LOS ANGELES (June 26, 2019) - The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 19th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth. The 2019 winners are: Kristina Hernandez, 16, from Las Vegas, NV; and Daniel Landry, 17, from Glenpool, OK; Oliver Burnett, 18, from Pittsburgh, PA; and Jayna Ledford, 19, from Frederica, DE.
Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2020 in Dallas, TX.
Award winner Daniel Landry's story exemplifies how the Trump administration's transgender military ban is impacting real lives. Growing up in Oklahoma, Daniel did not know the word or anyone that was transgender. So, when he explained his feelings to his siblings at age 11, they were the ones that supported him and helped him find the resources. He still wanted to follow in his older sister's footsteps by attending Thunderbird Youth Academy, a prestigious military school. He was accepted at Thunderbird and quickly rose to a position of leadership. He was even formally recognized for his performance, where he was in charge of a 35-person platoon. After graduating with several awards, Daniel was accepted to attend the US Naval Academy.
Daniel is now grappling with an uncertain future with the current Trump administration's transgender military ban and a new Naval Academy admissions rule that bans trans applicants. Daniel's hard-fought full ride to attend college is no longer an option. He works three different jobs to support himself as he grapples with his newly uncertain future.
The three other Youth Courage Award winners are helping medical professionals understand transgender patient needs, advocating so LGBTQ students feel safe at school, and performing in the ballet:
" Kristina, 16, transitioned at age 11 with a supportive single mother, but in an atmosphere where she experienced bullying and violence. Kristina has become an unrelenting advocate for trans youth in Nevada, where her activism is centered around education. She works alongside her mother at Gender Justice Nevada and leads peer support and community outreach. She recently was instrumental in Nevada in passing SB 225, which ensures that all students are protected in school. She is currently continuing her activism in Nevada and pursuing her GED in the hopes of attending college and earning a degree in early education.
" Oliver, 18, has been a frequent visitor to doctors, specialists, and his local hospital due to several medical conditions. Because of Oliver's health challenges, he has become uniquely exposed to the medical community. While navigating the health care system, he experienced a lot of pain and obstacles trying to obtain the care he needed. He also became acutely aware of the discrimination that many of his friends faced while trying to obtain medical care. In response, he volunteers at the University of Pittsburgh, addressing inequality in health care for the LGBTQ population, and specifically that of transgender patients. This involvement led him to develop a workshop designed to educate doctors and medical staff on transgender patient care. This workshop has been implemented to train all of the first-year residents at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He does this while enrolled in college, pursuing a double degree in physics and linguistics.
" Jayna is a resolute 19-year-old transgender dancer who is redefining the modern-day ballerina by being the first transgender ballerina to ever compete in a national ballet competition (which took place in March 2019). Unwilling to exist solely within the confines of gender as a child, Jayna Ledford's personal evolution as a transgender female has been a lifelong process. She describes herself as always being gender-fluid and having strong family and community support. It wasn't until age 18, last year, that she came out as a trans woman. Ballet has been her passion. As a child, whether identifying as male or female, Jayna was practicing ballet. She was recognized for her skill and ability early on and has been afforded a platform that she is now using to tell her story. Currently, she is making plans to pursue a degree in communications and continue her ballet training.
'Transgender youth bear a huge burden under the Trump administration, but they are also showing an incredible amount of courage by just being out and sharing their stories,' said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. 'Colin Higgins would not only take pride in each our Youth Courage Award winners, I'm sure he would have wanted more people to know about their strength, determination, and courage to be true to themselves.'
Hollywood filmmaker Colin Higgins established the foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 660 grants totaling more than $5.7 million and since 2000 has honored more than 62 Courage Award winners.
About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards
Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer-director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.
The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.
Courtesy of GoodPR
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