by Kris Hermanns -
Executive Director of Pride Foundation
For twenty-one years, Pride Foundation's scholarship program has been supporting the educational dreams and aspirations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ), and straight ally students.
This year's scholarship cycle awarded nearly $400,000 to 105 students in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. We also passed a significant milestone this year - exceeding $3.5 million awarded since the program's inception in 1993.
I am honored that Pride Foundation is able to support LGBTQ students in reaching their full potential. Each year, our scholarship program continues to expand because of the dedication and generosity of our donors and volunteers. We were able to add seven new scholarship funds this year, allowing us to meet the growing and diverse needs of LGBTQ and ally students.
Pride Foundation's scholarship recipients come from incredibly varied personal and lived experiences and are representative of the diversity within the community. This year's scholars are studying in a wide range of fields, including Social Sciences (28.5 percent), Health and Medical (20 percent), Arts and Humanities (19 percent), and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (14.28 percent), among others.
All too often LGBTQ students do not have the family, financial, and community support in place to pursue their education. With tuition continuing to increase at a rapid rate (in Washington state higher education legislative budget cuts recently led to the second largest tuition increase in the nation, with tuition increasing by an average of $4,085 at public, four-year colleges since 2008) financial aid has become even more important for students pursuing higher education.
For Lane Kaiser, a 2014 Pride Foundation scholar from Bremerton, Washington, the financial impact of a Pride Foundation scholarship was immeasurable. 'I was raised in a single parent home in Section 8 [housing] with no way to pay for school,' said Lane. 'If it were not for the scholarship Pride Foundation blessed me with, I would not have been able to pursue my dreams. I went from a high-risk, suicide-risk Transgender teen to a passionate Social Work major in a thriving environment because of Pride Foundation.'
Pride Foundation's scholarships provide a critical link to students facing financial hardship, and encourage students to achieve their fullest potential. Despite facing harassment and discrimination at home, work, and school, Lane has dedicated his life to supporting the LGBTQ community and promoting social justice. He has dedicated over 3,000 hours of community service to develop resources and support systems for LGBTQ youth. Through the educational opportunities opened to him, Lane was able to find his passion.
In addition to the financial support that Pride Foundation scholarships provide, the program also provides encouragement and fosters a sense of community. Many Pride Foundation scholars have been bullied or isolated - in some cases forced out of their homes - because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Receiving a Pride Foundation scholarship connects students to a wider LGBTQ and ally community of supporters, providing important affirmation and support.
For us at Pride Foundation, that is what it ultimately comes down to - the ability to support a student in going to college and have a measurable impact in someone's life. Since 1993, we have touched nearly 1,400 students with our scholarship program. And we can't wait for what the future holds.
But we cannot do it without you. The generosity of our scholarship fund holders is unparalleled, and it is their dedication that allows us to support current and future student leaders every year. Many of our fund holders are involved in creating the vision for the scholarship, so it reflects what is important to them, such as geographical region, field of study, academic achievement, economic need, and more. We also rely on a community volunteer review process to help award scholarships, taking into account the unique experiences and contributions of LGBTQ and ally students.
While there have been many recent victories in the LGBTQ community, there is still much work to be done to reach full legal equality and for everyone in our community to reach their full potential. Marriage equality continues to gain momentum throughout the country, but in many of the Northwest states, it is still legal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
As we gear up to continue the fight for equality, I want to acknowledge the important role Pride Foundation scholars play in our future. From expanding understanding of LGBTQ issues, supporting our community, and advocating for cultural change, they are on the ground everyday working to shape and change our communities for the better.
The future is bright, and each student that we invest in is working to create a better tomorrow for LGBTQ youth and families.
In the next month, Pride Foundation will host celebrations throughout the region to honor our 2014 scholars and acknowledge our dedicated donors and volunteers; we hope you'll join us!
Interested in getting involved? Start a scholarship fund, or sign-up to volunteer today!
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