One thing all Pride Foundation scholarship committee volunteers can agree on is how truly moved and inspired they are by the stories they read in the applications and the people they have the privilege of talking to during the interviews—future leaders of the LGBTQ community who will contribute to our collective work to create equality for all.
“Every person has a story, and it is amazing and humbling to hear from people and the challenges they face,” said Johannah Williams of Idaho Falls. “The resilience of the human spirit is profound, and the drive that some people have to improve our world, even if it is one person at a time, reminds me that we are all in this together. Together we are strong!”
Williams was one of 8 scholarship volunteers this year who took part in the application review process in Idaho, culminating in a day of interviews on April 20 at The Community Center in Boise. Williams and her partner, Shannon Havins, participated via Skype from Idaho Falls.
“Being able to come together as a group, even over Skype, was really great, because it helped us feel a little more connected to the rest of our group and discuss the merits of each applicant,” Havins said. “Being able to give back to the community in which we live and to be a part of our changing horizons as far as equality goes is an exciting process and makes me feel good. It’s that simple.”
Lora Volkert of Boise was pleased to see that many of the applicants were already working to help the LGBTQ community—from working to prevent the spread of HIV and calling voters to ask them to vote for marriage equality to providing resources to victims of abuse.
“I enjoyed reading and hearing the personal stories of these incredible students, the challenges they have faced and the dreams they aspire to,” Volkert said. “Some made me cry. Some restored my faith in humanity. Every single one was inspiring.”
“I just hope to see these scholars succeed and get to where they want to go in life,” said Alex Irwin of Moscow, a first-time scholarship committee volunteer this year. “I would definitely volunteer and do this again. Everything about the process and just doing it was great, and I wouldn’t want to trade it for the world!”
Kaci Campbell of Boise agreed, adding that she hopes this year’s scholars will go on to achieve their educational goals and then give back to their local and national communities.
“I loved listening to the applicants’ journeys, and how they have stuck with their dreams, regardless of the hardships they have endured. It makes me feel energized to keep trying for my dreams,” Campbell said. “Until I started volunteering for Pride Foundation, I didn’t have a clue as to how much we needed this organization.”
Rick Ramos of Boise, another first-time volunteer this year, said he enjoyed seeing the diversity of applicants, both in age and background.
“I was most impressed with the folks continuing their education at a later age,” he said, “which shows that, as George Eliot said, ‘it is never too late to be what you might have been.’”
Boisean Therese Hooft said her initial response while reading through the applications was thinking that “we need to hurry up and get them out of school so they can move on to bigger and better things in order to make a difference.”
“In reality, though, these applicants are already involved,” she said. “They are already going above and beyond their academic requirements, holding jobs during college, being parents, starting human rights groups at their schools, etc. These applicants are movers and shakers in their communities, and are reminders to all that it takes passion, work, dedication, and determination to create change and awareness.”
“I’m always impacted by the stories,” said Emilie Jackson-Edney, a Pride Foundation board member and longtime Idaho scholarship volunteer. “I come away thinking that no matter how hard I believe my journey of discovery was, there are those out there who are struggling under significantly worse conditions than I did, and are successfully overcoming the challenges largely due to Pride Foundation’s confidence in their leadership and abilities. I hope these students will be the dynamic leaders that will facilitate the change necessary to ensure equal opportunity to all LGBTQ people, and propagate Pride Foundation’s mission.”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.