Every year, the nonprofit Point Foundation announces its new crop of scholars; the impressive, aspiring LGBTQ students of today and leaders of tomorrow. Point helps pay for the education of these students, people who include every age, race, home country, gender, and gender identity of our wonderfully vibrant community.
For 2018, Point is announcing 20 Point Scholars -- out of 2,100 applicants! -- and 25 recipients of Point's Community College Scholarship Program. Many of these strivers have backgrounds in LGBT advocacy and social justice, while some are just brilliant artists or scientists; some have also had to support themselves because of intolerance they faced from their families or communities. Meet all of the students on the next pages, with the Point Scholars in the front. Find out more about Point's scholarships -- and how to get involved with the cause -- here.
Teachers College, Columbia University
Social Studies & Education
She/her/hers & they/them/theirs
Anonymous Donor Point Scholarship
Alice Liou is a second-generation Taiwanese American who was born and raised in Edison, NJ. Growing up in a predominately Asian/American immigrant community, Alice was deeply involved in community organizations that helped her develop a strong racial and ethnic identity. This involvement also helped her realize how institutionalized, grassroots support can foster identity, community, and activism in young people. However, with the silence around gender and sexuality in an immigrant community with strong patriarchal values, Alice struggled to come to terms with her identity as a gender non-conforming queer youth. Given her position, Alice wanted to make space for counternarratives of the model minority myth, including queer diasporic narratives. In college, Alice assumed leadership positions in the Pan Asian community and in social justice organizations to bridge this personal gap, creating programmatic space for dialogue around intersectional identity, community, solidarity, and service projects. After graduation, Alice became a middle school teacher and worked with young people to use technology and design to share counternarratives and build critical community. As an educator and an activist, Alice has advocated for the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies at the K-12 and post-secondary levels, including the first Asian American Studies class in her hometown. As a doctoral student, she hopes to expand this advocacy by studying youth activism and the pedagogical practices that help to sustain it.
University of Southern California
Applied and Computational Mathematics
Fry-Garatea Family Scholarship
Anthony Pacheco was born in Palm Springs, California and raised in Cathedral City, where home was the desert landscape, high temperatures, and swaying palm trees. He began dancing at the age of six in styles that include ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop and continued throughout high school. However, once he joined the Cathedral City High School Dance Team, Anthony realized that being a male dancer was going to be difficult. He was shocked to see that he was the team’s only male member, and soon realized why: students at his school viewed him as “different.” They believed that men belonged on a field, not on the stage. Although he faced ridicule for being a male in tights, the combination of being a dancer, Hispanic, Roman-Catholic, and gay proved to be his toughest challenge. He quickly saw the hostility in the world and realized that if he wanted to find acceptance for LGBTQ+ students like himself, he was going to need to produce change; and so he did. Anthony joined the LGBTQ+ Suicide Bullying Prevention Program of the Desert and presented to the student body about LGBTQ+ awareness, suicide prevention, cyberbullying, and the power of words. He also utilized his dance community to emphasize the importance of individuality. Anthony is eager to continue his studies at the University of Southern California in Applied and Computational Mathematics, as well as use his voice to empower Hispanic, LGBTQ+ youth and educate the world about LGBTQ+ equality and safety.
School is Stanford School of Medicine
Calliope Wong grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and spent her early years as the ambitious, quiet, “only son” of a Chinese-immigrant family. At the age of 15, having found she was ill-suited to becoming a man, Calliope began coming out as a queer trans woman. During her senior year of high school, Calliope applied to Smith College (a historical women’s college), and the school twice refused to read her application based on the “male” gender marker on her financial aid papers. In response, she started a national campaign which led to over 12 women’s colleges– including Smith–to adopt trans woman inclusive policies. Her activist work has been featured in Time, The New York Times, and other media outlets. As she connected with labor activists and feminists of color during the campaign, she broadened her understanding of systemic oppression and began considering ways she could help marginalized communities to thrive: this is what brought her activist heart to medicine. Calliope graduated from the University of Connecticut as a pre-medical-track English major. At Stanford Medicine, she plans to pursue an MD/MPH degree, and to one day serve as a clinical academic caring for patients’ hormonal health while contributing research to nonprofits that benefit LGBT youth. She is especially interested in improving trans health outcomes, finding out the long-term effects of hormone therapies, and working to ensure that the next generation inherits a health care system that serves all of us.
MPS Real Estate, Finance and Investments / MBA
He, him, his
Jimin was born and raised in Los Angeles County. He lived with his grandmother who journeyed to America, alone, in the 1970s. Despite the generation gap, grandmother and grandson formed a unique bond that transcended culture and age. As a child, Jimin observed the tenacity, patience, and commitment his family put forth to create opportunities they had been denied in their youth. Through them, he realized academic and career success had little value if prioritized over relationships with loved ones. This was his first introduction to the importance of community. After college, his job moved him to the East Coast, then to Seoul, Korea and finally to Shanghai, China where he learned Mandarin and found community amongst local Shanghainese entrepreneurs and expatriates.
A key turning point in Jimin’s personal journey was when he came out to his best friend, his grandmother. Her surprising unconditional acceptance infused him with confidence to live boldly, despite rejections from other communities. Not long after, however, his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Leaving a budding career in Asia, he returned to California to become her primary caregiver. For Jimin, the role reversal was a full circle reminder of the very lessons he learned from his grandmother that value is derived from the strength of our relationships with loved ones and with our community however small or large. During this time, he also led a support group with the Alzheimer’s Association assisting other caregivers and families. He saw a need especially with elderly LGBTQ Alzheimer’s patients who did not have traditional family support systems and faced discrimination at senior care facilities. In 2017, he helped launch the first event dedicated specifically to LGBTQ seniors for the Alzheimer Association’s Orange County chapter. Jimin dedicates this award to his parents and in honor of his grandmother who passed away in 2017.
University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
John M Deciccio Point Scholar
Jimmy Ding is a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Born and raised in Texas, Jimmy has had firsthand experience with health care discrimination in his conservative hometown. When he started volunteering for the Trevor Project, he saw how his experience fit into a broader pattern of LGBTQ folks facing obstacles in finding decent health care. These experiences inspired Jimmy to dedicate his career to directly addressing these disparities as a physician. To prepare for a career in medicine, Jimmy studied Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he honed his leadership skills as a Dean's Scholars Honors Program leader and Resident Assistant. He was also selected as a Lead Volunteer for the Trevor Project in 2016 and as a UT Outstanding Student Health Leader in 2017. Driven by a desire to serve LGBTQ patients more directly, Jimmy served as a research assistant at the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTI Health. There, he coordinated the Trans Buddy Program, which provides support for transgender patients seeking health care at Vanderbilt. He also conducted research with the program, publishing the first known manuscript addressing health system-wide quality improvement models for transgender health care. Using the insights gained through his LGBTQ work and experience as a queer Asian-American, Jimmy plans to work at the frontiers of LGBTQ health care, directly ameliorating LGBTQ health disparities and specializing in disparities research and health education reform.
California State East Bay
Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health Policy
He, Him, His, She, Her
John Daniel grew up in the foothills of Appalachia, in a small evangelical town in Northeast Mississippi, where every “ism” and “phobia” are the law of the land. Being an effeminate gay man was difficult for John, and he was physically and verbally assaulted. Ultimately, realizing that being gay was not compatible with the life of abuse he was living in the rural deep south, he knew he had to leave. John arrived in Los Angeles in 1986 with a suitcase and five hundred dollars, looking for his new tribe. He soon found himself homeless, and for a year John lived at The Hollywood Spa, a gay bathhouse, and The Studio Hotel, a gay SRO. After a year of survival sex work and IV drug addiction, John amazingly and against all the odds, pulled himself out of adversity only to find he had HIV. It did not take long for his activism instincts to surface. It was the dark days of the AIDSs pandemic, and John joined ACT UP to help change the conversation about AIDS. John moved to San Francisco and continued his activism with ACT UP, but that was not enough. Tired of the anger and needing a different connection to the LGBTQI community, John joined The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to “expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy.” A lifetime of volunteer community health service has led John to university to get a degree in Public Health Policy and Law.
University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health/University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
William J. Levy Point Scholar
Jose Cortez was born and raised in Southern California to immigrant parents from Mexico. Growing up in a largely Mexican Catholic community, Jose experienced both silent and overt discrimination that negatively impacted his mental health. His desire to avoid stigmatization led him to enroll at Pitzer College. He quickly recognized the power of mentorship and began serving as a mentor for LGBTQ+ students, individuals who were first-generation to college, and students of color. During this time, Jose also witnessed the health inequities that were commonplace in the LGBTQ+ community and committed to addressing them as a health care provider. Jose partnered with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University to work on developing a campaign to increase awareness of acute HIV amongst ethnic minority and LGBTQ+ communities.
In 2016, Jose matriculated at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP), and is participating in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved to become a leader in urban underserved care. His experience with difficulty in accessing care guides his thesis research, where he is examining how different factors influence an individual’s access to specialty care. He has also collaborated in analyzing the representation of skin color in materials used to train dermatologists on different skin diseases and is investigating melanoma prevention in giant congenital nevi. Jose provides care for individuals experiencing homelessness and LGBTQ+ folks through his involvement in student-run free clinics. He serves as an admissions interviewer for the JMP to recruit more LGBTQ+ applicants to diversify the physician workforce. Jose also continues his role as a mentor for aspiring LGBTQ+ health care providers through his mentorship for students in the Bay Area and Southern California. In working toward health equity, Jose aspires to improve access and quality of health care for LGBTQ+ and other marginalized individuals.
Kevin Canton Mancia
Kevin Canton Mancia
He/ Him/ His
HSBC Point Scholar
Born and raised by his grandparents in El Salvador, Kevin moved to the United States to live with his parents in 2005. Despite constant bullying and an unstable living situation, Kevin has been able to combat the challenges that come with growing up queer and undocumented. As a first-generation college student, Kevin has dedicated himself fully to his activism and studies on campus.
At Santa Monica College, Kevin helped found the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and helped launch the school’s first-ever Pride Week, creating multiple inclusive spaces where students could feel free to be themselves regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Through his work in student government, Kevin has advocated for the creation of an LGBTQ+ exclusive scholarship and a Social Justice and Gender Equity Center. In addition to pursuing his mathematics degree, Kevin has explored his professional interests, working at UCLA conducting biochemical research on protein nanocrystals in the Summer Scholars Research Program. This experience helped Kevin understand what it’s like to be undocuqueer in the sciences and demonstrated the clear lack of representation evident in STEM fields as Kevin was the only openly gay and undocumented research intern in his cohort.
Kevin plans on pursuing further education after obtaining his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and hopes to continue working in research and related STEM fields. As he pursues his education, Kevin hopes to mentor and work with other marginalized students in community colleges.
School: The University of Oklahoma
Area(s) of study: English Literature and Biology double major, minor in Social Justice
Gender pronouns: they/them/theirs
Leanne is a queer and non-binary activist from Southern California. Raised in a politically conservative and deeply religious household by Vietnamese refugee parents, Leanne did not identify as bisexual until high school and even then, only to their closest friends. Unable to participate in openly queer activism, Leanne instead used their platform as Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper and President of the high school's National Organization for Women Club to raise awareness of other social justice issues. One of their proudest achievements is Menstrual March, a monthlong donation drive to collect pads and tampons for a local shelter, all while dismantling the stigma surrounding menstruation. Upon matriculating at The University of Oklahoma, a primarily white institution, Leanne grappled for the first time with their identity as an Asian American, a struggle complicated by how closely their ethnicity is intertwined with their homophobic upbringing. Through this struggle, they realized that their queer activism could and should be intersectional. Leanne joined the LGBTQ Program Advisory Board, a student-led organization that cultivates an inclusive campus environment through events, programming, and awareness campaigns. The more Leanne learned about queer issues, the less they identified with the gender binary, ultimately choosing to adopt they/them pronouns and to describe their orientation as "queer." Leanne continued their intersectional activism as a Peer Educator at the Gender + Equality Center, where they led the development of a workshop on healthy relationships, and as a Resident Advisor, which sparked their interest in advocating for gender-inclusive housing.
Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Lis was born in Los Angeles, to a strong Mexican-immigrant mother. Growing up in a conservative church Lis had a conflicted relationship with religion due to sermons preaching that being gay was a sin. Even though this relationship is on the mend, Lis is still unsure of how to practice a religion that is a product of the colonization of their ancestors. Lis attended public school until high school when she was presented with a scholarship that opened up different opportunities. Having a strong female presence in their life caused Lis to be proud of being a female. This led them to create a women of color group on campus, where women had a space to talk about their experience and topics such as representation in media and cultural appropriation. Lis has been a leader of Rainbow Alliance (LGBTQ+ affinity group) for two years and pushed for a queer prom to happen at their school ever since they were a freshman. During their senior year, the school had its first-ever Queer Dance. Lis has also been the leader of the Latinx group on campus, Somos Unidos, for two years which has exposed the campus to different Latinx traditions through their events such as creating an altar for Dia de Los Muertos. This experience has caused them to become a stronger person by solidifying their identity as a non-binary Xicanx because of the overwhelming sense of cisgender whiteness at school.
University of Mississippi
Computer Science, Art
He/Him or They/Them
HSBC Point Scholar
Born in Mississippi and raised in other southern states, Lucas has a solid dream of leaving the South behind to chase his dreams of being able to express himself honestly as a transgender, gay person. Having overcome many obstacles to do with growing up in a low-income household, Lucas still wishes to adapt to any problem he may face to reach his goals. Lucas hopes to spread his success to other low-income LGBTQ+ individuals and bring others towards opportunities that they may not have otherwise. The LGBTQ+ community means the most to Lucas emotionally because it is the one community he feels fully accepted within. Lucas hopes for a brighter future for LGBTQ+ people and low-income families from southern and conservative areas.
Cornell Law School
Rand Skolnick Point Scholar
Marisa O’Gara is pursuing her longtime goal of becoming an attorney. She grew up in rural New Hampshire, the proud daughter of a South American immigrant. After losing her way in high school, her prospects for attending a four-year college were close to none. She was fortunate to be admitted off the waitlist at the University of Rhode Island, where she later graduated from the Honors Program with degrees in English and French. She now comes to law school from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration, where she serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and oversees a portfolio that includes constituent services, intergovernmental affairs, and immigration policy. Appointed LGBTQ Liaison for Providence in 2015, Marisa worked to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for residents, creating a gender-affirming health care policy, designating all gender restrooms in municipal buildings, and supporting a ban on conversion therapy for minors. She previously served in Mayor Angel Taveras’ administration and on U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's campaign, and the campaign to bring marriage equality to Rhode Island. At 23, Marisa was Campaign Manager for Mayor Elorza, a first-time candidate, and led a campaign team to a primary victory against a sitting City Council President and a general election victory against former Mayor and political juggernaut Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. She has been recognized as one of Providence Monthly's 10 to Watch, as a recipient of the Extraordinary Woman Award in Politics, and as Rhode Island’s Young Democrat of the Year.
Mark Yungjie Jeng
Mark Yungjie Jeng
He, him, his
George Benes, MD Point Scholar
As a first-generation Taiwanese-American, who grew up gay in a deeply religious community in Arizona, Mark Jeng often struggled with seemingly incongruent identities. He eventually came out to his friends and family during his senior year at Arizona State University, where he was studying molecular biology and statistics. Upon graduation, he moved to California to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researching the molecular consequences of immune system aging. Outside the laboratory, he became involved in LGBTQ activism by helping to organize the UCSF LGBTQIA Health Forum, the largest student-run program dedicated to educating medical providers about LGBTQI health care disparities. He was particularly inspired by the stories from the transgender patients who, as individuals and a community, demonstrated resilience in their pursuit of equitable health care treatment. Searching for his own community and unsatisfied with the lack of structured support for LGBTQ scientists at UCSF, he co-founded the Graduate Queer Alliance and started the widely attended "Out in Science" series, a panel discussion highlighting the rich intersection of LGBTQ identity and the sciences. In the fall of 2016, Mark began his medical training at Stanford University and continues his commitment to the LGBTQ community through his leadership within LGBTQ-Meds, a social and activist organization with a focus on queer health issues. By developing LGBTQ-health curricula, campus mentoring programs, and workshops for pre-health LGBTQ students, Mark remains passionate about creating inclusive and supportive community spaces for those around him.
Miah Andrew Miller
Miah Andrew Miller
School - Columbia University in the City of New York
Area(s) of study - Financial Economics
Gender pronouns - He/Him/His
Barbara Epstein Foundation Point Scholar
Miah Miller grew up in the Western foothills of the Appalachian region in Wellston, Ohio. He attended Jackson High School where he served as President of five clubs, including National Honor Society, Student Council, Rotary Interact, Leo’s Club, and Youth Leadership Association. He also served on the student advisory board and as the Lighting Director of Drama Club for three years. Miah struggled with coming out for many years, fearing the steeped Appalachian traditions within his extended family and community; however, through such organizations as the iBELIEVE Foundation, Miah found acceptance and empowerment. Raised in a community lacking strong LGBTQ role models, Miah set out to change that narrative. At 16 years old in the summer of 2016, Miah spent six weeks studying in New York University’s residential pre-college program. He followed that with a selection to the Yale Young Global Scholars where he traveled to Beijing, China in February 2017 and further added to his list of accomplishments with a selection to the Asian American Journalist Association Camp in Philadelphia in July 2017. These experiences further empowered him to be an Appalachian LGBTQ role model. Fearing discrimination if they were “outed,” many students in Miah’s community often sought his guidance and viewed him as a strong LGBTQ role model. Miah has used social media platforms such as his successful Twitter account, @tagtuesdays, to foster a greater awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ teen community and for minorities in general. He spearheaded a March for Our Lives assembly in March 2018 where he addressed mental health issues among teens such as bullying and depression affecting the LGBTQ community and a greater need for students and community members to be empathetic. Graduating as a Valedictorian from Jackson High School in May of 2018, Miah is excited to further his education at Columbia University in the City of New York while studying Financial Economics. He will continue to serve as an Appalachian LGBTQ role model staffing for the iBELIEVE Foundation and serving on a local high school alumni panel that addresses collegiate success.
California State University, Los Angeles
Herb Hamsher Point Scholar
As a transgender youth of color who spent most of her childhood in foster care, Nia Clark consistently struggled to find acceptance and support from the adults around her. While most would understandably distance themselves from such rejection and intolerance, Nia has spent over a decade changing the system from within as a child welfare consultant, direct care counselor, trainer, and LGBTQ youth advocate. From 2015-2017, Nia was the Mentoring Coordinator at LifeWorks, the youth development and mentorship program at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In her role, she matched over 200 LGBTQ+ youth with adult mentors. Nia is currently a trainer for the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children – All Families Project, an initiative that provides a framework for child welfare agencies to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being by improving their practice with queer youth. Thoroughly impressed by Clark’s hard work and extensive background in child welfare, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) enlisted her help in launching a three-year national pilot project to provide more inclusive mentoring services and resources to thousands of LGBTQ youth across America. She has trained more than 20 BBBS sites including Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Washington D.C. Nia is a social work major at California State University, Los Angeles. She plans to obtain her MSW and become a social work professor so she can continue teaching adults to affirm and support LGBTQ youth in systems of care.
University of Miami, RSMAS
Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
HSBC Point Scholar
Ryder Fox recently completed a B.S. in atmospheric physics from New Mexico Tech and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography from the University of Miami, RSMAS. Raised in a fundamentalist home that denied science and restricted schooling, Ryder did not begin scientific training until they were in their thirties. As such, they are passionate about increasing vulnerable populations’ access to education. Kicked out of their home in their teens, Ryder’s went to work as a news photojournalist, covering the devastation of hurricanes and tornadoes in rural areas. Ryder devoted time to training rural communities about severe weather preparedness, and soon community activism became an integral part of their life. Upon entering university, Ryder quickly realized the disparities that existed for LGBTQ students and the outright discrimination underrepresented students experienced. It was only natural for Ryder to become active in campus advocacy, organizing the LGBTQ club to lobby for gender inclusive facilities and policies and to train the community regarding transgender equality. Their advocacy eventually led to the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Center that won approval in Ryder’s senior year. Ryder’s advocacy reaches to the national and international level, as the VP for Diversity and Inclusion with oSTEM and on the Board of Women and Minorities with the American Meteorological Society. Ryder remains passionate about broadening the participation of LGBTQ students and early career professionals in STEM and wants to use their education to improve severe weather preparedness plans for the homeless LGBTQ youth population.
Wells Fargo Point Scholar
In a California home surrounded by palm trees and loving family, Teague Shattuck spent their younger years. Throughout childhood, Teague found themself wrapped in thought, and soon began questioning the gender binary. This led Teague, in 7th grade, to tell the world they were non-binary/transmasculine - the world was not too nice back. They were misunderstood by friends, family, even physicians. They believed being harassed and misgendered were deserved punishments for “choosing a difficult lifestyle.” However, joining the Queer Student Union (QSU) in 10th grade, Teague learned of historical queer figures , and was inspired by their advocacy. It was then Teague initiated Lincoln High School’s “All Gender Restroom” movement. Supported by the QSU, Teague worked arduously, grappling with school district officials to convert Lincoln’s two main restrooms to include all genders. Due to Lincoln’s success, as of 2016 gender neutral restrooms were mandated within all San Jose schools. Teague became president of QSU, spoke at several events across California, hosted a film festival, founded a trans* support group and citywide social justice organization. Though not religious themself, Teague has been greatly supported by Bethel Lutheran Church. They spent the past four summers touring with their youth group, discussing the intersections of queer identity and religion in churches across the West Coast, as well as being an educator and advocate within Bethel. Being a visible, queer person has been immensely important to Teague - they hope always to inspire others never to accept “punishment” for existing genuinely, and know they never will.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Sociology & Civic Engagement
Vanessa Warri is a transgender Nigerian-American researcher, strategist, and advocate, committed to the liberation, empowerment, and safety of Black transgender women, and marginalized communities existing at various intersections of oppression. Born the only child of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, Vanessa constantly found herself torn between what she was being taught and what she felt and in 2004 she ran away from home at the age of 14. From foster care to homelessness on the streets of San Francisco, Vanessa faced challenges that helped educate her about the harsh realities disproportionately affecting Queer and Trans people of color. These experiences informed the development of her personal mission: to heal fractured and forgotten communities by advocating for their needs and conducting research to inform public policies that improve quality of life for disenfranchised communities. For 11 years she has provided empowerment based direct services and education for transgender communities and LGBTQQIA+ youth. As a research associate with the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, she focuses on health-based intervention development designed to facilitate behavior change toward health care engagement. Vanessa is also involved in collaboration with Gays & Lesbians Living in Transgender Society Inc. in New York, supporting with advocacy against SESTA/FOSTA, and developing national rapid responses to anticipate and address the challenges and dangers this legislation will have on transgender women of color. Vanessa hopes to be able to support younger transgender women of color in their educational attainments by creating initiatives that center transgender women in research about them.
Computer Science, Business Administration
Wells Fargo Point Scholar
William Tong was born in Dallas, Texas and raised by a single mother until he was 14. When his mother passed away during his freshman year, he relocated to live under the guardianship of his brother in California. There, he built a thriving family of LGBTQ individuals and allies by founding his school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance. He also served as a member of other LGBTQ+ activist organizations such as Youth Empowered to Act. During his senior year, Will moved away from his homophobic legal guardian and completed his high school education in Massachusetts. Throughout his various high schools, Will has held leadership positions in Gender Sexuality Alliance, Debate, Academic Decathlon, and Relay for Life (a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting cancer). In college, Will plans to study the intersection of technology and social progress. Two issues Will holds particularly close to his heart are equity in educational opportunity and mental health for LGBTQ+ youth. Ultimately, Will hopes to devote his life to developing and investing in social ventures that address the issues affecting disadvantaged and disenfranchised minorities.
New York University
Took Trust Point Scholar
As the queer daughter of two loving lesbian moms, Zoe Ridolfi-Starr’s most important relationships have always been entangled with discriminatory rules and hateful attitudes. This has motivated her to fight for a world where every young person can live, love, and learn freely. Zoe currently serves as the chair of Policy for the Sex Education Alliance of NYC, leading their advocacy for strong, inclusive sex ed. Previously, she ran a youth leadership program at the Center for Court Innovation fighting for improved city policy solutions to skyrocketing youth homelessness and incarceration; her work helped secure the passage of three bills expanding resources for homeless youth in 2018. As the co-founder of the Carry That Weight campaign, she led a statewide campaign to pass the Enough is Enough bill in NY in 2015, which addressed campus gender violence. She also served as the Deputy Director of Know Your IX, where she trained and mobilized students to end gender violence on college campuses. Zoe earned her B.A. from Columbia University, where she ran a tutoring program for incarcerated youth, represented 27 other students as the lead complainant in a Title IX case against the school, and successfully campaigned to secure the creation of an Emergency Health Care fund to support students in need. Zoe speaks regularly on gender and sexuality, civil rights, and youth advocacy, and her writing on these topics has been published in the Yale Law Journal, New York Daily News, ReWire, and other outlets. Based on these experiences, Zoe believes that a law degree will enable her to better support young people and shape public policy. As a future lawyer, she plans to be a passionate and determined advocate.
Miami Dade College
Business and Management
Miami Beach Gay Pride Scholarship Recipient
Jose Arango was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia. When he was a high schooler in Colombia, homophobia and “machismo” made him a victim of bullying after making public his relationship with another student. However, he turned it into a growing experience that helped him acquire a profound sense of justice and the desire to help other queer Latinx students. Jose moved to the United States at the age of 17 and found an opportunity to be open about his sexuality. Although he initially lived in California, family problems led him to relocate to Florida, where he enrolled in college. He is the Co-Vice President of The Pride Club at Miami Dade College Wolfson campus and actively coordinates and participates in events for LGBTQ youth. Jose hopes to transfer to a four-year university, major in business administration, and with the help of his twin brother, start their own business.
San Joaquin Delta College
She, her, hers
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient
Melissa Arizola is a first-generation college student born in Stockton, California. At the age of 9, she moved to Arkansas for several years but came back to California to escape a toxic family predicament. When she and her family arrived back, they were homeless for a couple of years. During this time, Melissa’s determination and drive to succeed in school increased as did her commitment to making a difference for her family. She is a psychology major at San Joaquin Delta College and plans on transferring to obtain her bachelor's by fall of 2021. Afterward, she plans to pursue her law degree and become a criminal defense lawyer. Melissa is passionate about reading, giving back to my community, and taking care of the homeless. Being an active member of Stockton's LGBTQIA community, she has hopes of one day being politically involved toward the betterment and justice for her community. More recently, she obtained an internship at the California Rural Legal Assistance law firm in Stockton, CA. CRLA offers services to underrepresented individuals like migrant workers, school children, members of the LGBTQIA community, immigration populations, seniors, and those with disabilities. This position at CRLA is Melissa’s first step in making a difference for those in her community.
Fresno City College
She, her, hers
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient Sophia Bautista is a 19-year-old woman from Davao City, Philippines. Residing in Fresno, California, she has proven countless times - in the words of Langston Hughes - that “I, too, sing America.” She founded "Activ8," a voting initiative that seeks to galvanize young people to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. She is also a member of the March for Our Lives advocacy group in Fresno. Sophia has coordinated marches, protests, voter registration drives, town halls, and pride events. She is also the first to create and spearhead “voting parties” in her district; an original project that aims to increase voter turnout by turning civic duty into a social bonding celebration. She also is a member of Fresno City College's Speech and Debate team and has won local and regional awards with them. She has also published multiple LGBT pieces in literary magazines such as the Fresno State Chicano Literary Magazine and the Fresno City College Review. Sophia admires the bravery and courage of the LGBT community and the work they have done to bring her to the table — “they, too, sing America.”
Santa Monica College
Evelyn "Ev" Campos is an LGBT Latina community college student whose career goal is to be a professor and/or an academic counselor. Ev choose to study sociology to get a full understanding of the way society works, how certain groups are affected, and the social problems that have been created. Ev wants to use her academic standing and my background as a platform to advocate for future students, as well as create resources, safe spaces, and provide an excellent education to students of color so they can excel both academically and personally. Ev hopes to close gaps that society has created, and provide unity between different groups.
Ivy Tech Community College
Kyle Casteel is an Indianapolis-based political organizer, community activist, and nontraditional student. His commitment to intersectional social justice and progressive politics has taken him around the Hoosier state and across the Midwest. He returned to his studies at Ivy Tech Community College in 2017 and will be ready to transfer to a four-year institution in spring 2019 Kyle is currently Community Resource Coordinator at Indiana Youth Group, one of the nation's largest LGBTQ youth organizations, of which he is also an alum. He has previously worked with campaigns and coalitions to bring civil rights, hate crimes protections, and an end to conversion therapy to the queer community in Indiana. A first-generation college student, Kyle will complete his studies at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He plans to use a degree in policy studies to continue advocating for his and other marginalized communities in his home state and beyond.
Edmonds Community College
Dylan Chang is a 17-year-old non-binary queer. They are an international student from Taiwan studying at Edmonds Community College in Seattle, Washington. Before coming to the United States, Dylan assisted with the biggest gay pride celebration in Taiwan and then came out to their parents the next day. Asian parents tend to be more conservative than their American peers, and they don't have much knowledge about LGBTQ communities. Dylan’s parents didn't take it well and asked for some time to process things. So, Dylan decided to get an education in the U.S. The cultural shock and language barrier have not stopped Dylan from chasing their America dream. At first, it was very hard for Dylan to be alone in America without any family, but, along with school, they became involved in LGBTQ community. The distance from Taiwan to America really helped Dylan to fix the relationship with their parents. Dylan looks forward to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in five years and then to work for a company or LGBTQ organizations in the U.S.
Bellingham Technical College
Mechanical engineering, instrumentation and controls technology
Yi-Vonne Chong grew up in the city of Miri on Borneo Island and moved to the United States at the age of 22. Yi-Vonne serves as the Director of Communications for the Associated Students of Bellingham Technical College where she plans fun events, poignant, thoughtful panel discussions, and community engagement with her team members. She co-founded the Gender and Sexuality Alliance club with like-minded students to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. In her spare time, Yi-Vonne likes to tinker and build electronic circuits, fix bicycles, play the ukulele, and make things at the local makerspace workshop.
University of Hawaii - Windward CC
Eliana resides in Oahu, Hawaii where she has been fortunate enough to foster a relationship with the 'aina (land) as well as pursue her passions in journalism and environmental sustainability. Eliana’s academic and personal goals are fundamentally based on her desire to be of service to others and the Earth we call home. As Editor-in-Chief of her college newspaper, she implemented a "Sustainability Matters" column where news about environmental efforts on campus and around the community are highlighted. Eliana plans to use her career in global journalism to inform people around the world about sustainable practices, our connection with one another, and our responsibility to steward the land. She does not feel the need to label herself based on her sexual preference and hopes to break the stigma attached to questioning one’s sexual orientation.
Antelope Valley College
Keith Dixson was born and raised in the city of Compton, CA, in a single-mother home. He graduated from high school at age 15 and soon came out to his family. Renounced by his family for being gay, he became an emancipated minor. Attending college became a struggle while trying to support himself financially and he dropped out of school to pursue full-time employment. After 12 years, Keith re-enrolled in college at Antelope Valley College as the first step to earning his much-awaited Associate’s degree in Computer Science. Keith plans on transferring to one of the UC or Cal State Universities to complete his bachelor’s degree accompanied by a minor in petroleum engineering. He has been an active member of the LGBT community, volunteering at pride events, and during testing promotions for Guiding Right. Keith’s post-educational goal is to start a nonprofit promoting the equal rights of LGBT teens and preparing them with the skills needed to be productive adults.
Moreno Valley College
English with minor in film
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient
Catherine (Catie) Gudiño is a first-generation student to a single-family household who holds a strong passion for literature, film, history, and progressivism and hopes to be an English professor someday. With a robust devotion to activism, advocacy work, and civic engagement they hope to devote their life to mobilizing the continuous campaign for human rights, especially socially and throughout the educational system. Seeing firsthand the potential their family members possess and could have implemented into their educational pathway, had financial issues not persisted, they hope to succeed in ways not available to the rest of their family in order to make them proud and give them the voice they missed out on because of systematic economic barriers. Catherine currently attends Moreno Valley College with hopes of transferring to Berkeley, University of Riverside or UCLA. At their current college, they work one-on-one with students to help develop their writing skills, also taking it in their hands to incorporate inclusive skills for writing that embrace queer individuals. As a committed advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Catherine partakes in annual college-held events like Drag 101: Performing Gender where the entire school is invited to a drag show and panel. Producing sanctuary spaces for students to ask questions and become informed on the specifics or misconceptions of LGBTQ+ life allows for embracing of differences rather than just toleration, indifference, or hostility. As a queer person of color, Catherine hopes to mend the institutionalized gaps for those who find themselves in similar states of uncertainty for their educational goals as them.
Tayler has bounced all-around California since graduating high school almost 10 years ago, but finally found her home and grew roots in Oakland, California. During her time in Oakland, she has worked at charter schools, public schools, and multiple nonprofits teaching outdoor education, gardening, and socio-emotional skills to children in underserved neighborhoods. Her students taught her invaluable lessons, but as she moved on into the higher education sector, one lesson has stuck with her: humans and the outdoors are meant to be together, and that exposure to nature (or lack thereof) deeply impacts individual behavior and society as a whole. This idea, combined with a succinct passion and interest in criminal justice, has shaped her future educational plans. Tayler plans on majoring in criminal behavioral forensics with the intention of one day studying the links between environmental issues and criminal behavior, and possibly creating a nonprofit that fights recidivism and directly serves her Oakland community.
North Central Texas College
Noah came out to himself, his family, and close friends during his senior year of high school. He went on to participate in an LGBT+ teen group at a local church. After graduating high school, he decided that a community college would be the best fit for him. Noah went on to study his first college history classes and met with other LGBT+ students at his campus. He has seen students being ignored for their identity or sexuality because of the idea that it is a fad. Noah plans on developing his love of history in order to benefit the LGBT+ community and dismantle the idea that LGBT+ individuals have only shown up recently.
LaGuardia Community College
Human Services/Mental Health
Jerry & Diane Cunningham Scholarship Recipient
Carlos Ibarra was born in Colombia and migrated to the United States when he was 6 years old. He faced many personal challenges since a very young age. His father was an abusive alcoholic that would fall asleep at the apartment door, forcing Carlos to have to sleep at diners on a school night. Carlos buried himself in books and his studies to get away from the reality of life. Unfortunately, he struggled with mental illness for many years without receiving any help from family or friends. He began to self-medicate, and his academic life went downhill. It took him a number of years to finally get a hold of his illness through psychopharmacology, exercise, a balanced diet, and a great therapist. Today he is working hard to achieve his academic, personal and professional goals. He achieved Dean's List and became a member of Phi Theta Kappa as well as Delta Alpha Pi, the honor society for Students with Disabilities. Finally, now in his fourth decade of life, Carlos can say he is living a dream he never thought possible.
Lansing Community College
Quinn is a native to the south side of Chicago. Growing up in a black, Catholic home, she knew that being a black bisexual woman would become a barrier and burden in her community. Quinn felt isolated in her community and turned to the holistic arts. As a holistic esthetician and artist, she was able to find a sense of belonging. Now in her 30s, Quinn has resumed her pursuits of community arts leadership. She is the founder of a youth after-school film project to forge community building for vulnerable young people through the arts. Quinn is currently pursuing a degree in art history with plans to continue in art; therapy.
Sacramento City College
She, Her, Hers
Elizabeth LaChapelle- Naranjo is a college student, wife and mother of a handsome 2-year-old son. She went back to school in her late 30s to go after her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner. She has had many ups and downs in life, but they have all made her the person she is today. She wants people to look at her and hear her story and know anything is possible with the right people around you and people who love you for who you are. This may not always be your blood relatives and may be the family you build yourself. She loves helping those in need. She finds the greatest pleasure in bringing smiles to people's faces and making them feel that they have a voice. She wants to be able to spread as much love and joy as possible because life is already too hard as it is. Why not enjoy the life we have every day instead of waiting till we are almost out of time?
College of the Desert
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient
Ethan Lares-Salinas is the first in his family to seek higher education in a university setting. He plans on getting doctorates degrees in political science and government. His goal is to become a politician so that he can serve and represent his community and the disenfranchised. Ethan wants not just to witness change, but play a role in making change. He is attending community college to obtain an AA-T in political science with the goal of transferring to a four-year university. Ethan is currently interning with his congressman, Dr. Raul Ruiz of California’s 36th District. The experience has shown him that his dreams are absolutely possible and that change and progress are upon us. Ethan looks to the future with an optimistic mind and sees himself as being a catalyst that makes it happen.
Folsom Lake College
They, them, theirs
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient
Luna Lund is genderqueer and bisexual. They are a poet and a Student Equity Advocate at Folsom Lake College. They are passionate about social justice, equity, and diversity and have committed their life to advocating for change and supporting marginalized students. They are a sociology major, but they also have a love for anthropology, history, and creative writing. In their free time, they like to read, write, watch YouTube and Netflix and listen to podcasts. They also love music and animals and spending time with friends and family. Within the next five years, they hope to publish a book of poetry, attend UC Davis, and get a bachelor's degree in sociology. Then they plan to go to graduate school and get a master's degree in social work.
Diablo Valley College
The California Endowment Scholarship Recipient
The most important thing in Omid’s life is to be different. All of the greatest changes made by people in this world came from those who were different from everyone else. Many were called outcasts, and society shunned many. When it comes to identity in race, sexuality, gender orientation, ethnicity, and religion out-casting is present in many different groups. Omid strives to rise above all the differences. As a future business leader, he wants those he manages to know that they are represented not by what permanently defines them but in what they can contribute to the benefit of society. He has volunteered for the past three years for LGBTQ rights and plans to use his accounting knowledge to work in politics one day, creating economic policies to help the lower class. Omid, who will join the U.S. Marine Corps, believes individuals can improve the United States in three ways: becoming an honest politician; volunteering; and joining the military. Omid is striving to do all three to play a part in improving his country.
Madison Area Technical College
Liberal arts and women and gender studies
Christopher Sowa Scholarship Recipient
Shawn Padley is a 25-year-old transgender man from south-central Wisconsin. After coming out to his far-right-leaning family in 2011, he had to drop out of college and spent the next several years struggling to get by before moving to Madison and applying to school again in August 2016. Shawn originally planned to explicitly not get involved on-campus, but after noticing a lack of queer representation at his school, reached out to a professor who recommended get involved. Shawn joined the Madison College Student Senate in October 2017, became the first openly-transgender student at Madison College to serve as a Student Senate officer in January 2018, and in April 2018, Shawn was elected Parliamentarian of the Wisconsin Student Government for the 2018-2019 school year. After graduating from Madison College, Shawn plans to transfer to Marquette University in Milwaukee to major in gender and sexualities studies, with possible minors in sociology and theater. With this degree, he wants to work to design and advocate for the use of comprehensive, inclusive, and scientifically-accurate sexual health education curriculum in Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools.
Santa Monica College
He/him/his or they/them/theirs
Mysterie Peña is a disabled, queer, non-binary, transgender man of mixed race. Born and raised in Los Angeles, to a Filipino, Mexican, and white family. In high school, he founded his school’s GSA and created a path for LGBT+ students to follow. Mysterie has become an advocate of LGBT+ people on his college campus. He founded the Gender-Sexuality Alliance at school and was President for two terms. Mysterie created his school’s first Pride Week, which now happens every year, with events like a Pride Cafe and LGBT+ People and P.O.C. in academia panel. Mysterie hopes to promote LGBT+ visibility in media and create an understanding of our issues.
Laith Ocean Rodriguez
Laith Ocean Rodriguez
Santa Rosa Junior College
Big Apple Recreational Sports Scholarship Recipient
Bismark 'Laith Ocean' Torrez Rodriguez and is an UndocuQueer non gender conforming Nicaraguan survivor. They arrived in the United States at seven years old as an unaccompanied minor from Nicaragua. They have since been living in Santa Rosa, CA where they were later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to their flashback to the Nicaraguan uprisings, physical and substance abuse, and two sexual assaults. Laith will be one of the first in their family to attend a university. They will be enrolling in UC Berkeley in 2019 after much community support. They is the Lead Organizer for North Bay Immigrant Youth Union, part of California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. They have been organizing with the immigrant rights movement for six years and the Trans/Queer Liberation movement for four years. Laith aspires to work with the United Nations to help marginalized communities throughout the globe.
Columbus State Community College
Paul was raised in the small Ohio town of Millersport. Being gay and the son of the local church’s worship leader, Paul was often confused as a child about where he fit in the church. Paul was often afraid to let his parents down because of his sexuality. Growing up, he had never told anyone about his sexuality because he was fearful of what would happen to him. Whenever the topic of homosexuality came up in his small community, he was always told that it was unholy and unworthy of eternal salvation. After the repression of his expression, he finally decided to come out to his parents at the age of 18. Because of his genetic susceptibility to mental illness, Paul fell into a deep clinical depression afterward. He felt like he lost the community he grew up with, as well as the drive and passion for fulfilling what he thought his destiny was. Thanks to his resilience, he realized that his purpose in life was to help those around him learn to become more compassionate. Paul now is an advocate for both LGBTQ rights and fighting the stigma against mental illness. He hopes to progress his academic studies in the field of marketing. After his degree, he wants to make his life purpose his career by working for a nonprofit organization, like an LGBTQ youth center. Paul wants to strive to better his community by helping those around him find beauty in the world.
Berkeley City College
Emmett Tassin has been lives in the thriving queer community of the San Francisco Bay Area. Exploring the different ways gardening and landscapes can improve mental and physical health in marginalized communities has been a dream for Emmett’s for years. He has worked at a plant nursery for the past several years and his interest and passion for all things horticulture has only continued to grow. He donated countless plants to local community gardens, participated in planting projects to beautify the community, and volunteered at local schools to show students gardening basics. After attending Berkeley City College, he plans to transfer to the University of California- Berkeley to study landscape architecture. There he will gain the skills to provide beautiful, healing environments to the community that has given him so much.
Miami Dade College
Donald Cummins Scholarship Recipient
Sammie Zenoz is an English major with a passion for creative writing. Growing up, she was bullied for being different and never fit in. Though she never graduated high school, she challenged herself to get her G.E.D. She applied for community college but flunked out of her first year. Discouraged, she found work as a waitress and let years pass before she tried again. Sammie came out as a lesbian to her family at the age of 25 after she met her girlfriend. It was as though she was discovering this critical piece of herself she never knew was missing. Determined to change, she worked harder, pursuing a degree in biology. She excelled for a few semesters but eventually found the classes too difficult to pass. After failing her first class since her return, she decided to take the summer off. At a crossroads, Sammie registered for a creative writing class and unwittingly changed her future. Her English professors quickly recognized her potential and begged her to switch her major to English. She is now Co-Editor-In-Chief of Urbana Literary Arts Magazine. She is published in Urbana Volume 11 and is best known for her work as a lesbian nonfiction author. Sammie founded Miami Writers Society to help other writers find their voice, and she aspires to be a celebrated novelist, hoping to one day share her coming out story with the world, creating a platform for others like her to stand proudly.