Congratulations 2023 PFLAG SDC Scholarship Recipients!

2023 PFLAG Scholarship Group shot-cropped
Derrick Herrera

Mary Wagner Memorial Scholarship

Donor: Marilyn & Art Carpenter

Derrick Nathanial Herrera

I am a rising fourth-year at San Diego State University, with emphasis in Political Science, International Security & Conflict Resolution, and American Indian Studies. I have an overarching goal of attaining my Juris Doctorate. During my time at SDSU, I have taken the roles of a Peer Mentor, Student Assistant, Native American Student Alliance Chair, a Justice on Associated Students, Judicial Affairs Council, and a member of the Associated Students Board of Directors. In regard to my disciplines, I want to work towards a career in Tribal Law and aspire to serve my communities the way they have done so for me.

Within the past year, I have had the privilege to work directly with my Institution’s administration through my role in the Student Government. The work and initiatives that I have been working on are co-opted with the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, where all identity centers on our campus are housed. This encompasses communities that I care about, and resonate partly with– such as the Pride Center, Native Resource Center, and Latin Resource Center.

Throughout the second half of 2022 and early 2023, there have been urgent needs within these communities that I care about. Throughout this academic year, Latinx students on the San Diego State campus have been enduring vulgar hate crimes and harassment by peers. The population of students that
are battling this is not only community members, but friends that I have strong interpersonal relationships with. For friends that I share courses with to tell me about the fear that they experience when walking around campus alone at night and in broad daylight, it becomes invigorating to understand that this is going
unaddressed by our administration. The series of prejudice escalated this February– when a community member who is a street vendor was harassed and degraded by students on our campus. Before this situation, I have been in the works of aiding our Chief Diversity Officer in creating a task force to crack down
on hate crimes on campus going unaddressed. This recent instance heightened the need for our task force to be deployed to protect our students of color and our community members. Creating a support system that ensures student/community safety on campus has been in development since June of 2022, and I have
the privilege to serve as a student liaison. Doing so, I am bringing myself to communities to understand the support they need and the concerns that need to be addressed. I am then able to bring the feedback from our community to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Senate committee– using the needs of our friends as a framework to create a support system in solidarity.

In the specific situation with the attack on the street vendor, our task force was able to find this community member and understand the support they need in this difficult time– where we had the privilege to hear what they had to say about the incident and how we can properly address this and prevent similar situations on our campus. We were able to identify the perpetrators and deliver proper repercussions for their actions. All students should not have to endure trauma in the process of pursuing higher education, and I hope to see this student safety initiative result in students not having to have second thoughts about their safety and identity.

Over the summer of 2022, I began to sit on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Senate committee at San Diego State University. I had the opportunity to make these meetings on campus as I had a part-time job and could make the commitment. Taking the opportunity I have had the privilege to develop many skills in
public relations and establishing equity in communities. During that period, I had friends who worked at the Pride Center on campus, and we would discuss issues in our communities and needs. We agreed on a subject that is often stigmatized: Sexual Health Education. Specifically, the steps that folks can take to
attain resources that are available to them on campus and in the community. We crafted a resource guide for students to have in seeking any area of help from health clinics to LGBTQIA+ Friendly mental health services. Yet, an issue that I found in our community is that we are pointing students in other directions to
receive help rather than working to house services on campus. A mentee, and friend, that I had throughout this past year experienced the hardship of seeking medical facilities for STD/STI testing– ones that are accommodating to the LGBTQIA+ community; providing resources and support systems for those
experiencing a drastic change in their health. They had to travel 15 to 20 minutes to a clinic that provided minimal support. I helped them to find a clinic that is supporting and accommodating and was more than happy to drive them to their appointments. Throughout that time I realized how difficult it can be as a
student and urgency in health concerns are inaccessible. With friends at the Pride Center, we were able to work with clinics in San Diego to house STD/STI testing in the center on campus. We also were able to have an educational seminar regarding STD/STIs and how to navigate help in the area.

In the future, I aspire to further my impact by supporting minoritized communities in any issues they may be experiencing. For the near future, I am applying to attain the Student Vice President of University Affairs position for the 2023-2024 term. Having this position would allow me to further my potential impact in
changing equity for all students. I aspire to provide larger support for our LGBTQIA+ community in health services and grow the task force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to put a stop to on-campus prejudice. In my career beyond academia, I want to advocate for communities on a larger scale. Not only advocate, but
provide longer-term change through strategic planning based on what our people find fit to address their needs.

Jade MacEoghain

John Bessemer Memorial Scholarship

Donors: PFLAG San Diego County, Scott Bernard

Jade MacEoghain

Jade MacEoghain (they/she) is pursuing a dual Bachelor’s in English and Anthropology at Arizona State University, and works as a writing tutor at their community college, and as a children’s library tech at their city library. Jade is also a Board member of their community college’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board. They have been published in academic and creative writing journals four times, and have presented at 15 student and professional research conferences. Their research focuses on queer and critical theory, writing center theory, and writing composition theory and pedagogies. They plan to continue their education with a Master’s in Library and Information Science to become a librarian promoting diversity and freedom to read. Eventually they will pursue a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition to become a professor. In their free time, they enjoy making multimedia and fine art, creating origami, reading YA and graphic novels, writing poetry, baking sugar-free desserts, connecting with their Kashmiri roots, and being a cat parent.

For many years I have been passionate about queer and trans studies, especially in ways that have direct positive impacts on my immediate community. I immersed myself in thinking of ways to create positive changes for the LGBTQIA+ community at my community college. I focused on using my research opportunities to make improvements and foster holistic discussions about LGBTQIA+ students’ challenges from increased violence, homophobic and anti-trans sentiment from the social and political sphere. One specific area I was interested in was campus safe spaces. While my community college had a Gender Sexuality Alliance student club and an Out program (for campus faculty and staff to openly identify as queer or trans), we did not have a safe space or Pride centre, and the faculty safe space training was on pause. So in Spring 2019 for my advanced English and Rhetoric Honors class, I decided to research campus safe spaces for my final project. During my research, I came across many familiar anti-safe space arguments about how these spaces are not necessary or that they stop students from thinking critically. Yet, all the research and institutional data from other universities made it clear that safe spaces are critical for LGBTQIA+ students’ well being, to counter physical and rhetorical violence, and are often the only safe spaces that we have. I researched statistics that demonstrated that hate crimes against the queer and trans community are rising, and every year thirty plus trans people are killed. As I constructed my project I realised it was something I needed to share with larger audiences. I continued gathering more information from Pride centre staff at local universities and interviewed the librarian at my college with sabbatical research on the LGBTQIA+ history of the campus. After turning in my final paper, I submitted it to several State and national conferences so I could create that desired dialogue with a wider audience, bringing much needed attention to fellow scholars as well as college administrators and faculty in other regions. After presenting my project at the Johns Hopkins Macksey Symposium, I was invited to publish it as a paper, and I spent several months over summer 2021 working with my professor to draft a more in-depth paper discussing the history of safe spaces before and after their emergence on college campuses, and the multilayered reasons why they remain so critical today as spaces of survival, resilience, and advocacy. I presented my paper at five conferences, and was given an Honors award at our 2021 Lavender Celebration for the project’s impact on my campus community, which helped with the years’ long advocacy from staff and faculty to finally include a campus Pride centre in our current five-year campus improvement plan. In 2026, my community college will have its first ever safe space, as well as gender inclusive restrooms located across the campus available at all times of day. I am proud that the risks I took in calling out my community college in a globally-published paper, and the feedback I provided to the Independent Citizens Bond Oversight Committee about access to all-gender restrooms, has resulted in actionable change on my campus. Further, my project led me further involvement with my LGBTQIA+ community. In 2021 I was invited to be a training reviewer for the new Pride Inclusion training for faculty, where I provided feedback on content in training modules and suggested revisions. Last year, I was invited to join the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board at MiraCosta, and even though I am now an alumnus, because I work at the campus Writing Center I can use my perspective as a community college graduate and current staff member to contribute to program planning as our LGBTQIA+ program expands and becomes more inclusive. Recently, I spoke about Indigenous inclusive language in student forms and in our data such as including Two-Spirit as an option for students; I am also working with the Board president on planning an alternative prom, which I hope becomes a permanent annual or semi-annual event for students.

While I am also involved in my university’s LGBTQIA+ community, I am thinking forward to professional involvement as I move closer to graduation. Recently I became the Vice President of Communications for my university’s only LGBTQIA+ club for online students and will be running a queer book club starting this Fall, where I can use my major, personal passions, and career interests to support students in a safe and fun environment. To me, the advocacy work of supporting my queer and trans family never ends. After I graduate with my Bachelor’s degrees in May 2024, I plan to apply as a full-time Writing Coach at the Writing Centre I work at. I am one of only two staff who are openly out, and I would be the only openly out Coach. It is important to me to use my education and my identity to support LGBTQIA+ students by enhancing their learning outcomes, creating safe writing spaces, and building their sense of belonging, especially others who are first generation and ethnically marginalised. As full-time staff, I would include myself in the Out@MiraCosta reference list and continue to contribute to the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board as a member. While working, I will also be in my Master’s in Library and Information Science program at San Jose State University online. I also work in my city’s public library as a Children’s Library Technician, and I am working on LGBTQIA+ programming for summer Pride, but I want to include the idea of Pride 365–honouring and uplifting queer voices all year round while protecting youth’s right to read. After earning my MLIS, I intend to work in community college library, focusing on queer advocacy via concepts of queering the library, creating a mini queer library in the Pride centre, and using my profession to fight against queer book bans and reading limitations. Finally, I plan to continue focusing on research that supports the LGBTQIA+ community while doing the groundwork that creates action in my immediate community.

Alexis David Lopez-Rodriguez

Rob Benzon Memorial Scholarship

Donor: Rob Benzon/Dan Ferbal Foundation

Alexis David Lopez-Rodriguez

Alexis Lopez (he/him) will attend the University of California, Irvine in the fall and will pursue a B.S. in psychology. As a mental health advocate and LGBTQ+ activist, he aspires to become a clinical psychologist to provide quality mental health services for the low-income, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.

At the age 11, I realized being gay filled my community with disgust. “Faggot” impaled my heart repeatedly as the slur echoed off my middle school’s walls. Being called an “abomination” at PRIDE parades was devastating. These dehumanizing words suffocated me, leaving me feeling hopeless. Constantly, I’d rush crying to the bathroom, praying to God to change me. My uncle’s machismo further ingrained in me a feeling of rejection as they mocked my feminine mannerism. I desperately told my family about my declining mental health. However, due to the mental health stigma in the Latinx community, I was gaslighted and ignored.
As a single parent, my mother worked a minimum wage job to keep a roof above me and my brother’s head, all while prioritizing dealing with financial stressors. However, her emotional absence grew as she became engulfed with her own mental health issues after suffering a work injury as a restocker at the 99 Cent Store, ultimately putting her on disability. I felt more disconnected from her after discovering she disapproved of my homosexuality. Conversely, my grandma accepted me, and for once, I felt human again. I stopped being paralyzed by homophobia as my grandma’s unconditional love illuminated my life. Fueled by past hate, I began to excel in and out of high school.
I channeled all my adversities that came with being gay and transformed them into something beautiful. I reinstated the Kindness Rocks club at my school, where we paint uplifting messages on rocks to unite our school community. We paint positive phrases I wish my younger self would’ve heard, phrases like, “You are worthy of love.” Continuously, I collaborate with school clubs and organizations to spread this positivity to the fullest. I decided to join M.E.Ch.A., wanting to reconnect with my roots, torn by machismo attitudes. As I yearned to learn about my roots, I created the role of a Web Manager, taking charge of researching and publicizing the history behind our events. Now, as current President, I have taught even more people like me who yearn to learn about their roots, ensuring they feel welcomed while doing so.
Through the atmosphere of hate my community created, I realized what it truly means to be gay. To me, being gay means being resilient, optimistic, sharing my unconditional love, and surpassing the expectations society has imposed. I wish to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), knowing they have one of the largest chapters of Active Minds, a nonprofit organization ending the stigma on mental health, as well as Complete Cognitive Care, a student organization providing mental health resources to underserved communities. As a mental health advocate and LGBTQ+ activist, I hope to collaborate with organizations like Active Minds and Complete Cognitive Care, connecting the low-income communities, the Latinx community, and the LGBTQ+ community to accessible mental health resources. I aspire to receive a doctorate level education, become a psychologist, and work with these marginalized groups in order to continue this initiative. Knowing these communities are more prone to suicide, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, I want to become properly equipped to be the support they go to.
Unfortunately, my family continues to struggle financially to this day. I don’t expect to receive money earned from working or from my family for college. In order to consider going to UCLA, I know I have to figure out how to pay for the cost of attendance, which can be around $38, 517. Knowing the amount I have to cover, I am concerned about not having enough money to afford college in general. Therefore, this scholarship will enable me to reach my aspirations.
I hope to make individuals, especially within the LGBTQ+ community, feel how my grandma made me feel: loved, seen, understood, and accepted. As an educated psychologist, I plan to open my private practice called Socorro Therapy, named after my grandma, who was my one supporting adult. As the founder and CEO of Socorro Therapy, I envision myself partnering with organizations like the Trevor Project and California’s Legislative LGBTQ Caucus to host mental health conferences online and around the world. Tackling issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and aiding in preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals. My dream of a world where suicide doesn’t rob the countless lives of queer individuals drives me. A world where we elevate the voices of those who are condemned and protect those who are most vulnerable is a dream I will tirelessly work to make a reality.
Zoe Clementine Geller-Alford

Stephen G. Bowersox Memorial Scholarship

Donors: Jim & Donna Bowersox

Zoe Clementine Geller-Alford

Zoë Geller-Alford (she/her) is a graduating senior from Point Loma High School. She is pursuing a dual degree in Environmental Engineering and Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Her major passion is social justice, including winning a $10,000 It Gets Better Project grant for her school district to improve the GSAs on middle and high school campuses. She works to be an advocate for change in her community, and is honored to be a scholarship recipient so she can continue to do so.

Even in my progressive California city, there is ample hate against the LGBTQ+ community. Getting older has meant collecting reminders that I am other to much of society. Many people will never have to kiss their partner to the soundtrack of men screaming at us to repent for our sins. They will never have food thrown at them at school because they sit at “the gay table.” Or be called a slur by a classmate, or walk by protesters with signs that invalidate you as a person.

I’ve tried to use this experience to focus on solutions. I applied and won a $10,000 grant for our school district from the It Gets Better Project. They gave it to only one school district in each state. The video submission I created featured testimonies from middle schoolers, expressing the need and importance of a safe space for them. Across a range of sexualities and gender expressions, these kids were so sure in their words and needs. We are using this money to set up GSAs at the middle schools and provide resources for LGBTQ+ students at my school (flagged by the district due to so many discrimination reports). We’re funding trips to LGBTQ+ leadership conferences, productions at the LGBTQ+ Diversionary Theater, providing GC2B chest binders for students that desire them, and tabling for Solidarity Week.

This is the drive for change that I bring to the community. We all deserve spaces that make us feel safe on a fundamental level. I have the lived experience of people disagreeing with a fundamental part of me. I’ve scrubbed thrown milk off my shoes enough times to recognize the courage it takes to stand in who you are without apology. It is worth it in the messages we get from students; middle schoolers saying they finally feel safe, underclassmen coming out and exploring who they are, teachers putting up solidarity flags in their classrooms. It has strengthened my faith in the power of young people who know who they are being the driving force of change. I will always work to empower people with that intention. With the stories I carry and the people I stand beside, my love is resistance.

Anthony Wilson

Raytheon RAYPRIDE & NXGEN STEM Scholarship

Donor: Raytheon RAYPRIDE & NXGEN

Anthony Wilson

Anthony Wilson (he/him) is pursuing their Doctorate Degree in Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego where he focuses on basic issues in dynamical oceanography to a variety of different topics in climate dynamics, climate extremes, climate impacts, coupled ocean – atmosphere interactions, regional impacts of global climate change, climate energy and policy. Anthony plans on crafting impactful research that will focus on how climate impacts various minority groups differently and how society can best adapt to them. Anthony recently received his masters degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego and bachelors degree from Central Michigan University where he studied Geographic Information systems with a background in meteorology.

Coming from a low-income household has had its barriers to accessing STEM related fields. If you add in my other identities such as being black, queer, and first-generation college student to the mix; how I ended up at Scripps Institution of Oceanography getting my doctorate would seem like a stretch. The reason that I continue going is my strong desire to advocate for others and openness to allow people to be themselves without the fear of being prosecuted or bullied. That is why I decided to pursue climate science because our rapidly changing climate impacts minorities the most, and often these groups are left out of the decision-making table.

One of the last pillars that has remained inaccessible to black students is the atmospheric science/ geosciences which by in large is overrepresented by white cis heterosexual men. Over the course of my time during my doctorate degree, I have been apart of two larger scale efforts one in atmospheric sciences and another within broader geoscience community to help assuage this issue. To combat any issue, data is needed to verify what disparities one can see and that is: who pursues degrees in these areas and who is retained. I served apart of the American Meteorological Society Culture and Inclusion Cabinet as the only student member representing thousands of other students apart of a society which is widely recognized as the heart of innovation and leadership within atmospheric sciences. Apart of this inaugural cabinet, I helped crafted questions apart of a cultural survey that spoke to my own experiences as a bisexual man feeling left out and not included. To date this was the first ever cultural assessment of this magnitude within this organization. From my short tenure served, I helped initiate updates to antibullying and harassment policies and helped develop an action plan that was more inclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals and minoritized individuals.

Data is great to have but getting funded for this work is important and in academia for data to be useable it is best consumed through written research papers. This is why I have been working with others on a broad sweeping effort across the country with NSF funded grant called URGE (Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences) which leads pods and working groups to enact real changes within geoscience departments. At this stage, my task is summarizing the general sentiments of what leaders across the country are doing to make their departments more equitable based off of a task list from URGE. This process has been rewarding as the data will soon be published for larger audience to consume however, more work is done especially as state governments across the country move to ban conversations mentioning DEI initiatives within higher education.

The work that I have done so far is my way of trying to extend a bridge to others who might feel pushed out or invalidated because there was no data or proof of what they experienced was valid. I want to be a power broker for my community, in order to do this, I plan to apply for more leadership roles where I can showcase my skills. My greatest strengths are bringing people together who would never end up in a room together and connecting to people’s hearts through emotional vulnerability. To showcase my strengths, I have plans to become the student regent of University of California and be the first black LGBTQ+ student regent. My goal is to understand viewpoint from regent and student perspective at the aid of my unique background to inform my decisions to create a more equitable higher education system.

Austin Carter

Raytheon RAYPRIDE & NXGEN STEM Scholarship

Donor: Raytheon RAYPRIDE & NXGEN

Austin Carter

Austin Carter, a third-year Ph.D. student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is passionate about Earth and Environmental Sciences. He explores the frozen world, analyzing mineral dust trapped in Antarctic ice cores to unravel insights into past Earth surface conditions. Alongside his scientific pursuits, he actively contributes to Queer@Scripps, fostering LGBTQ+ visibility in STEM on campus.

Since the summer of 2020, I have been involved in founding and leading the Queer@Scripps group, a community for LGBTQ+ identifying students, staff, postdocs, researchers, faculty, and alumni at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). Our group was formed to address the lack of LGBTQ+ representation and visibility in the geosciences, a field that has remained deeply rooted in white, male heteronormative culture. Our group meets biweekly to connect, share resources, and discuss relevant topics.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we remained committed to building a strong community. We have hosted various events, including breakout rooms at the SIO Open House and New Student Orientation to discuss LGBTQ+ specific topics with prospective and incoming graduate students. We also partnered with the UC San Diego LGBT Resource Center’s “Out and Proud” Series and Women and Minorities in Science (WMIS) to host events and invite speakers to share their perspectives on the LGBTQ+ experience in academia. These have included discussing the history and significance of the LGBT Resource Center, antiracism in the LGBTQ+ community, and becoming/being a queer scientist.

To celebrate Pride Month, we have organized a tie dye t-shirt and tote bags event, designed a new group logo, and applied for institutional funding for stickers and t-shirts that increase visibility. We also created a new email listserv for communicating events, topics, and meetings. As a result of our efforts, the group is now an officially recognized organization with the UCSD Center for Student Involvement and a member of the LGBT Resource Center’s Affiliates Program.

It brings me great pride to see the important discussions Queer@Scripps has initiated throughout the campus community. These conversations have included a meeting with the Director of SIO, who supported our cause by raising a Progress Pride flag on campus during the month of June. This was a significant milestone as it was the first time such an action has been taken at our institution.

Looking forward, I plan to continue supporting my community by remaining an active member of Queer@Scripps and advocating for LGBTQ+ representation and visibility in the geosciences. I also plan to use my future career as a scientist to mentor and support underrepresented minorities in the field. By being vulnerable and authentic in expressing my identity, I hope to dismantle any resistance towards self-expression that people may face and encourage a fully-inclusive scientific community.

Junye Ma

Kendall Family Memorial Scholarship

Donors: Terrie Vorono & Lonnie Brunini

Junye Ma

Junye Ma (he/him) is a Ph.D. student in the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology (JDP). He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and Japanese linguistics from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Northwestern University. Junye’s research interests focus on structural and sociocultural determinants of sexual health disparities (e.g., PrEP awareness/uptake; HIV treatment/prevention) among LGBTQ+ people of color. He also has a special interest in the intersectionality framework and aims to design/implement culturally sensitive mHealth interventions for HIV prevention in the future.

My name is Junye Ma, a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the SDSU-UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. It is with great enthusiasm that I am writing to apply for the PFLAG San Diego County Scholarship Program.

I immigrated to the U.S. from China as an asylum seeker for my LGBTQ+ identity. My lived experiences of stigma against LGBTQ+ individuals in China and my journey fighting for legal residency in the U.S. taught me the importance of resilience. For example, I frequently needed accommodations from school for immigration interviews and have persevered through adversities such as spending two months in the detention center at Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). During this short period of incarceration, I learned stories of other immigrants who escaped gang violence and witnessed their bravery in leaving their home country. Similarly, I became aware of my privilege of English proficiency and familiarity with the U.S. culture, which allowed me to help other detainees with translation for daily requests. The blatant racism against detainees at the detention center further affirmed my goal of promoting social equity for minority populations through research and community advocacy.

Indebted to the incredible support from my undergraduate advisor, I received legal support and secured a temporary protected immigration status. However, given my immigration status, I am not eligible for federal funding or student loans, which has been disruptive throughout my education history. I often required additional income to afford my education and personal expenses, as I do not have financial support from family in the U.S. I worked over 40 hours a week at McDonald’s during my undergraduate studies and am currently working 15 hours per week as a bartender during my Ph.D. program to meet my financial obligations. Although challenging, these experiences crystallized my passion to address socio-structural barriers to minority health and social equity.

As a future clinical scientist, my research is rooted in multicultural theories and aims to address LGBTQ+ health disparities. I have contributed to multiple NIH-funded studies, including a randomized controlled trial on relationship health and HIV prevention among young male couples and the development of an HIV prevention campaign for LGBTQ+ adolescents. From these experiences, I developed skills in grant writing, community-based research, and a better understanding of socio-structural barriers to LGBTQ+ health equity (e.g., access to HIV services). My current research focuses on the design and evaluation of mobile-health interventions for HIV prevention and treatment adherence for LGBTQ+ individuals. Under Dr. Keith Horvath’s guidance, I am actively engaging and collaborating with the transgender community in San Diego to determine the community’s needs for sexual health and HIV services. These opportunities taught me the importance of centering community stakeholders’ voices in promoting LGBTQ+ health equity.

I am equally committed to disseminating research findings in both academic and community settings. I have published peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals (e.g., LGBT Health, Journal of Sex Research) on topics of smoking/vaping, online relationship seeking, and sexual health among LGBTQ+ individuals. I have also presented my work at national organizations during my doctoral studies, including the American Psychological Association and the Society for Behavioral Medicine. In community settings, I have presented research findings to the AIDS Foundation Chicago and am collaborating with the Transgender Wellbeing Center in San Diego. In the future, I aim to continue 1) addressing sexual and behavioral health disparities among LGBTQ+ people of color, and 2) designing culturally-sensitive HIV prevention interventions.

My lived experiences of social injustice further affirmed my goal to serve minority populations through community service. As a core member of the Racial Equity Committee at Northwestern University, I established inter-departmental collaborations in diversity efforts and spearheaded action items to improve institutional diversity. This included advocacy to rectify institutional policies that may negatively impact racial/ethnic minority members. The committee also promoted equity in faculty recruitment by requiring the presence of minority representatives during the hiring process.

Currently, I am volunteering for the Pathways to PhDs program at UC San Diego’s Department of Psychology, which advocates for access to higher education for minority students. In this program, I gave an oral presentation about LGBTQ+ health research at El Cajon Valley High School and am serving as a panelist to help minority students at UC San Diego with their graduate school applications. My visit at El Cajon Valley High School allowed me to introduce LGBTQ+ health disparities in sexual health and psychosocial wellbeing to students. I also had the opportunity to discuss pathways to graduate studies in psychology and career paths in clinical psychology with minority students. Collectively, these experiences equipped me with the flexibility to work with interdisciplinary teams (e.g., educators, policymakers) to promote diversity at UC San Diego.

Academically, I have been volunteering as a peer reviewer for scientific conferences and national associations on diversity-related initiatives. This includes reviewing student research awards for the Association for Psychological Science, research abstracts for the National LGBTQ Health Conference, and for academic journals (e.g., Archives of Sexual Behavior, Sexuality Research and Social Policy). Culturally, I have volunteered at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago, where I coordinated Japanese language courses and cultural events (e.g., the 2020 Chicago Matsuri). In the future, I aim to further promote diversity within my doctoral program at both SDSU and UC San Diego by initiating an LGBTQ-focused therapy group and organizing a safe platform for minority students to network with each other. As a member of the diversity committee in my doctoral program, I also aim to advocate for diversity in faculty and student recruitment and the promotion of diverse conversations outside of the classroom setting (e.g., diversity brown bags).

It has been an enlightening journey for me to learn the importance of diversity and perseverance through my lived experience, research, and community service. My goal to promote health equity and social justice for LGBTQ+ people of color is also in line with the PFLAG San Diego County’s stated goals of supporting the LGBTQ+ community through education and advocacy. Thank you for your consideration of my application.

Lynna Viva Thai

Qualcomm STEM Scholarship

Donor: Qualcomm eQuality LGBTQ Employee Network

Lynna Thai

My name is Lynna Thai and I’m a high achieving high school senior who’s committed to attend Yale University in the fall of 2023! I’m a service driven student who’s interested in pursuing some sort of evolutionary biology degree with concentrations in plants and animals. My biggest hobbies include tennis, student government, gardening, and hanging out with my dogs. I also love to read in my free time and spend a lot of time in nature!

When my eldest brother graduated high school, he was admitted to a 4-year university, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. In 2016, his education abruptly ended mid-sophomore year. As a 5th grader, I discovered that our family could no longer financially support him, and he was forced to drop out, immediately finding a job at a fast-food restaurant. Around this time, I started believing that I could no longer consider college as an option.

This opinion is similar to many in the City Heights community, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the nation. People around San Diego have always labeled City Heights as “the ghetto.” This offensive label is rooted from the ongoing battle that our community has had with racism and poverty for decades. In City Heights, 87% of our residents are either Asian, Black, or Hispanic, and our community is considered economically disadvantaged. Only 12% of residents have a college degree and 35% have never even graduated high school. I’ve grown up witnessing and experiencing the negative consequences that lack of education and financial instability has on my community. To me, City Heights has always been one large family; our strengths lie within our communitys’ values to always learn, persevere, and love one another despite our differences.

Going into high school, my middle brother told me about AVID, which helped him reconsider college as a reachable option, inspiring me to think about it too. As a result, I realized a newfound excitement, and took on as many opportunities I could to help prepare for college. I joined tennis because I knew I couldn’t just enjoy being an observer, and took this mentality off the court by being Class President and on track to being the school valedictorian.

Last spring as a junior, I became the founder and president of the First Gen Club here at Crawford. Just a mile down the road, another high school in our community was getting significantly more college access and support, whereas AVID was the primary way to learn about college at my school. I knew that many students outside of AVID would want extra support for their college application processes, and the majority of Class of 2023 students at my school are also first-generation students. Additionally, most come from low-income households in City Heights who have been through hardships similar to mine.

Now as a senior, I want to continue fostering a safe space for other ethnic, first generation students who are just as passionate about their education as I am, but lack the resources to learn about college. I’ll also continue to challenge the stereotypes and preconceived ideas that have shone our community in a negative light. As a leader, I will help my peers get the higher education that they deserve so that we can all break that cycle of poverty that continues to put our community in a negativer disposition.

As a kid, I’ve only heard stories of my grandfather’s migration to the United States through my father. Before he passed away, I always looked up to him as this strong, unbreakable role model who cared deeply about his family. It wasn’t until I sat down with my father a few years back to have a conversation about grandpa, where I discovered the hardships he hid from my younger self.

During the 1970s, Vietnam was on the brink of collapse. My grandfather traveled to California by ship with hundreds of other refugees, and upon arrival, he was forced into homelessness and famine for months. With no prior experience, learning English from scratch was difficult, and so was getting a job to start earning a living. His story has taught me many of the morals that I hold closely to my heart; time is the most expensive asset in life, and love is the most valuable. I incorporate his wisdom and determination into every decision that I make.

Growing up in San Diego, I’ve witnessed homelessness on almost every block of the city. I think about how at one point in time, that was my grandfather holding the sign. As a student, I have goals of contributing to the possible innovations and solutions that can assist those living in extreme poverty. Working in food banks and food drives will also be sentimental to me, because my whole family had to rely on public food services for months during quarantine.

In late 2020, I participated in a Social Entrepreneurship Challenge hosted by College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) partnered with Intuit. They presented real world challenges such as global health/wellbeing, reducing inequalities, and climate action. Despite not winning first place, the challenge had encouraged me to research more into possible solutions that urban communities can contribute to on a global scale. Shortly after, I was admitted to an 8-week internship with the International Rescue Committee. The program was called Youth Farmworks, and I worked closely in an urban garden beside a small, community cafe.

In June 2021, I was hired at City Farmers Nursery, a local urban plant nursery in the heart of City Heights; one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in all of San Diego, and I’ve been here since. In the center of our nursery is a flowing pond/stream bed that I’m responsible for cleaning and caring for- it’s my job to make sure the pump stays clean and functioning at all times. I’ve learned to achieve the perfect balance between maintaining the stream’s surrounding life with the technology that keeps it performing.

I have dreams of combining the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years to contribute solutions to the issues I’ve grown to be passionate about: climate change, social inequalities, poverty. The truth is, I’m definitely not technologically savvy. Despite this, I continue learning how we can use community efforts and technology to our advantage to find a balance for solving society’s largest challenges.

Reese Cormier

Qualcomm STEM Scholarship

Donor: Qualcomm eQuality LGBTQ Employee Network

Reese Cormier

Reese Cormier (she/her) is an incoming freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, planning to major in Physics and pursue her PhD in Physics after her undergraduate. She is the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) club president at Mira Mesa High School. Refounding the club post-Covid, she focused most of her time on leadership and inclusivity within the group. Some of her accomplishments include hosting a schoolwide Stonewall guest speaker event, facilitating a safe and easy way for trans students to change their names on school rosters whilst not outing them at home, and hosting the GLSEN Day of Silence for the past two years. Outside of school, Reese enjoys playing live music, watching movies, and painting.

I’ve been known for being a go-to person, from middle school until now. Teachers and administrators have often reached out to me when they needed a student ambassador and it’s been a pathway to opportunities that I’m incredibly grateful for. I joined our school’s ASB in the 8th grade and achieved just about everything that I was asked to accomplish. During that time, I raised thousands of dollars in donations for foster children, represented my school when we were presented with the California Distinguished School Award, and even planned and executed an assembly of over a thousand people during which I lead a demonstration about the statistics of mental illness and a school-wide meditation.

More recently, I was asked to adopt the role of the GSA president, the Gay-Straight-Alliance, which had died off during Covid. Although I am a cis-woman, the more I learned about my transgender peers, the more I felt inclined to make change in our school. My first course of action was working with the district to develop a simple way for students to have their names corrected on the roster. In less than five minutes, my peers could be acknowledged by their teachers and classmates for who they truly are, while remaining safe at home in the case of an unsupportive family. I have also recently connected my club with a program that provides free chest binders for those who need them – shipped directly to the school. I loved seeing how the little things can bring people so much relief. Although I can’t imagine their struggle, I’m grateful to do anything I can to help them feel comfortable in their skin.

These students have also helped me to become more comfortable with my identity as a queer woman, as I struggled with labels and confidence in myself. When I started high school, I hid every aspect of my sexuality in fear of judgment, but now I am able to be open and authentic with nearly everyone in my life. I still have steps to take, but my progress has been beyond what I could have imagined and I owe most of it to the people I have surrounded myself with.

As a woman in STEM, I have already faced my fair share of discrimination and expect to see it everywhere, unfortunately. Growing up, there were hardly any female scientists for me to look up to and as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the importance of representation in fields that are dominated by a specific group of people. I know I am going to make a difference in this world with research, but I hope that I can make an impact on the upcoming LGBTQ+ generation, showing them that I overcame the obstacles I was faced with, something that they have the ability to achieve too.

Not only is it nice to know that the people around me see me as someone capable of doing whatever I’m presented with, but by being reliable and open-minded, I’ve encountered some of the most unique opportunities out there. Being helpful to those around me is something that comes naturally. Not even being asked by my classmate if I’m their teacher (true story) could strip that from me.

Mace Viemeister

M. Lynne Austin Memorial Scholarship

Donors: Ray & Jan Aller

Mace Viemeister

Mace Viemeister (he/him) is a graduating high school senior from San Dieguito Academy High School. During his time there, he focused on improving the school district’s tolerance and support for transgender and gender-nonconforming students and volunteering within local politics. He will be attending the University of Maryland to study Public Policy with a focus in Gender and Racial Justice. He is so grateful for this scholarship as it will massively support him through furthering his education. He is dedicated towards continuing to advocate for gender and sexual equity in college and eventually the realm of public policy.

I was preparing to speak at an SDUHSD school board meeting to recommend the Anti-Gun Violence resolution on the agenda to our district when somebody leaked a thread from a trustee’s private Facebook group. The discussion showed members engaging in a negative conversation about transgender and gender non-conforming students concerning pronoun usage that devolved into cruel jokes. The trustee declined to condemn this kind of commentary and allowed this hate speech to occur, damaging the trust of trans kids in our schools.

So, I scrapped my original comment and used the opportunity to confront the board about transphobia. My statement helped spearhead a district-wide movement to create a more accepting school environment for queer students. I organized a group at my school called “SDA Trans Support and Action” that worked with other schools within the school district to improve gender education, support, and action against transphobia. We created a resolution to affirm LGBTQIA+ students to present to the board and rallied a large group of students, parents, teachers, staff, and admin to support the trans community at the board meeting. To ensure a more accepting school board for our future, other school leaders and I signed an endorsement letter for the school board candidates that advocate for students. We were pleased that the majority of our candidates of choice were elected and, from our perspective, transphobia was lost.

These efforts towards a safer campus led to reputable news sources holding the trustee accountable for his behavior, school-wide presentations about respecting pronouns and gender identity, and our Gender and Sexuality Alliance club became school-sponsored. As a co-facilitator for our LGBTQ+ Support Group, I have worked closely with queer students on campus to help them overcome challenges and learned how to make school a safe place for them. Although the transphobic incident was unfortunate, we reinforced district support for our transgender community and demonstrated to our entire student body that we will always have their backs.

To me, problem-posing education is the most effective branch of transformative resistance. Our societal lack of mutual respect and understanding stems from non-diverse learning. However, through teaching my school board and those residing within the district how respecting gender identity, expression, and pronoun usage is so impactful, our community has become a safer place. Although we have improved, our work is far from over. One way I will continue to improve my school’s open-mindedness is by officially establishing the ASB Executive Outreach Officer position. As this was the first year this position has existed, I have had the opportunity to map out the officer’s responsibilities. Beyond chairing ASB committees and organizing events, the Executive Officer is a liaison for our campus affinity groups to create more equitable events and systems. I have laid the groundwork for a permanent position that will be selected through an essay and interview process and then elected from a panel of administration, ASB Executives, and affinity group leaders. By solidifying this job description and electoral system, our school will have a diverse leader who works to make San Dieguito HS Academy a safer and more welcoming place. Later, I hope that I can continue to expand acceptance towards the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups through public policy. As crucial as local advocacy is, I want to help bring that change to a larger scale so that people receive the representation they deserve.

Diego Paz

Daniel J. Ferbal Memorial Scholarship

Donor: Rob Benzon/Dan Ferbal Foundation

Diego Paz

Diego Paz (he/him) is a graduating first-generation queer Chicano who will be attending Yale University to study statistics and data science. Diego will continue his advocacy work through spreading awareness on issues that face the LGBTQIA+ community today and educating his community on the queer Latine experience.

“Will it hurt?” I asked in genuine concern, nestled in bed with my mother. That Halloween when I was eight years old, I was determined to dress up like a princess. Clip-on earrings were an absolute ‘must’ for my outfit. “Mijo, boys aren’t supposed to be princesses,” my mother professed, watching a telenovela on the TV. Oblivious to some preconceived rule that boys should not want to be princesses, I persisted.

That persistence never stopped. Although I did not end up dressing as that princess, I began to question why I could not be one. Growing up in South San Diego—minutes from the US-Mexico border—my mother culture leaks into every crevice of my existence; The doctrine of machismo overwhelmed my mind at a young age, and as a queer Latine, I quickly retained this belief of manliness as truth. Learning to be unapologetic against the customs of my culture was a lesson that proved liberating, though challenging. Maturing through periods of avid bullying and scrutiny for my sexuality and identity degraded my self-confidence. The grand trial was redefining what it means to feel represented, what it means to be proud of my identity, and what it means to inspire others to do the same.

During my freshman year of high school, I went behind my parent’s backs and joined the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at my school. I recount the first meeting I stepped into, filled with familiar faces which fit the image of the shy students who were often bullied for being “different.” Except in this place, they spoke loudly, smiling and laughing–an aura consuming the entire room which encouraged the open expression of everyone who presided. I knew from that moment that I would contribute to cultivating a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ to feel safe in expressing themselves openly in a community that often shunned such openness. The pandemic caused our meetings to migrate online. Video calls with all the members grew smaller and smaller attendance because many students could not risk their parents finding out. However, I persisted in having weekly meetings for those who could join. I recall during one of our online meetings, this younger student joined with an almost pitch-black screen, as though they were sitting in what seemed like a dark room faintly illuminated by the light of the laptop. When I asked where they were, they responded in a whisper, “I am in the closet. This is the only place where my parents can’t hear me.” That moment stuck with me, for it revitalized the significance of building a community where students could share similar struggles and experiences. When we returned to in-person learning, my goal was to reconstruct the vibrant communal culture of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at my school, aware more than ever of how significant of a role the GSA plays in providing a safe and inclusive environment for students who could not find a place to express themselves outside of school.

For the last three years, I have served as the elected president of the GSA at my high school. I host weekly meetings alongside my cabinet members as we nurture an accessible space on campus for students to congregate and discuss issues relating to machismo culture and growing up as young LGBTQIA+ students in an underserved minority community. My experience as a leader in GSA has taught me that it is not my responsibility to forcibly change the minds of people who ignorantly belittle me, rather, it is my responsibility to be unapologetically myself, to lead alongside me the next generation of young confident queer folx who continue defining their identities by the very hatred which plague communities like mine. I am the leader I have been waiting for.

“Representation is power.”

I crafted this saying as the driving doctrine of my academic and career aspirations that I utilize to continue supporting my community. My leadership translates into my activism. As a queer Latine activist, my participation in GSA has been the seed in developing my goal to spread awareness on the importance of creating LGBTQIA+ spaces to voice the issues and talents of queer folx. My goal is to continue to embrace and nurture the vibrant communal culture of queer spaces in my hometown, university, and worldwide–building safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people to express their thoughts, opinions, and issues openly. In university, I will study data science concentrating on media analytics. Applying my knowledge of how statistics and technology are interconnected and influence the content we consume will aid in my goal of deconstructing systemic bias and marginalization in the popular culture pushed to audiences; I aspire to lead the media industry into a period of inclusivity, to tell the diverse stories of those often hidden in the shadows of the mainstream and continue influencing the next generation of confident and proud queer folx.

As Queer people, we need to see ourselves represented in positions of power. We need more queer leaders in every pillar of American society who understand the unique intersectional issues that plague the LGBTQIA+ community today. With the rise of popular media, the need for diverse leaders is more crucial than ever. I am the representation I want to see in the world. My aspiration as a media producer is fueled by my goal to elevate the voices of my community and share the diverse stories of the people who have thrived despite oppression. The day has come for me to grab the prettiest princess costume I can find and strut around the neighborhoods filled with kids like me. Kids who will realize that we have a chance and that we are the movement we have been waiting for. Queer culture is beautiful, but we need to support young leaders who will rise to the occasion. I am not only striving for change–I am demanding it.

Leslie Michel Pagel-Alcaraz

Gary A. Marcus Scholarship for the Fine and Applied Arts

Donor: Gary Marcus

Leslie Michel Pagel-Alcaraz

Leslie Michel Pagel-Alcaraz (She/Her/Ella) is a Mexican immigrant passionate about art and LGBTQ+ intersectionality. She serves as the 2023 GSA president at Crawford High School and teaches LGBTQ+ culture and history. She was the artist behind San Diego’s 2022 Pride Library Card Contest, with her Illustration of Marsha P. Johnson printed through all 33 of San Diego’s Library branches. She has also been recognized by the San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council as one of the 25 Most Remarkable Teens In San Diego, 2022, in the category of LGBTQ+ Activism. With her art, she plans to open the gates of LGBTQ+ representation in hopes of having teens like her see themselves reflected in art.

In the Queer experience, we tend to value safe spaces. Devoid of acceptance and safety, we look for that outside home. In High school, we find it at the Gay-Straight Alliance. In the case of 2020, the club was a small room with a piano, the smell of chocolate brownies, and loud chatter. I, as a recent immigrant, got to experience its safety for three months until the Pandemic hit.

After one year of holding the club virtually, the new year came, and 2021-2022 had taken away our safe space. New protocol: we could not hold meetings inside classrooms. So, we had to sit on the cold pavement of the school parking lot. Somehow we went from 20 members down to single digits. We had no president, classroom, or activities. There was no safe space.

But the club had once brought me community. And immediately when protocol changed, I took action.

You see, what entails forming a safe space is understanding we live at a time where one is possible in the first place. Back then, GSAs did not exist. It is imperative to appreciate that the world is more like a safe space than it was yesterday. It was especially true for me, as my experience as a Queer person in a Mexican school was not good. Arguing about my existence was not limited to only students but teachers too. Our principal would burst into rooms to “out” students and tell us we were confused or wrong. I thought I was the only one listening, but after we graduated, many of my classmates came out of the closet.

When my friends ask me what I like about school in San Diego, I always mention the school Pride Alliance. The idea of a school having a “Gay Club” was baffling. Having the support of my peers was all I could ask for. I had come from a place where simple understanding was a privilege. And I had found a purpose in making everyone feel accepted. For the oppressed Queer people, I was glad to take on the role of Club President. I did not want the privilege of living in California if I was not using it for change.

With the goal of teaching our underrepresented history, I. Worked.

Hours poured into presentations and “Jeopardy!” games. Only three people raised their hands when I asked who knew who Marsh P. Johnson was. But with every meeting, presentation, and question, more hands were being held in the air. Welcome to Queer History Class. Stonewall, Pulse, AIDS, Pride, Gender, Sexuality. Everything I had learned throughout the years I shared with this new-found family. Of course, we were not the 20 members we used to be, but 13 were just enough.

Finally, history was learned. The impact on my peers was tangible when we visited the “Gayborhood”. Walking through its rainbow crossroads, the students pointed out details I taught them. “We’re on Harvey Milk Street!”, “Hey! Is that the Intersex flag?”. I felt proud of each question. The safe space was something more: a place to learn. Throughout the last year, I have used my art to fundraise money for LGBTQ+ organizations. From singing live for a local Queer-owned Candy shop (Candy Pushers) to Illustrating for an International zine (Spring Tides: Our Flag Means Death Fan Zine). In 2022, my art won the Public Library Pride Card Contest, with my illustration of Marsha P. Johnson printed on cards and distributed in all 33 library branches. My work has been recognized by the county of San Diego, naming me one of the 25 Most Remarkable Teens in San Diego in the category of LGBTQ+ Activism.

Now that graduation approaches, my work as a high school student might be over, but my purpose as a Queer folk is still burning. In the future, I am hoping to take leadership roles on College Campus, volunteer in other LGBTQ events, and keep on bringing comfort to other folks. I want to do this for the rest of my life. Nothing will separate me from my passion.

Danica Keepper

Bill Hanson Community College Scholarship

Donor: Bill Hanson

Danica Keepper

My name is Danica Keepper, and I am a full time Promise student at San Diego Community College. I am a STEM major, passionate about molecular biology, and I intend on transferring to the University of California, Santa Cruz in the near future! Someday I hope to use my STEM degree for the greater good, whether by going the pre-medical route or working in environmental sustainability. I am fortunate to be a Transitional Aged Intern at San Diego Pride, and am passionate about advocating for LGBTQIA+ justice.

I have always seen myself as an outspoken person with an instinct for leading. Ever since I was small, I loved lending a helping hand to those around me, whether it was mentors, fellow students, or friends. Throughout high school I kept myself busy with extracurriculars, and felt dedicated to being involved in JROTC and choir.

In my first semester at San Diego City College, I had the excellent opportunity of applying to become an intern at San Diego Pride. I applied nervously, not even expecting to make it past the phone interview. Now here I am, several months later as a part time Transitional Age Youth Intern at an organization that has taught me the meaning of chosen family. Working at San Diego Pride has given me so many tremendous opportunities to not only learn real-life work skills, but also to expand my social network and meet so many new diverse people that I look up to. San Diego Pride is here to serve the community, and as an intern I am confident in saying that we have helped make a positive impact on those we interact with daily. The most momentous experience I have had so far with Pride has been organizing our Pride Youth Coalition (or PYC). PYC focuses on providing resources and a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to learn, grow, feel accepted, and most importantly have fun. Many LGBTQ+ adults have experienced negativity and difficulty finding acceptance and love in their community. PYC stands to eliminate that struggle for youth of all ages. Recently we expanded our programs to include youth from middle school all the way through college; this is meaningful to me because many young adults like myself struggle to find safe queer spaces.

My experiences from assisting with the Pride Youth Coalition program have all been exceptional. Working one-on-one with our youth gives me hope for our future generations, knowing that our young people are so well-educated and committed to social justice work. I wish I could have had the opportunity to be a part of a pro-LGBTQ coalition when I was younger, so being a mentor and figure to look up to for our young people really benefits the community in my eyes.

I look forward to the experiences I will have working as an intern at San Diego Pride. As we approach July, we will begin planning the Pride Parade and Festival, making accommodations to make it welcoming for everyone. The interns will be working primarily in the youth zone, making sure that the youth have a safe supervised space where they can express themselves and have fun. Though the internship will eventually end, I intend on staying connected with pride as a volunteer for as long as I can. I love having the opportunity to work for a program that helps the queer community thrive.

Homero Vazquez

Bill Hanson Community College Scholarship

Donor: Bill Hanson

Homero Vazquez

Homero will be pursuing a Pharm.D. degree at the University of California, Irvine School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. As a Doctor of Pharmacy, he wants to further specialize in infectious diseases to treat and prevent HIV infections and better serve his LGBTQ+ community. In addition, Homero is passionate about conducting pharmaceutical research to better understand infectious diseases and help discover effective medication treatments. Homero has called San Diego home since 2009. He enjoys the climate, culture, and being part of the LGBTQ+ community, where he found a sense of belonging and developed his personal identity. He hopes to return to San Diego after completing his educational goals.

My goal is to become an infectious diseases research pharmacist to provide patient-centered care and conduct pharmaceutical research. I am 36 years old and I made the decision to seek to advance my academic credentials from having significant exposure to HIV research and LGBTQ+ patient care. My work on HIV has impacted my community at two different levels. Working as an HIV translational researcher helped me contribute with new knowledge about HIV transmission and drug resistance to improve the medication treatment of HIV+ patients. My work as a patient liaison helped me understand the health disparities of my LGBTQ+ community which will allow me to better provide healthcare in the future. Together, these experiences have shaped my conviction to become an infectious diseases research pharmacist. I am proud to announce I will begin my pursuit of my doctorate degree at the University of California, Irvine this fall 2023.

My interest in pharmaceutical research comes from having professional working experience in HIV translational research from 2010–2020. I worked at the UC San Diego Antiviral Research Center (AVRC), where I conducted research with physicians and pharmacists to prevent HIV transmission by finding novel interventions against HIV and by understanding the mechanisms of drug resistance. My research led to advancing HIV knowledge, I have a proven track record of scientific publications, and I’ve presented my research at national conferences.

In addition, I wanted to be directly involved in patient care and give back to my LGBQ+ community. I volunteered my time outside of research to work as a patient liaison at the AVRC. This experience showed me some of the health disparities amongst my community. For example, I found that LGBTQ+ patients do not regularly test for HIV due to a lack of trust and fear of judgment from healthcare professionals. This is problematic: new HIV infections, especially amongst the youth, occur as a result of transmission from an unknowing HIV+ partner. I raised awareness about the importance of knowing one’s HIV status, as it benefits not only one’s health but the health of the entire community. To increase trust in healthcare professionals, I reassured patients that the goal was to provide judgment-free healthcare and pointed out that open and honest communication leads to getting the best healthcare treatment options. I showed empathy toward patients by asking about their feelings, fears, and reservations. I helped put them at ease by providing accurate information or referring them to appropriate resources. This approach led to more patients coming back for regular testing.

My mission as a future pharmacist will be to develop trusting relationships with patients by providing expert advice on the use, safety, and effectiveness of medication therapy across many conditions, including HIV. Through pharmaceutical research, I will advance HIV knowledge to provide my LGBTQ+ community with better treatment and prevention options against HIV. By fulfilling my mission, I will provide support to my community and improve patients’ lives.

Ed Urgiles

Personal Achievement Scholarship

Donor: Anonymous

Ed Urgiles

Ed Urgiles (he/him) is currently enrolled in the Alcohol and Other Drug Studies program at San Diego City College. Ed already has a degree in Electrical Engineering from CSU Los Angeles. He has worked at small startups with less than a dozen employees; as well as huge companies like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is also very grateful to have enjoyed the opportunity to practice Harm Reduction in the LGBTQ+ community through a grant at Stepping Stone of San Diego. When he is not working on school projects or looking for work as a Substance Use Disorder counselor, Ed enjoys various pass times such as photography, music, cooking, and most recently he’s taken up sculpture.

My journey to this point in my life has not been in a straight line. I have wandered through roads well-travelled and lonely-desolate pathways. I have ridden in the lap of luxury and I have also had to fish cups and food out of the garbage because I had no money. “Ups and downs” does not really seem to encompass the scope of it all. Yet if you think I am complaining about it, I am NOT! I feel my life experience has been a blessing. I have had a chance not only to lead one life, but to have the advantage of seeing that life from many different stages, many different perspectives. For example I was born in Ecuador, so I had the opportunity to view this country from a foreigner’s perspective. It is quite different from the perspective I have now as a lifelong Californian. The attitude I had economically when I was making an engineer’s salary was diametrically opposed to my economic expression as a homeless unemployed individual. Essentially my life’s path has afforded me the luxury of being able to see life from different viewpoints in essence enabling me to have a better understanding of a broader range of people that I would have if I had lived a much more stable predictable life that does not deviate much from expectations. I have, however, found that
expectations don’t always behave as expected.

My work in the community recently has been focused on harm reduction. Stepping Stone of San Diego was funded to kick off a pilot program for Harm Reduction in the LGBTQ+ community. Due to the astronomical rise in opioid/Fentanyl related deaths, there is a lot of work being done in harm reduction. The LGBTQ+ community in particular is hit much harder by these statistics because, statistically, our community engages in drug use at a greater rate than the population at large so, as a result, the negative effects are seen in a higher proportion in the LGBTQ+ community.

Since this was a pilot program, nobody really knew what to expect. We were engaging the community via ads on Facebook and other social media. They were
responding via text. All of it was different than the norm. Some of our initial feedback was from internal sources to our organization and the 12-step folk did not like Harm Reduction one bit! And the clients: nobody knew what to expect from the clients. Once the charts started to roll in, that was a pleasant surprise. Some of us expected that all we would ever hear from the Harm Reduction clients was “We need Narcan” or “We need Fentanyl Test Strips.” However we were pleasantly surprised to find that the community was more ready to change and ready to move toward recovery and treatment rather than being oriented toward continued use. Our work on this project wrapped up last month. I think we had a beneficial impact upon the community by guiding them toward the necessary resources whether they were related to housing or food insecurity or alcohol and drug treatment or sometimes just providing an ear and a sounding board for their thoughts. In the case of our work to help reduce opioid overdoses, our work, if it even saved one single life, was worth every single minute of
effort spent on the project by everyone. It was at times challenging work but immensely rewarding when everything lined up right. I plan to continue to work with the organizations within our community to further our causes now and in the future. My education and certification in Substance Use Disorder treatment will allow me to continue to work with members of our community to help them overcome obstacles and find helpful resources that they may not be aware of as they relate to substance use treatment as well as life in general.

Buu Phuong Duong

Personal Achievement Scholarship

Donor: Anonymous

Buu Phuong Duong

My name is Buu Phuong Duong, an 18-year-old senior from Crawford High School. I am going to University of California, San Diego with pursuing major Psychology in the Fall 2023. I was born and grew up in Vietnam, and moved to America three years ago with my sister and my single dad. Being the only person in the family who could speak English and a first-generation has various barriers for me to learn and grow up. I desire to become a Psychologist/Psychiatrist that could mentally support people especially immigrants, and LGBTQ+ teenagers. The scholarship will financially help me to achieve my goal.

During my junior year, I volunteered to be a treasurer and decorate the school’s gardens through the garden club. I and other members had planted and put some green grass in the yard. Under the fall’s sun heat, we spent a couple of hours a week removing all of the weeds and invasive plants. Through sweat and
backbreaking labor, we were able to clear the ground of yellowish weeds which showed us the dryness of the dirt. Then we planted more trees in the schoolyard and garden. As a result, the school site became more friendly to nature, and my friends could spend their lunch time in the shadows which saved them from the
heat of the hot sun in the schoolyard or the garden.

In my senior year, I joined the Connect Committed Crawford program with a position of development that gives out new ideas and develops everyone’s ideas into real activity. I and other members ran a promotion for the program at the Thanksgiving harvest by collecting other students’ ideas to change the school and as a result the principal decided to keep the white cap and gown for graduation to honor the excellent seniors instead of all blue color. Because I believe we should be recognized and honored with our efforts in academic excellence.

At the same time, I have joined the service club Chavista and I volunteered to do community services. Such as cleaning parks, cleaning the beach and organizing food can contribute. We sent emptied boxes to each classroom and collected them after a week, as we donated hundreds of food cans to the food bank. Then,
me and other members of the club spent a Saturday morning cleaning the Colina park. It looked tragic and plastic packets and bags appeared every 6 feet of walking but after a couple hours under the breeze of the spring, it looked green and there was barely any trash. More fresh green air we can consume in this park, young children will have a safer place to hang out and build up their childhood.

Growing up in Vietnam, I learned how to love the traditions and cultures so in my senior year I volunteered in a Vietnamese non-profit organization. One of them was the A Project, an organization founded by students in Vietnam. I volunteered to be the translator that carried the responsibility to translate the articles
that delivered knowledgeable information about Vietnamese traditions and cultures into English. Right now, we have gained more than a thousand followers on social media from all over the world. We have made more foreigners have a chance to know about Vietnamese culture.

I fingered myself as a part of LGBTQ+ community as very young age when I was living in Vietnam. I couldn’t tell anyone because discrimination toward to Queer community was huge back then. Worse than that, my parents got divorced, got betrayed by my ex-girlfriend and I closed myself then formed a hateness to my sexuality. Hopelessness and confusion led me to depression. Coming to America, I got healed from several therapies. Then observing my friends in the same situation had invoked an idea in me. After graduation, I desire to achieve my dream of being a Psychiatrist and Psychologist. I want to use my knowledge to help
teenagers who are exploring their identities and struggling with their mental health. I desired to have my own organization to give out free therapy to teenagers who are in need at every school worldwide especially the LGBTQ+ students. I firmly believe that younger generations hold the key to the future of the world. A
perfect world shouldn’t contain pains, hurts include mentally. Seeing younger generations to speak up for themselves, for equality not regard differences is a light in a dark tunnel where peace, love and happiness at the end.

Julio Quinones

“We Believe in You Award”

Donor: PFLAG SDC Scholarship Fund

Julio Quinones

My name is Julio Quiñones. I was born in Mexico and Moved to San Diego with my family when I was ten in search of better opportunities. I am a senior at Monarch School and some of my interests include painting, drawing, sculpture and fashion design. In the fall, I plan to go to either Southwestern College or San Diego Mesa College. I am so happy and thankful for this scholarship which gives me the opportunity to attend an institution of higher education.

Something I have done in recent years that has made a positive impact in my community is organizing my school’s spring show art exhibition. The art exhibition is called “Soy Yo” and it is an art show about being yourself. My responsibilities as the show’s curator include organizing and decorating the art exhibition
space. I also came up with the theme for the art exhibition and the prompts that our art teacher Carol Greenstein would use to teach and inspire our K-12 artists. Taking about three hours outside of school to seek and buy the necessary materials in order to decorate the art gallery.

I am President of my school’s Fashion Club; my responsibilities usually Include helping teach other students, teaching them how to work with a sewing machine and how to make sewing patterns. There’s always something I am working on, currently I am designing my own dress for prom. I am an intern at Sew Loka; a
sustainable fashion brand, business, and shop. We recycle old clothes and turn them into something that is usable like tote bags or wallets. Sometimes we just repair clothes and give them a new life . I designed two tote bags which have a decorative front made of scrap fabrics and one sold. Also, I got to use an
embroidery machine for the first time to make wallets with an embroidery design.

I plan on continuing to support my community in the future by doing local community service. I also will be helping with my school’s next art show which will be called “Metamorphosis”, for which I will be creating art, helping and inspiring others to create art and promoting the show by talking about it with other students.

Shelby Marie Warren

Sycuan Merit Scholarship

Donor: Sycuan

Shelby Marie Warren

Shelby Warren is a soon to be 4th year medical student at UC San Diego School of Medicine who is pursuing residency in psychiatry. She is currently finishing a Master of Science in Health Care Management degree at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. She developed an interest in improving health care access for the uninsured and underinsured after watching more than one of her family members struggle with serious health conditions while unable to afford health insurance. She will use her medical knowledge and growing health care finance understanding to advocate for equitable and universal health care access. She enjoys playing weekend softball and recently moderated an interview-based video production to educate her school’s faculty on why inclusive pronoun use is important in the classroom and beyond. She thanks PFLAG San Diego County for supporting her on her academic journey.

When I applied to the PFLAG San Diego County Scholarship program last year, I shared the way in which my family’s financial struggles shaped my values, passions, and personal mission. I described the cognitive dissonance I felt as a result of training to become a doctor while watching my uninsured father be turned away from the very system I had become a part of. This disconnect fueled my interest in health equity, and led me to UC San Diego School of Medicine’s PRIME-Health Equity dual-degree program.

This unique program has equipped me with the skills necessary to cultivate a path toward health equity that my father, and so many people like him, desperately need. I spent the first three years of this medical school program fully engaged with the local community in San Diego. Whether delivering social justice didactics to fellow medical students or caring for an uninsured patient at the free clinic, I took advantage of opportunities that spoke to the heart of why I decided to become a doctor. Since joining the Master of Science in Health Care Management program at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore, MD, I have a much more profound understanding of America’s most pressing health care issues.

Attending business school has been one of the most transformational experiences on my path to becoming a physician-leader. I now speak with confidence about the problems that attracted me to this program in the first place. I can now answer the following questions with more sophistication: Why is the U.S. health care system inequitable and inaccessible for so many? What has been done about these issues, and are they working? Is universal health care possible in the U.S.? How would such an enormous change be implemented and enforced? How do I communicate with industry stakeholders who hold different incentives and visions for health care? The education I have received at Carey Business School has helped me understand the complex answers to these questions, and so much more.

My educational path and experiential learning have built a strong ethical foundation upon which I will continue to advocate and organize for universal health care. I continue to grow my understanding of what it means to be a leader at the intersection of this political, medical, social, and economic issue. In November 2022, I was awarded a student-activist scholarship to fly to Boston, MA to attend the annual Single Payer Leadership Conference hosted by Physicians for a National Health Program. As an active member of this organization since 2017, I was delighted to bring a new framework for understanding health care financing issues to the annual meeting. The conversations and questions were so rich and exploratory compared to my participation in previous conferences. This January, I used my new knowledge to speak to San Diego high school students via Zoom about health care financing and health equity. It was so rewarding to integrate these two bodies of knowledge to bring valuable information to the next generation of leaders.

Already nearly half-way through my health care management degree, I have made new friends and networks which have given me a true sense of community in Baltimore. Within the first week of moving to the city, I unexpectedly found myself in an unsafe housing situation where I experienced sexual harassment. Not knowing anyone particularly well, but trusting my intuition, I reached out to folks at my school and within my recently established LBGT softball community for help. The support was sincere and immediate, and going through this stressful experience was made better by the supportive individuals who lent their help.

Now happily established in Baltimore, I have further honed my passions and interests as a future psychiatrist. I have recently become involved in two community-based organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness and/or substance use disorder. The first is Baltimore City Harm Reduction Coalition, an organization that provides individuals with substance use disorders resources, referrals, and items that reduce the negative impact of their substance use disorder. A key component of harm-reduction work is reducing the number of opioid overdoses through the distribution of the medication Narcan, which immediately reverses opioid overdose. I am grateful to continue this harm-reduction work as an extension of the similar work I did in San Diego as a medical student.

The second organization I have become involved with is the Helping Up Mission Women & Children’s Center. This faith-based organization provides comprehensive medical, mental health, and social support to women who are recovering from substance use disorders, all at little or no cost. Once fully trained as a volunteer, I will fulfill a variety of roles from serving meals to providing one-on-one mentoring and career advice.

Though busy here in Baltimore, I maintain a close connection to my San Diego community. Recently, I applied for and was selected to become a peer mentor as part of my medical school’s new Medical Student Accessible Peer Support (MAPS) program. I am so excited to be able to share my outlook on wellness and resiliency building with members of my medical school community. Additionally, during the winter break I was able to reconnect with my San Diego LGBT softball team and serve as an extra player at the Sin City Classic tournament in Las Vegas, NV. It continues to delight me just how little distance matters when you’ve found a true community that supports you, and that you support in return.

This July, I will be returning to San Diego to dive straight into psychiatry residency applications. The reality that I am less than two years away from my first career job is nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at once. Until then, I am going to continue to enjoy my business studies in Baltimore while seeking creative outlets and other endeavors that will fuel me to give back to my community, now and in the future.

Alejandro Sánchez Flores

Jeffrey D. Shorn + Charles S. Kaminski Scholarship

Donor: Charles Kaminski

Alejandro Sanchez Flores

Alejandro (he/him) is a rising Master of Public Policy candidate at Yale University. Previously, he’s fostered binational diplomatic cooperation at the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego. He promoted youth civic engagement and advocated for the legislative approval of bills protecting marriage equality, trans-affirming identity laws and a conversion therapy ban in his home state of Baja California, Mexico. He’s served on the board of an organization providing housing for queer migrants and on Tijuana’s first-ever LGBTQ+ policy advisory committee. He holds a BA in International Relations from Mexico City’s Instituto Tecnologíco Autónomo de México (ITAM), and has been a summer scholar at the London School of Economics, Sciences Po Paris and UC San Diego.

San Diego has a rich history of activists who have bravely fought for equality and representation for LGBTQ+ folks. Queer and allied San Diegans have found ways to bridge the injustices suffered by queer folks to such an extent that now key political leadership roles across the region are served by exemplary LGBTQ+ officeholders (including past PFLAG San Diego County Scholarship recipient, Mayor Todd Gloria). However, many in San Diego aren’t aware that the same liberties they fought for had long been denied to their queer siblings across the border. 

I grew up in Baja California, Mexico, at a time when same-sex marriage was constitutionally forbidden. This ban remained untouched by politicians scared for their reelection in violently-conservative Mexico, pressured by moneyed right-wing groups wielding an iron grip over Congress. In 2019, when a marriage equality bill was struck from the legislative floor as its author’s voice was drowned out by roaring hecklers convinced I don’t deserve the same rights as them, I stepped up. 

In 2020, I co-founded “LGBCT,” a digital advocacy platform where constituents could identify their representatives’ stances on marriage equality. Through curated social media calls-to-action, I mobilized our state’s youth to peacefully protest across Baja and send tens of thousands of messages urging our lawmakers to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, even garnering the support of Grammy-awarded artists, television personalities, and a former Miss Universe who produced a viral video extolling our cause. I amplified this issue across the border by securing a spot for our campaign during San Diego Pride’s 2020 virtual celebration and speaking with San Diego media on the fight for marriage equality. 

Despite the outpour of support, our bill fell short of passing on the most-watched legislative session in state history (and then again on a second attempt). Undeterred, I shifted my organization’s focus: LGBCT became Baja’s first political endorser for candidates committed to advancing queer rights, soon attracting dozens seeking our seal of approval. Eventually, Baja voted out all legislators opposed to marriage equality (disproving the fear that supporting LGBTQ+ rights would be career-ending), and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2021. 

In 2022, my organization lobbied for laws championing trans identity rights and protecting LGBTQ+ minors from baseless psychological malpractices. We crafted a digital campaign highlighting the injustices faced by Baja’s trans community having documents that didn’t accurately identify them; I proudly translated and 

secured the publication of their stories in a series of essays printed by the San Diego Union-Tribune. Our trans-affirming identity bill was signed into law after receiving the overwhelming support of nearly four fifths of the state legislature. Afterwards, our organization launched a campaign urging for sanctions against pseudo-specialists who “converted” young people away from their sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite the bill obtaining the approval of nearly 90% of our legislators, the state governor vetoed the bill. LGBCT launched a widely-publicized campaign condemning the governor’s bigotry, rallying outside the State Capitol and denouncing her actions with US media and the concerned staff members of queer and allied officeholders across San Diego. Our mounting pressure ultimately allowed for the approval of a bill similar to the original draft, which the governor eventually signed into law – perhaps begrudgingly. 

Outside Baja California’s legislature, I’ve joined forces with LGBTQ+ community leaders from both sides of the border to uplift our region’s most marginalized queer communities. In 2020, I partnered with San Diego’s 

International Community Foundation to raise over $2,000 for a burnt LGBTQ+ migrant shelter in Mexicali, Mexico; that same year I procured in-kind donations from local businesses for the shelter’s residents. As a member of the City of Tijuana’s first-ever LGBTQ+ Policy Advisory Committee, I’ve assessed the mayor’s office on equity actions to improve queer public health and economic empowerment. As a board member and Binational Affairs Director of “Casa Loto,” a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) organization supporting unhoused LGBTQ+ folks in Baja, I’ve leveraged cross-border outreach efforts towards volunteers and sponsors, aiding in fundraising efforts that have raised over $12,000 towards migrant shelters in Tijuana. 

I’ve also advanced queer inclusivity inside and outside my workplace, the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego. I’ve led LGBTQ+ diversity trainings with my frontline colleagues who interact with thousands of Mexican citizens every week. I’ve organized our Consulate’s marching and virtual contingent at four San Diego Pride rallies, ensuring the broader community knows our office is a safe space for queer identities. Amidst a worrying rise in hate crimes, I formalized an agreement between our Consulate and the San Diego Police Department’s LGBTQ+ Safe Place Program to prevent and report hate crimes against queer Mexican immigrants, regardless of their immigration status. 

My advocacy for binational solidarity towards Baja California’s LGBTQ+ community stems from the glaring inequality between San Diego and my neighboring home state. I’ve passionately employed my privilege to fight injustice and elevate the stories of Baja’s voiceless queer folks –migrants, the unsheltered, underserved people forsaken by our system— while fostering youth civic engagement and dismantling narrow-minded policies enacted by bigots who refuse to embrace our rich diversity. These uphill campaigns in a state marred by homophobic and transphobic violence, coupled with my years of experience leveraging diplomatic cooperation between California and Mexico, have evidenced my potential to uplift my community through public service, motivating me to seek public office and proudly rise as a gay leader who can deliver justice and prosperity to our region. 

A Public Policy graduate degree will equip me with the necessary tools to craft policies advancing equity in Baja California and San Diego. Upon conclusion of my graduate studies, I intend to return to the borderlands that raised me, ensuring that the resources granted to me can channel into the rest of my community. With the generous support of the PFLAG San Diego County Scholarship, I aspire to join the ranks of exemplary queer public officials in our region, building a home where future generations will grow in a safe, richly diverse environment with policies that embrace all of us.

Diana Vanessa Salazar

Jeffrey D. Shorn + Charles S. Kaminski Scholarship

Donor: Charles Kaminski

Diana Vanessa Salazar

My name is Diana Salazar(she/her). I am a graduating senior from Sage Creek High School. I plan to pursue architecture in college and then work towards obtaining my architecture license. I wish to specialize in creating educational spaces and residential areas. In this pursuit I want to help lower income, immigrant, and hispanic families, as well as my lgbtq community, since I have experienced first hand the struggles of these communities; I know the importance of creating a safe environment where people can learn and grow. In my spare time I love reading, listening to music, writing, dancing and drawing.

“I’ll be president.” Three words that left my mouth before I completely processed the idea. During lock down I thought a lot about my sexuality and, while all other thoughts were reoccurring, this one was new and scary. Starting junior year in a new school I joined a couple of clubs, one being GSA, Gender Sexuality Alliance. This one club made me feel so safe, seen, and reassured of my newfound identity.

A lot of members were seniors, and it was very important for the club to still be active for the upcoming year. Besides me there was another junior, but they had volunteered for secretary not president. I went from being a more quiet member to volunteering to be the one to run the whole club.

This club means a lot to me, and its mere existence is a symbol of acceptance. I didn’t want that symbol to disappear for incoming freshman or returning students. Today, meetings are always lively, we can relax in a safe environment, and we have conversations about situations that affect us.

I will work to expand this feeling of acceptance with planning Ally Week. Because this event is meant to draw big crowds, there is a list of people I have to work with. With every nod and yes from school officials, the LGBTQ+ community receives reassurance. From every excited remark from peers the community receives love and respect. The opportunity to even plan this event creates a sense of belonging. And so I’ll talk to the Vice Principal to use the cafeteria, to ASB to promote the event, to teachers so they can join us.

I can’t eradicate homophobia or anti-lgbtq ideas, but I can keep this safe space running and ensure we have a designated classroom where kids, wherever they find themselves on the spectrum, can be themselves.

My community is diverse, not only does it include the LGTBQ+ community, but it also includes latinx people.

Languages vary from place to place, which can lead to barriers to communication. In ordinary interactions, these barriers can cause frustration. But when people find themselves in difficult situations, that language barrier can add unnecessary stress.

Since junior year, I often volunteer at the North County Food Bank. I arrive with a bright smile, 8:30 am sharp. Walk to the back, prop on a green apron and my little badge. I help prep, and by 9:00 am, I am comfortably seated at the front desk. As people come in, they seem a bit puzzled, deciding whether or not I may speak spanish. Sometimes they’ll assume I do. And with delight they see me, when I respond in a fluent manner. Other times, however, they’ll speak with a bit of broken English, and immediately feel a sense of relief when I respond in spanish. A language they speak and understand like no other. One guest at a time I am able to help them receive the food they need for their week.

This involvement in the food bank is especially important to me, because my family is in the same situation. We also receive those types of help, and it brightens my day that others can alleviate their struggles as well. When lack of money brings dark clouds, providing a little ray of sunshine is a nice gift I can give. After I graduate, the club will be handed down to the underclassmen. I’ll be too far away to volunteer throughout the school year at the food bank. But I won’t stop supporting them.

After I graduate college, I will work hard on obtaining my license as an architect, to aspire for a high earning job. So I can keep on supporting these programs by making donations. And potentially having a bigger role than club president or volunteer. In hindsight, this support is possible to accomplish. Beyond that, given a chance, I will create programs of my own. Programs catering to low income families, and to students part of the LGTBQ+ community.

And even further beyond the horizon, one day I will build a school. In which hallways will be filled with students like me. First generation, child of immigrants, people of color, low-income, and part of the LGTBQ+ community. There is still a big disparity of access to quality education, not just within the borders of this country, but also beyond. In the case of my parents, who grew up in smaller towns in Mexico, with smaller amounts of money. They would have to travel further away from home, for each higher level of education they wanted to pursue. This issue was imprinted so heavily on my mind, that it spiraled into one of my biggest dreams. I want to give opportunities to people, allow space for them to do big things. Whether it be emotionally or in a tangible manner. With small or big actions, my support will snowball into a bigger impact. An impact that will allow rays of sunshine to come through, more often than not.

Charlie Sikchi

Sue Osborne Memorial Scholarship

Donor: Patty Christensen

Charlie Sikchi

My name is Charlie Sikchi (they/them). I am a graduating high school senior from Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, CA. Starting Fall 2023, I will be attending Occidental College in Los Angeles. I plan to major in Urban and Environmental Policy and minor in Public Health. I also hope to participate in a semester-abroad Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica, studying community health and environmental justice. As I have discussed in my essay, gender-affirming care and fluency in a second language will be central to my future public health career.

As a non-binary person of color, I have always welcomed and celebrated diversity. In two of my school communities, I have supported transgender students and created anti-racist reforms.

At my school in Washington State, most of the students were homophobic and transphobic. I knew students who were in the LGBTQ+ community, but none of them were out. The few kids who were out, or even suspected of being gay or transgender, were verbally and physically bullied. Still, I supported friends who
came out to me as transgender by researching and giving them resources, and encouraging them to talk to other LGBTQ+ students. Since we spent every day in such a hostile environment, I knew that they needed a community where they felt safe to talk and relate to peers with similar experiences.

It was challenging to seek out such peers, as my school didn’t have an LGBTQ+ student organization. Still, finding one person led to another, and I was amazed that even in a school attempting to alienate them, they still formed their own community. They told me that my support helped them tremendously, and it shaped my own experience of coming out as non-binary. I learned that I can find or create a supportive community
in any school.

My most valued community at my current school is Anti-Racist Group. I’ve listened to students from a variety of cultural backgrounds talk about their racial identities, and learned how to facilitate uncomfortable, yet necessary, conversations. The diversity of experiences and perspectives among the community’s
members has helped me think critically about racism and its widespread impacts, particularly in education.

Last year, I worked primarily on curriculum reform. A few students and I noticed that although Pacific Ridge promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, these principles aren’t always reflected in the course content. We requested teachers’ unit outlines and reviewed the sources according to the Culturally Responsive
Curriculum Scorecard published by NYU. After researching primary sources written by minority authors, we spoke directly with the teachers on emphasizing underrepresented voices in class discussions.

I am leading Anti-Racist Group this year, and we are designing a new Cold War unit in Modern World History, with a focus on Southeast Asian perspectives. With my experience, planning, and organization, we have already made a significant impact.

I plan to continue to support my community through intersectional work in healthcare advocacy. As part of the International Children’s Advocacy Network (iCAN), I contribute my experiences with LGBTQ+ equity to patient advocacy projects at two California children’s hospitals. In my community, gender-affirming care is often misunderstood and not prioritized, and I aim to change that in college and throughout my career.

Along with my cultural competency training from Rady Children’s Hospital, I am currently learning Spanish at school. Here in southern California, many people primarily speak Spanish. As a future healthcare professional, I value communicating with my patients in both Spanish and English so that I can advocate on
their behalf in a predominantly English-speaking field. Ultimately, I plan to promote larger-scale public health reforms that address intersectionality in my community.