After a long hiatus from volunteering and realizing that I missed the joy of community service, I decided to volunteer with the Pride Foundation as a scholarship reviewer for 2020. This realization happened during a dinner conversation over homemade lasagna and sparkling wine where I was talking to Chance Wilcox, the Alaska Regional Officer for Pride Foundation, about how much I missed volunteering. Chance explained that Pride Foundation provides scholarships to LGBTQ+ students and youth and that they engage with volunteers for the review process, asking panels of volunteers to nominate students for various scholarships based on their experiences.
As a former volunteer for a youth-focused organization in Anchorage for over ten years, it sounded like a perfect fit for me, but the most appealing part for me about Pride Foundation was their focus on racial equity and its intersectionality with LGBTQ+ equity. I have felt this way for a long time, and had never really had a genuine conversation about the topic until that dinner. I had taken a hiatus from volunteering after feeling disenfranchised by these feelings and that my voice and actions were not being seen or heard in the community, despite my desires to give back and support youth.
I felt as though this volunteering opportunity was the perfect way to re-engage myself in something that I am passionate about. The experience did not disappoint. As an ally of the community, there are still so many things I do not know, but this experience brought me back to the joy of community service and the learning process that comes with it.
Working together with amazing volunteers, I truly felt a missing puzzle piece clicked within my soul. Having three reviewers who are complete strangers, come together from three different states, with various backgrounds and various political views, provided for an amazing human experience and connection, all centered on a common goal.
This experience gave me back the ability to believe in something good and know that my actions were making an impact on someone’s life. The scholarship review provided an insight into the experiences that the applicants have had, the hardship that the community has overcome, and the value we seek in education. It is truly a humbling experience.
I believe that diversity is a key factor in community work and having community volunteers for the scholarship review process is crucial. I hope that Pride Foundation continues with their community involvement and I am proud to have been a part of it. I have already begun spreading the word about how great this volunteer opportunity has been for me and my friends are ready to apply to be volunteers for the next scholarship cycle.
I would recommend to anyone who also feels that deep, missing puzzle piece, and who wants to help support the youth of the LGBTQ+ community and promote equity for all: apply and get involved. I will definitely apply again next year for the scholarship review.
Ki Jung Lee is a 2020 Scholarship Review Volunteer in Anchorage, Alaska.