For Paul Lenehan and Jon Warn it was never a question of if they were going to give back, it was more a question of how.
The couple shared that they’ve been discussing the best way to support LGBTQ equality for a while now. Both were actively involved in the local marriage equality campaign in Washington and are now looking for different ways to give back to the community.
“We want to grow roots here and build something that we have a connection to over time,” said Paul. “It’s really important to us that we have a local impact and are engaged in philanthropy that makes a difference close to home.”
This desire is what led Paul and Jon to establish the Lenehan-Warn Technical Education Scholarship at Pride Foundation in January. With a focus on Puget Sound area students attending an accredited technical school/program, their goal is to help LGBTQ and allied students pursue degrees in the technical field.
For Jon, this emphasis hits close to home. His family has a history in the automotive field, and his mother owned a hair salon.
“My Mom didn’t receive a four-year degree, but she was able to run her own business in her early 20s,” Jon reflected. “It was really important to us that we don’t put too many limits on the criteria of who is able to receive our scholarship. It’s about where the need is greatest, and allowing people to follow their dreams.”
“The LGBTQ community has seen great progress in the last couple of years,” Paul added. “We wanted to make sure that our scholarship was working to fulfill a need in an area that’s still underserved. And the technical field is one of those areas where we haven’t seen as much progress.”
As the cost of four-year colleges continues to rise dramatically, technical school is becoming increasingly common for students looking to further their careers. It is also widely recognized as an opportunity for students to learn the skills and training necessary to turn their passion and craft into their livelihood.
This year, a mortuary student from Tacoma received the first award from the Lenehan-Warn Technical Education Scholarship. Paul and Jon appreciated that they were able to support a student in a field they hadn’t expected—allowing the full value of their scholarship to come to fruition.
“It’s so important for people to follow their interests and passions,” Jon shared. “We don’t want there to be additional barriers standing in the way as students navigate that.”
Paul and Jon are also hoping that this scholarship will encourage additional LGBTQ students to enter the technical field—fostering more LGBTQ role models.
“Everyone is different and has their own way of pursuing their education,” Paul said. “Not everyone is going to be attending a four-year college. With this scholarship, we want to let students know that they’ll be supported in whatever way they wish to further their education.”
Their advice for future scholars is that “opportunities come in unexpected places,” and they look forward to being pleasantly surprised as students “blaze the path in exciting, new fields.”
Zachary Pullin is Pride Foundation’s Communications Manager. Email Zachary.