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Monday, May 25, 2020

Activities & Organizations

Alumni scholarship helps LGBTQ students be themselves


The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association awarded over $16,000 in scholarships to LGBTQ students | Photo courtesy of Jenna Pel, UH LGBTQ Alumni Association

The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association awarded more than $16,000 in scholarships to LGBTQ students. | Photo courtesy of Jenna Pel, UH LGBTQ Alumni Association

When applying for scholarships in the past, Mycah Taylor was torn. Taylor needed funding in order to afford tuition costs, but worried that one thing stood in the way: their use of they/them pronouns.

Taylor, a kinesiology sophomore, said that the discrimination LGBTQ students face can cause them to miss out on scholarship opportunities, be held to harsh stereotypes and worry about being marginalized instead of focusing on typical college struggles like studying for tests or buying expensive textbooks.

This year, Taylor was a recipient of a UH LGBTQ Alumni Association scholarship, and they said that they felt validated knowing that this scholarship committee not only accepted their identity, but welcomed it wholeheartedly. 

“You’ve already spent too much time hiding, too much time in the closet, too much time worrying,” Taylor said as advice to LGBTQ college students facing inequality. “At the end of the day you shouldn’t end life with ‘What if?’ You have to just be yourself.”

The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association scholarship takes away some UH LGBTQ students’ burden of financial stress and brings validation for being true to themselves.  This year, the UH LGBTQ Alumni Association awarded more than $16,000 to eight LGBTQ students.

“It’s hard enough growing up and realizing that you’re different than the average person and having to accept yourself,” Taylor said about the struggles LGBTQ college students face. “It’s an everyday thing.”

Taylor said they believe that recognizing LGBTQ individuals, especially in academics, normalizes success in the community, and the LGBTQ community itself. 

“To make it more normalized allows a lot of the weight to be lifted off of our shoulders from having to be tough and prepared for having a thick skin all the time,” Taylor said.

Each scholarship is a one-time award each semester or paid in full in the fall semester if the student is graduating then. Taylor said that this award gives them peace of mind about whether they could afford their tuition this year. 

“All we’re trying to do is get through life like everybody else,” Taylor said. “Being LGBTQ is on the same plane, because it makes your life harder when all you’re trying to do is get where you need to go.”

The scholarship also gave Taylor the wiggle room in their budget to get top surgery, which Taylor said has helped make them so much happier. 

“I don’t want to keep myself a secret,” Taylor said.  “No one else has to, so why should I? This scholarship makes it a whole lot easier to do that.”

To be considered for the scholarship, contestants interviewed with the LGBTQ Alumni Association’s Scholarship Committee, wrote an essay about how the scholarship would impact their lives and must have at least a cumulative 3.0 GPA along with other requirements. 

The committee also considers leadership, scholarship, financial need and the contestant’s civic and community involvement when choosing recipients. 

“We feel it’s important to recognize our community, because it is so often forgotten,” said UH LGBTQ Alumni Association board member Kelli Vorish. “We have amazing students that are LGBTQ+ and recognizing and reaffirming them through the scholarship is something we are honored to do.” 

The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association said this year’s recipients are just as diverse as UH itself, from incoming freshman, first generation students, a doctoral student and “everything in between.”

“Their stories are incredible and academically they are definitely the cream of the crop,” Vorish said. “They embody what it is to be a Coog. We could not be more proud of them and look forward to them leaving their marks.”

The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association found that many LGBTQ students face hardships outside everyday school troubles, such as being “consistently attacked” or marginalized, Vorish said. 

“Many have no family, or their families have disowned them because of who they are,” Vorish said. “Some are dealing with added stress and trauma from being who they are, especially with what we’re seeing in our government. This scholarship is our way of saying we see you, and we believe in you.”

Taylor said that if there are any UH LGBTQ students wanting to apply for next year’s scholarships, but are worried about their chances of winning to just go ahead and do it, because it will change their life.

“You are always going to be you, and life is finite,” Taylor said. “So you might as well spend the amount of time being comfortable with yourself and loving yourself because you can’t enjoy yourself if you don’t.”

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