Montana Student Leaders Awarded LGBTQ Scholarships!

Seven students from Missoula, Lewis and Clark and Gallatin counties have been awarded nearly $20,000 in educational scholarships, including $11,000 in community scholarships, by the Pride Foundation, a community foundation that awards grants and scholarships in the region.

Pride Foundation will give out $400,000 in combined scholarships for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and straight ally students – the highest amount in its history. Ninety-four scholars either from or studying in the Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington, will receive the funds.

One Montana community scholarship recipient, Paul Vestal, 29, just completed his second year of law school at the University of Montana and hopes to give back to the LGBTQ community as a civil rights attorney when he graduates.

“It is quite the honor to be a Pride Foundation scholarship recipient,” Vestal said. “Not only does the award confirm my commitment to the LGBTQ community, but it shows that the community also believes in me.”

All community funding decisions are made by local volunteers from around the state.  Tom Marsh, a graphic designer who also volunteers as the planning director of the Bozeman Pride Festival Celebration.

“It’s a huge privilege to be part of raising awareness and philanthropy for Pride Foundation all around Montana — but to be able to turn around in the same year and give $11,000 to LGBTQ Scholars — is just more evidence that we’re continually getting so much in return for the measure of effort we’re extending back toward regional expansion,” Marsh said, referencing the hiring of staff in all five states last year.  “I’m not only proud of Montana’s momentum in the last two years, but honored to be part of investing it right back into the future leaders in our community.”

The Montana students who are receiving scholarships are:

Kyle Brester’s hails from Missoula, MT. He plans to continue his education at the University of Montana this fall, pursuing a Bachelor degree in either Enviormental or Biological Sciences. An out bisexual, he is currently the co-president of his high schools Gay-Straight Alliance as well as a member of the NCBI Missoula’s Youth Forward program. Kyle has received High Honors at his high school and has been selected to represent Montana at the National Youth Science Fair. Kyle received the Pride Foundation Community Scholarship.

Robert Enoch is a gay male and a doctoral student pursuing a degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Montana in Missoula. He has worked with LGBTQ individuals in both community clinics and correctional facilities. He works as an intern at the Montana State Prison, where he strives to meet the unique mental health needs of numerous incarcerated gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Robert received the Associates in Behavorial Health Scholarship.

Christopher Gehring was born and raised in Helena, and is currently pursuing a sociology degree with an emphasis on HIV prevention and treatment at the University of Montana. His goal is to bring awareness to the unique issues HIV+ individuals face in rural community. Christopher identifies as gay and is currently involved with the Gay Men’s Task Force and is one of the founding members of MpowerMT. Christopher received the Pride Foundation Community Montana Scholarship.

Ryan Smith is a gay man who is inspired by the belief that medicine can foster equity. Like many LGBTQ youth, he struggled to define himself in Missoula where non-traditional sexuality wasn’t always valued. He has since become interested in the ways culture, family, and society affect health disparities in marginalized populations. Smith lives in Seattle, he works as an HIV/STD Tester and Counselor for Seattle-King County Public Health. Ryan will continue his career as a physician and public health advocate after finishing medical school and hopes to return to Montana to practice. Ryan received the Pride Foundation Community Montana Scholarship.

Paul Vestal is a member of the Class of 2013 at the University of Montana School of Law. He is Co-President of OUTlaws, the Law School’s GLBTQ and allies student group. He identifies as gay and enjoys spending time outside in the beautiful Montana landscape with all of his friends. Paul received the Pride Foundation Community Montana Scholarship.

James Warwood was born and raised in Bozeman and is currently pursuing creative writing at the University of Montana. Growing up as transgender man in Montana has given him a desire to reach out to other transgender individuals – particularly youth – who find themselves isolated in rural communities. He plans to continue his work with Montana Transgender Day of Recognition (MontanaTDOR), an organization that provides resources and support to transgender individuals across the state. James received the Pride Foundation Community Montana Scholarship.

Mari Wolverton spent the first 12 years of her life in Portland, but she moved to Missoula, six years ago and considers both places to be her hometowns. Being a lesbian gave Mari the opportunity to make a difference in the LGBTQ community and better her own life and the lives of those around me. That is why she started her school’s first successful Gay-Straight Alliance. Now that she is moving on to college, she has decided that her passion for LGBTQ advocacy is more than a than a hobby, she wants to make it her career. Next year she plan to move back to Portland and attend Portland State University, purusing a Bachelor’s degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality. Mari received the Pride Foundation Community Montana Scholarship.

Read more about all our 2012 Scholars.

For questions regarding Pride Foundation’s grants and scholarships in Montana, contact Caitlin Copple, regional development organizer, at 406-546-7017  or

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