An Alaskan Scholar’s Story

At Pride Foundation, we often talk about the significance of our Scholarship Program in terms of its role in recognizing and supporting current and future leaders in the LGBTQ community and movement for equality. As important, for students like Richard Carter, our scholarships can also help alleviate an otherwise insurmountable financial burden.

“I grew up in a family that didn’t have that much,” says Richard, now a student at the University of Alaska-Southeast (UAS). “My brother and I literally had zero dollars saved up for college. So my entire high school career I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to graduate with any money. How am I going to go to college?’”

Richard had earned a renewable scholarship to cover part of his tuition by graduating from Palmer High School in the top ten percent of his class, but his two-year housing scholarship was set to run out at the end of his sophomore year. Richard had also worked hard to earn enough scholarship dollars to begin his pursuit of a college education and was still working hard during his summer vacations to save money, but he wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough. Then one day last fall, a counselor stopped by a meeting of the UAS Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) to share information about Pride Foundation’s Scholarship Program. Richard jumped at the opportunity and took her advice to get an early start.

Scholarship Tip #1: Start as early as possible! The January 31st deadline might seem very far away, but writing sharp essays, giving mentors time to write thoughtful recommendations, and obtaining transcripts takes time. Start now!

For Richard, writing the personal essays was the most challenging aspect of the application process. He wasn’t used to writing about himself, his achievements, or his vision for the future and the essays forced him to step back and think about where his life was going. He discovered that he had a lot to share and to be proud of.

He was an honors student and Fine Arts major who excelled in drawing and painting and aspired to be a high school art teacher and adult role model for LGBTQ youth—something that was missing from his life at Palmer High. When he became President of the UAS GSA his sophomore year, he led the previously faltering group through a year of vigorous activity. They hosted rainbow face-painting on National Coming Out Day. They tabled at the school wellness fair to promote HIV/AIDS testing and suicide awareness. They celebrated the National Day of Silence followed by Night of Noise Alaska-style (bonfire open mic). “My goal is to try to establish a club that could carry on even after I graduate, a place for people to feel safe, united, and to bring something to this campus that hasn’t been seen before,” Richard reflects.

Scholarship Tip #2: Don’t shy away from putting your best foot forward! We are looking for scholars with a history of service and involvement who are goal-oriented and passionate.

Richard’s work paid off. He was chosen to be interviewed for three of Pride Foundation’s 50 plus scholarship funds and was ultimately awarded two: the Pride Foundation Community Alaska scholarship and another for students pursuing study in the arts. “At the very end, it was so worth it. If I didn’t have some means to pay for housing, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay a full-time student. I wouldn’t graduate in four years. And honestly, I like to invest time in the GSA. The Pride Foundation scholarships have allowed me to do it.”

Final Tip: Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Pride Foundation offers over 50 scholarship funds, but students need only fill out one application. We do the rest! If you’d like to get started—or know someone who should—visit our scholarship page today.

Tiffany McClain is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Alaska. Email Tiffany.

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