School Counseling
Through navigating bullying and discrimination, Siche Green-Mitchell learned to tackle challenges with chutzpah and authenticity. While completing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon in women’s and gender studies, Siche competed as an all-American athlete and organized to end sexual violence and increase access to education for students of color and the LGBTQ community. Siche’s initial work in advocacy for adjudicated youth, homeless youth, and families in crisis inspired him to broaden his scope of influence and pursue systemic change through education. As a dedicated leader, Siche has worked in K-12 and undergraduate education to increase retention and graduation rates for historically underserved populations. Through his work, he aims to increase equity and access to education for communities of color, undocumented students, LGBTQ populations, and students with disabilities
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Skylar Pardue was born in Ontario, Canada, and grew up primarily in Baltimore. Skylar was homeschooled until ninth grade, and then attended Baltimore City College High School, completing the international baccalaureate program in 11th and 12th grade and graduating in May 2014. While in high school, Skylar was president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance for three years. At the University of Maryland, Skylar is majoring in mathematics as well as studying linguistics and German. Soon after enrolling, Skylar was elected as Executive Director of QUMBC, an LGBTQ+ activist student organization, and is also very active in the work of Spectrum, a group for transgender students, and the Queer Leadership Council, a group of LGBTQ+ student leaders on campus. After graduating, Skylar hopes to attend graduate school to study mathematics or linguistics.
Sydney Roberts, who identifies as queer and nonbinary, grew up in a conservative town in Oregon. In high school Sydney was active in many community service organizations, including serving as president of the Key Club and National Honor Society, working closely with the Corvallis PFLAG as well as the Portland Q Center. In addition, Sydney was the director of LGBTQIA+ Projects and cofounder of the West Albany Feminist Collective as well as an active member of the school's Speech and Debate program, Youth and Government Legislative Assembly, and cross-country team. Elected the ALA Girls Nation President, Sydney also served as an intern for the Sara Gelser for State Senate campaign and began writing a monthly column in the local newspaper on current events in 2014. She used all platforms to advocate for the rights of the queer community. In the summer of 2013, Sydney worked as a bio-based nanotechnology intern at Oregon State University and advocated for creating a more LGBTQIA+ friendly environment in the science community. As an activist for trans and nonbinary visibility in the mainstream LGBT rights movement, mental health awareness, and intersectional feminism, Sydney has long-term career goals that include opening a homeless shelter for LGBT youth and working as a union defense attorney.
University of California, Berkeley/University of California, San Francisco
Tara Benesch believes that creative, interdisciplinary partnerships are essential to solving major health care challenges. As a queer, multiracial teenager, Tara battled anorexia nervosa and clinical depression, and witnessed the mental health disparities that disproportionately affect minority communities. These experiences led her to study schizophrenia and earn a B.A. in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. As an Annika Rodriguez Scholar there, Tara volunteered with the Latino Empowerment Team to provide college application support to disadvantaged students. Subsequently, she taught in bilingual classrooms for four years with Teach for America, where she organized panels for LGBT educators, and support groups and health seminars for parents. From 2011 to 2014, Tara served as an HIV test counselor at the Berkeley Free Clinic. There, she helped establish the Transgender Inclusivity Committee, which offered clinic-wide training on transgender health issues. Tara also used her teaching experience to help redesign the HIV test counselor training to improve outcomes for clients and volunteers. As a medical student in the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Medical Program and Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved, Tara continues to integrate her educational and clinical experiences. She assists underserved populations as a health coach at La Clínica de La Raza, a coordinator of the Suitcase Youth Clinic for homeless youth, and as a San Francisco General Hospital Summer Urban Health and Leadership Academy Fellow. Tara’s goal is to reduce health disparities by addressing mental health, educational, structural, and sociopolitical issues through diverse, community-based coalitions.
Columbia Business School
Tiffany Barillas was born and raised in Los Angeles. She grew up in a low-income household with two extremely hard-working Guatemalan immigrant parents. Her parents instilled in her a value for hard work and dedication, and although they both lacked a high school education and spoke little English, they were her motivation to pursue something greater in life: a college degree. She is now the first in her family to graduate high school and college. In 2011, Tiffany received a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, completing a major in business administration and a minor in music. At Berkeley, she was a part of the Cal Marching Band, the Cal Women’s Rugby team, and the Music Connection, and was president of the Latino Business Student Association. Although Tiffany was aware of her sexuality and gender-nonconformity since a child, she was not “out” until her last year in college, after attending the Out for Undergrad Business Conference in 2010. The conference changed her life by shifting her perspective on how embracing one’s identity can be a competitive advantage in the corporate sphere. She remained involved in Out for Undergrad as a young professional and has served as the conference’s programming director and executive conference director. In 2015, after working for more than four years in finance, Tiffany worked to attain her MBA. She hopes to transition into a career where she will be able to pursue initiatives with greater social impact for the Latino and LGBTQ communities.