Point BIPOC Scholarship for LGBTQ Students Program

Point Foundation is proud to announce its new BIPOC scholarship initiative.

Generations of racism and an education system born from discriminatory policies have made clear that BIPOC students face greater obstacles to educational achievement. When these challenges are combined with those faced by students who also identify as LGBTQ, the impediments can make a higher education degree seem impossible.

Point aims to mitigate these issues by providing financial support, community resources, and professional development.

APPLICATION CLOSED

WHO SHOULD APPLY?
  • Members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who identify as LGBTQ
  • Students must be enrolled or intending to enroll at an accredited community college, four-year college/university, or graduate program based in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, in the spring, summer or fall of 2021 who are also:
    • Maintaining a full-time or part-time course load
    • Demonstration a proven commitment to furthering their education
HOW POINT WILL SUPPORT
  • Funding for tuition and other education-related expenses
  • Access to Point’s Expert Coaching Panel
  • Invitations to virtual leadership events and panel discussions
  • Introduction to the Point Foundation network of LGBTQ scholars, more than 300 alumni, and many others dedicated to seeing LGBTQ students succeed
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY TO THE POINT BIPOC PROGRAM?

Point Foundation requires the following for applications to be considered:

  • This scholarship is intended for members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who identify as LGBTQ
  • Must be enrolled or intending to enroll at an accredited community college, four-year college/university, or graduate program based in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, in the fall of 2021 or winter of 2022. Students enrolled or intending to enroll in a college or university in a United States territory are NOT eligible.
  • Must be enrolled in a degree-granting undergraduate or graduate/doctoral program. Post-doctoral research programs are not eligible.
  • Must be “out” as a person who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.
  • Must be maintaining a full-time or part-time course load for the full academic year.

We consider many factors when evaluating scholarship applicants, including:

  • Financial need or independence
  • Personal history
  • Academic achievement
  • Community involvement and work experience

All questions and concerns regarding the Point Foundation BIPOC Scholarship can be addressed to applications@pointfoundation.org.

Applicant Submission Deadlines

Monday, April 15:
Point BIPOC Scholarship Application opens.

Monday, May 17:
Point BIPOC Scholarship Application closes at 8:00 am PST/11:00 a.m. EST.

Mid-May: 
Semifinalist’s notified and videos due mid-May.

-+Will I need to submit any supplemental materials?

Semifinalist’s will receive an email detailing the requirements for the video.


End of May: 
Phone Interviews for selected Finalists

June:
Scholarship recipients will be notified.

CREATED THROUGH COLLABORATION

This scholarship initiative was created with the expertise of several key stakeholders. In addition to the advisors above, Point wishes to thank the following people for their thoughtful input and collaboration.

John Venegas Juarez

Princeton University
Public Policy
He/Him/His

John Venegas Juarez was born and raised in Pasadena, Texas, a predominantly Hispanic city in the Greater Houston area. Being the son of Mexican immigrants, he has always been motivated to do the right thing by his parents’ sacrifices and take advantage of every opportunity available to him. However, as he learned more about his identity as a gay Latinx man, he realized that there was not much representation of Hispanic and LGBTQ+ leaders. He wondered, how was he supposed to thrive in a country where leadership opportunities did not seem to exist for people with his identity? He decided to become the representation he wanted to see in the world. During his time at Yes Prep Southeast, John took up leadership positions in the school’s dance and ambassador programs, striving to represent his school and make it a more inclusive and artistic place. From 2019 to 2021, he worked with the National Hispanic Institute to educate the next generation of Latinx leaders as a Head Coach. John leads by example and he will continue to empower those around him wherever he goes. In the fall of 2021, he will begin studying at Princeton University, where he plans to major in Public Policy. After Princeton, John intends to go to law school with dreams of eventually becoming a public servant and representing his respective communities.

Nahum Yanez

Highline College
Web Development
He/Him/His

Nahum Yanez was born in Mexico to a family with ten siblings. Since childhood, he faced bulling, discrimination, and rejection due to his sexual orientation. He was thrown out of the house, which only magnified his fear and insecurity. Due to this and lack of opportunity, Nahum immigrated to the US in search of a better life at the age of 19. His struggles escalated because he did not have a social security number, which resulted in poorly paid jobs and homelessness. He continued his education at Seattle Central College and completed an ESL program, GED, and an associate degree in Global Studies. To show his commitment to the LGBT community and people of color, he volunteered for the Multicultural Services Office, led the Latino student group, became a math tutor, joined the Black Laves Matter movement, volunteered for the University District Food Bank, the Casa Latina, and for the LGBT Movida Organization. Given the need to increase diversity in STEM, Nahum is pursuing an associate degree in Web Development at Highline College. He aims to empower others and become a tutor for programming in HTML, Phyton, Java Script. He has joined the LGBTQIA group at Highline College to promote inclusion and provide English tutoring to immigrants. After completing his Web Development degree, Nahum dreams of working for Microsoft while advocating for and supporting the LGBT community and people of color.

Andrea Volcan

University of North Carolina
Sociology & Political Science
She/Her/Hers

Andrea was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to Pembroke Pines, Florida, when she was two years old. Growing up as an immigrant in a culture-rich community of worldwide ethnicities sparked Andrea’s interest in her Hispanic and Lebanese heritage. She has been proud of her identity from a young age. Andrea was very reserved during her middle and high school years because she felt she was different in some way, but she could not discern the reason for this emotion. One day, Andrea had a realization: she liked women and had liked them for a very long time. The tightness in her chest and the feeling of not fitting in began to dissolve as Andrea accepted her sexuality. She has since revealed her identity to close friends and family and shares her experience with other LGBTQIA+ folks to help them come to terms with their sexual orientation. Andrea freely expresses her sexuality and provides support as a Student Ambassador at the UNC-Chapel Hill LGBTQIA+ Center. She found her calling in the field of public health and has conducted research for LGBTQIA+ and HIV-related projects at the UNC School of Medicine. Andrea integrates her identities as a lesbian, Latina, and immigrant in every aspect of her life and this has motivated her to effect the change she wants to see through social work, research, and activism. After UNC, Andrea plans to continue her education at the Gillings School of Public Health to study Epidemiology and pursue a career in research.

Taylor Vassar

University of California, Los Angeles
Statistics
She/Her/Hers

Taylor is native to San Diego and currently a student at UCLA. She has a love for racial and social justice, braiding hair, going on long drives, playing piano, competitive running, roller skating, studying personality types and talking about mental health. Growing up, she gradually became more aware of the harsh realities of the black experience and became president of her high school’s Black Student Union in order to spread awareness about different aspects of black culture, allying with the black community, and racial issues. Once college came along, she used her intersectional identities of being queer, black, and a woman in order to advocate for others in the queer community through UCLA’S LGBTQ+ Center. Through an internship at the center, she helps facilitate the annual QTBIPOC Experiences research study, in which queer and transgender students of color are interviewed about their experience at UCLA regarding student resources and improvements to be made. She also created the grassroots organization Clothing 4 Black Lives, in which she sells donated clothes and gives the money to black-owned organizations and communities of color in need. When she is not fighting for equality, Taylor may be found at UCLA’s Drake Stadium, running workouts with her teammates, or editing a creative video for the club track Instagram page. In the future, she hopes to become a statistician or data analyst for research studies or causes that benefit marginalized communities.

Sabrina Van Zuiden

Columbia University
Social Work
She/Her/Hers

Sabrina is a queer, second generation Filipina-American who was born and raised in the south bay of San Diego, California. Her involvement in community work began in 2014 through local anti-human trafficking efforts. Sabrina went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gained further experience in human trafficking and sexual violence prevention education, restorative practices facilitation, and trauma-informed service provision. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2018 with a B.A. in both Social Welfare and Sociology and a minor in Spanish Linguistics. Since 2019, Sabrina has continued to develop her skills as a Prevention and Community Engagement Specialist with a local sexual and relationship violence survivor support center. She has thoroughly enjoyed organizing with her community as a planning member of the #MeTooLGBTQ Conference on the San Diego LGBTQIA+ Survivor Taskforce and as the 2020-2021 Teen Dating Violence Committee Co-Chair on the San Diego Domestic Violence Council. Sabrina looks forward to continuing to learn how to best support her communities using an anti-oppression framework as she begins a Master of Social Work program in the fall of 2021 at Columbia University in New York.

 

Ash Swain

Des Moines Area Community College
Graphic Design
They/Them/Theirs

Ashley grew up in the capital city of Hartford in Connecticut as an only child surrounded by their aunt, uncles, grandmother, and mother. Being raised in the Baptist Christian family and coming out as trans, non-binary, and gay, caused friction between their family and them, which resulted in them becoming disowned. However, this did nothing to deter pursuing their hopes and dreams. They attend Des Moines Area Community College for graphic design. In their leisure time, they read and stream games on Twitch to viewers on the platform. Their plans for the future include getting a bachelors in Graphic Design, going to graduate school afterwards to become a professor of the graphic arts, and run an inclusive studio for up and coming graphic artists to utilize.

Leeanna Sueno

College of Southern Nevada
Applied Psychology: Mental Health Services
She/They

LeeAnna Sueno was born into a conservative Christian half Filipino half white family in Las Vegas, Nevada, and she struggled with both her gender and sexuality at a young age. At the age of eighteen LeeAnna came out as a gender non-conforming bisexual. The struggles with identity LeeAnna faced as a child led her to pursue her major of Psychology with a focus in mental health services at the College of Southern Nevada. LeeAnna aims to provide mental help for marginalized groups and promote more neurodivergent people being in the field of Psychology. She hopes to touch as many hearts as she can and wants to be a positive influence on those around her.

Vincentt Stevenson

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Undecided
He/Him/His

Vincentt, a recent graduate of Marriotts Ridge High School, grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland. Born female, Vincentt has always felt a disconnect between his biological assignment and his true identity. However, it was not until he was about ten years old that he found his voice and the strength to express this feeling to his family, and with their unconditional support, he eventually was able to come out to his friends and teachers at school. Despite the many social challenges that he faced once he began transitioning, he eventually found his voice and the confidence to forge ahead and even learned to step outside of his comfort zone. In doing so, he found opportunities to engage with his local and school community, volunteering with non-profit organizations and participating in other activities that deepened his purpose. Vincentt has committed his time to a number of community service activities, including volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, serving as a Teen Court volunteer, and spending summers as a Junior Camp Counselor for a local youth program. In addition to his community service activities, he was the president of his school’s Dungeons and Dragons club and an active member of the Gay-Straight Alliance and Rainbow Youth Alliance. Vincentt will be attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Although he has not decided on his major, he is interested in history and marine science. Eventually, he wants to be in a position to help people like himself reach their full potential.

Thia Starkey

Heartland Community College
Nursing
She/He/They

Cynthia grew up in a small town that lacked diversity in Central Illinois. As one of very few people of color there, she was also the first openly out lesbian. She overcame the challenges that came with being different in a small country town. In high school she helped others with their acceptance of their own sexuality. After graduating from high school she attended Heartland Community College where she was on the Dean’s List several semesters and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She also did her best to help people in moments of crisis by working in an emergency department. She is currently working toward a nursing degree to help people with emergencies.

Warren Small

Howard University
Political Science
He/Him/They

Warren Small is from the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. Growing up, he knew he’d be accepted for being gay but never felt comfortable coming out. Given of his stable support system, he made it his life goal to help others who lacked support. In collaboration with the Alive Center, his local teen center, he started Alive with P.R.I.D.E. (Providing Resources for Identity and Diversity Experiences), a Summer Camp and Drop-in Program for LGBTQ middle school students. He worked throughout the summer and school year with LGBTQ youth and led them through topics such as internalized homophobia, mental illness, bullying, and family/social acceptance. This program inspired Warren to become much more involved in politics to change the landscape for LGBTQ youth on a national level. Warren will attend at Howard University in Washington DC as a Political Science major.

Xoë Sazzle

Columbia University
Women’s and Gender Studies
She/Her/Hers

Xoë Sazzle is an artist, activist, communicator, digital dreamer, contemporary collaborator, and a Caribbean queen. Her activism for the past seven years in Trinidad has included performing as drag queen Mizz Jinnay and creating safe spaces for queer people. She also creates contemporary queer Caribbean culture and ensures continued representation of the LGBT+ community across all spheres of new media. Through her artistry with Mizz Jinnay, she created queer musical anthems that have spread far and wide across Trinidad and the Caribbean diaspora. The respect and admiration amongst the local community enabled her to make the transition into more formal roles of activism. She currently serves as co-chair of PrideTT, an organization that galvanized the first public Pride parade in 2018. She also serves as the Community Liaison Officer for the Trinidad and Tobago Transgender Coalition. Xoë plans on leveraging her ivy league education while bolstering her community resources to further the work that has begun. Legislation is needed for gender markers, thereby enabling our trans population to integrate smoothly into society and gain more equitable access to employment, healthcare and social services. Her future is also riddled with fun for the trans community, with more liberated spaces, liberated minds, and safe bodies, living authentically in their own homeland.

Ra Ra Rollins

NYU Steinhardt
Mental Health & Wellness
He/Him/His

Ra Ra grew up in rural Frederick, Maryland, where confederate flags are still on display to this day. His Christian upbringing clashed early on with his same-sex attractions and artistic interests. He utilizes his unfortunate past and ongoing experiences navigating racism and homophobia as a catalyst in his pursuant work as a mental health counselor. In the summer of 2020, Ra Ra noticed an uptick in his friends and family asking to chat in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. He, too, wanted to talk about the racial issues he had been experiencing his whole life but could not find a Black, queer male therapist to engage in this discourse. Ra Ra is the only Black man out of 100 in his full-time residential ’22 cohort at NYU Steinhardt. He is studying Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness with a Post-Master’s Advanced Certificate in LGBT Health, Education, and Social Services. His focus is on the mental health disparities surrounding communities of color and specifically queer men of color. He is based in New York City and is interested in normalizing conversations about sex, consensual non-monogamy, and queer, and same-sex oriented. He’s passionate about what these terms mean tangentially to the cultural constructs of monogamy, race, and masculinity. Ra Ra graduated with a BA in the psychology of race, gender, and sexuality from CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies (CUNY BA) in ‘17 and an AAS from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in ‘07, where he studied menswear design.

Sydney Rogers

Simmons University
Social Work
They/She

Sydney has been in the entertainment and activist field for over two decades and identifies as a Black non-op non binary trans femme, bringing more visibility and healing to the TGI community through artivism. They are the Training & Education Manager at Trans Can Work, Director of the TG/Enby Project, board member of Gender Justice Los Angeles, board member of Being Alive Los Angeles, board member of the Los Angeles District Attorney Crime Victims Advisory Board. She strongly believes in being trauma informed and advocates for healing and empowerment for all, particularly with the BIPOC TGI communities. They have sat on and moderated many panels and discussions organizations such as Equality California, Trauma Informed LA, Trans Lounge, Everybody Gym, TG/Enby Project, GROOV3, Navel LA, The Wall Las Memorias and Trans Pride 2016-2020. They are currently in grad school earning their Masters in Social Work. They just closed the stage play MARCH, a collaborative garage political theatre piece with the LA LGBT Theatre, was one of the exclusive acts for the Victory Fund 2020 Fundraiser, was the keynote speaker for the El Camino College 2020 Pride Festival, just appeared in Tammie Brown’s Holiday Sparkle on Amazon, is doing a series of discussions focusing on Health, Racism and Wellness with Navel LA and recently did voice over work of Lady and the Vale on HBO. She is a cohort of the 2021 Equality California’s Leadership Academy and is thinking of running for appointed and elected positions after grad school or pursuing their doctorate.

Raelynn Requena

University of California, Davis
Psychology & African American Studies
She/Her/Hers

Raelynn is a Psychology and African American Studies double major, who graduated from community college in the spring and will attend UC Davis in the fall of 2021. As a gay, Black woman, Raelynn has experienced her fair share of racism, homophobia, and sexism. In high school, she used to feel alone and out of place because she was one of few “out” students in her class. People she considered friends were less than supportive and ended up adding to her already awful experience. Once Raelynn began attending Cypress Community College, and separated herself from that negative energy, she found individuals with identities and struggles similar to her own. She joined the Queer-Straight Alliance club and became a social media officer. Raelynn also attended events like Models of Pride and received the Point Community College Scholarship for the 2020-21 school year. She discovered her passion for both Psychology and African American Studies and plans to use them to further her activism. Raelynn intends to become a therapist who works primarily in communities of color and hopes to tear down the negative stigma surrounding mental health.

Kameisha Reid

Keuka College
Psychology
She/Her/Hers

Kameisha was born in St. Andrews, Jamaica. One of her most prominent childhood experiences was attending church every Sunday with her family. Her great grandmother was blind, and she would read Bible verses to her on the veranda. This inspired her love of reading and spirituality that has provided her strength throughout her hardships. At the age of eight years old she moved to America to live with her mother, where she then struggled with identifying not only as bisexual, but also being black. In high school, she participated in the Day of Silence annually where for one day no communication is held with others, in an effort to shift the school culture at Uncommon Charter High School. It highlights the experience of the LGBTQIA+ community where members are unable to be their true selves for fear of retaliation and being mocked and amplifies the message that it is okay to be who you are. Kameisha will attend Keuka College as a Psychology Major and Pre-Law Minor. Keuka is a predominantly white institution, so she plans to start a Diversity Equity and Inclusion club to promote people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and groups who are marginalized.

Israel Ramirez Jurado

Harvard University
Public Health Nutrition
He/Him/They

Israel is a proud first-generation gay Latinx Public Health and Social Justice advocate. He is working to help remove the barriers that block marginalized communities from achieving their fullest health potential. Israel completed his bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science-Dietetics from the University of California Berkeley in May 2019. As an undergraduate student, Israel worked in various roles relating to improving health outcomes, research, and nutrition security for marginalized communities at Berkeley Food Pantries, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, UCSF Children’s Hospital of Oakland, and UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. In July 2020, he completed his year-long clinical nutrition-focused dietetic internship at UCSF Medical Center, completing Adult and Pediatric Nutrition rotations. During that time, he led and developed educational material for staff on improving LGBTQ+ experiences in the clinical setting, part of an effort to help end health discrimination and inequities for the LGBTQ+ community. Since graduating, Israel has played a prominent role in improving overall health outcomes for marginalized communities at Petaluma Health Center. Beginning this Fall 2021, Israel will start his Master of Public Health Nutrition program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. After obtaining his Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential, he plans to return to his hometown to advocate for healthcare policies that support, heal, and not hurt underrepresented communities that include LGBTQ+ and Latinx people.

Adrian Polk

Spelman College
English & Pre-Law
She/Her/They

Adrian Polk is a determined Black bisexual native of Detroit, Michigan attending Spelman College. She is currently an English major on a pre-law track with minors in Music and Economics. Shortly after coming to Spelman, Adrian experienced homelessness. This gave her the courage to pursue advocacy and law, with the goal of healing others who are low-income, poverty stricken, BIPOC, or facing discrimination in entertainment. This summer she will study for the LSAT and work for Adobe as a Digital Media Legal Intern. In the past, she has held fellowships with the Me Too Movement, and worked for BYP 100. Adrian is a musician and classically trained opera singer. She loves to practice languages, sing and play piano in her spare time. Adrian has dreams of traveling to practice her French, becoming an entertainment attorney, and singing on the biggest stages in the world.

Robert Pacheco

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College
Science
He/Him/His

Roberto Pacheco studies Science at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College. He is Ojibwe and Mexican and identifies as gay. Roberto grew up in Henderson, Nevada and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He enjoys learning about animals and nature. Roberto has always had a deep love for birds. His favorite past time is attending punk, goth, metal, and hard rock concerts. He enjoys being a misfit and going against the status quo. His diverse background has given him a deeply empathetic personality. He wants to inspire other outcasts and the less fortunate. Roberto studies hard to show other people that are different that they can achieve their dreams and improve the world in their own unique way.

TJ Olojede

Harvard University
Business Administration
He/Him/His

TJ was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, where being gay is a crime. After years of attending a Catholic boarding school with religion front and center, he grappled with his identity and sense of self. At the age of 15, he immigrated to the US for college. The progress of LGBTQ+ rights in the US, meant he could be more open and find self-love and acceptance. As a black gay man in tech, TJ works to engender representation of other queer BIPOC. He does this through involvement in the LGBTQ+ professional communities at Facebook and Microsoft. In helping recruit diverse talent, he speaks at Facebook Diversity Connections events, sharing his experiences working in tech and interviewing potential candidates. He also serves as a Facebook Ambassador to mentor potential recruits and prep them for interviewing. In addition, he’s a part of the diversity and inclusion taskforce internally at Facebook, which helps plan community events like the Facebook Family Hackathon, encouraging children from low-income communities to explore careers in STEM. His experiences as an African and a member of the LGBTQ+ community have informed his career choices. As a data scientist and researcher, he tries to focus on distributing resources equitably to typically marginalized groups. Post Harvard MBA, he’s looking to continue in the same vein by democratizing data science skills and resources to small businesses in developing countries.

Alejandro Mejia-Tejada

Clemson University
Secondary Education & Mathematical Sciences
He/Him/His

Growing up in Colombia, Alejandro encountered homophobia as expressions of “faith”. After coming to the United States, Alejandro learned English and adapted quickly to his new environment. He became aware of his gay identity and came out in 2017. Once he enrolled at Clemson, he quickly joined Clemson’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (C-SAGA), and its leadership team, initially taking on the role of Internal Relations Director. As other executive board members graduated, he became Vice President, and eventually President, of C-SAGA. He is a mentor for Clemson Rainbow Fellowship, a member of the Clemson LGBTQIA+ Engagement Committee, and has served on committees that plan programs for National Coming Out Week and Pride Month. Alejandro has also held leadership roles in organizations such as Central Spirit, Student Government and the Clemson Orientation program. He volunteers at high schools through the Hispanic Alliance of Greenville, encouraging Latinx and BIPOC students to pursue post-secondary education. Alejandro is majoring in Secondary Education and Mathematical Sciences, and plans to attend Clemson’s Teacher Residency program to complete his Master’s. He will teach high school math before completing his education to work at the university level. He hopes to show students of Latinx and/or LGBTQ+ identities that they can succeed in challenging career paths. He will promote inclusion and advocacy through curricular and extracurricular activities in school spaces.

Aniel Martinez

Florida International University
Architecture
He/Him/His

Aniel was born in Cuba in 1996. He realized he was different when verbal and physical abuse increased as he grew up, but especially when he was a victim of sexual harassment at the age of 14. After finishing high school and mandatory military service, he moved to Havana to begin his career in Architecture, while still dealing with trauma. In a much more inclusive environment, Aniel finally managed to accept and love himself as a gay man and represent the LGBTQ + community. He participates in activism to demand the marriage equality as well as the visualization and protection of his community. In the capital, he worked as a professor assistant at the School of Architecture in Havana, creating a support network for LGBTQ+ students and other minority groups. At the age of 20, he paused his career to migrate with his father and brother to the United States and reunite with his mother. As a college student, he continues advocating for human rights by supporting organizations such as Fridays for Future, and Black Lives Matter. He is currently transferring to Florida International University with a 3.97 GPA and professional experience in the Interior Design business. Once graduated, he plans to work as an openly proud gay independent architect to promote concepts of sustainability, affordability, and inclusivity through constructive practices and urban planning.

Danie Marshall

Georgia State University
Educational Policy Studies
She/Her/They

Danie Marshall is a product of one of Atlanta’s many housing projects. As a child, she fell in love with school to escape excessive violence in her community. Her academic persistence allowed her the opportunity to attend Louisiana State University in 2006. As a college student, Danie was highly active in several campus clubs and politics. During this time, she began to struggle with her identity and noticed a lack of support for LGBTQ students. Her faith and belief in community motivated her to form a support group on campus to assist other students who felt isolated because of their identity. Danie strongly believes that we must be the change we want to see, and after graduating, she spent several years working with organizations across Atlanta, educating and consequently empowering youths. In 2015 she returned to school to pursue a Master’s in Education from Georgia State University. Disheartened by discriminatory policies and practices in education for teachers and students alike, in 2019, Marshall returned to school to pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies. Her research, art, and activism center on the experiences of Black women teachers and students in public education. She is dedicated to understanding and influencing how we prepare teachers to work with students of color and LGBTQ youth. Her mission is to advocate for students who have found themselves on the margins because of their race, sexuality, class, abilities, or gender. Marshall is entering her fourth year at Georgia State and is working on her prospectus.

Shaktii Mann

The City University of New York
Political Science
She/Her/Sis

Shaktii Mann is a gender non-conforming trans woman activist from Queens, New York—a place where one in every two people is an immigrant, and more languages are spoken than anywhere else in the world. She’s an undergraduate student at The City University of New York: Brooklyn College, where she is majoring in political science. For Shaktii, community organizing is her love letter to the place she came from. She has organized queer and trans youth of color to combat discriminatory policing and gentrification, worked in transnational solidarity movements to end gender-based and caste-based violence, and supported campaigns centered around prison reform and divestment. She has been invited internationally to speak on lessons from political organizing and on setting an agenda for trans liberation. Shaktii currently serves as the Director of Organizing at YA-YA Network, where she develops young leaders as pragmatic changemakers for social, political, and economic justice. Too often, communities do not have a meaningful seat at the decision-making table where Policies that affect them are made. Through her studies, Shaktii hopes to deepen her knowledge and skills concerning policy analysis and advocacy in order to make interventions in this paradigm.

Christian Lizaso

University of California, Berkeley
Molecular and Cell Biology
He/Him/His

Christian grew up in Oxnard, California, and will attend the University of California, Berkeley in the Fall of 2021, majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology. As a proud gay Filipino-American, his intersectional identities have produced an understanding, compassionate, and open mindset motivated to serve and uplift others. Inspired by his father’s paranoid schizophrenia, he aspires to create an organization for individuals directly affected by mental health disorders, as well as providing aid for their support systems. By supplementing this organization with mentors, resources, and funding, he aims to further educate and decrease the stigma related to mental illness, as well as create a supportive community for others. Furthermore, Christian plans to have a career in the medical field, with the objective is to contribute to the larger field of scientific discovery. His goal is to pioneer new advancements in treatment and go into research to further the understanding of mental health disorders.

Quyen La

University of Houston
Hotel and Restaurant Management
She/Her/Hers

Quyen La is an Asian queer, first-generation student at the University of Houston. As an only child in a low-income and single mother household, she faced difficulties with her overlapping identities. Her personal experiences regarding racism, sexism, and homophobia have shaped her views and strong drive for social justice. Since she was young, she always had a love for art and learning. In high school (2016-2020), she held a variety of roles such as Photo Society President as well as a Head Photographer and Writer for Yearbook, where she covered a variety of sports and organizations including GSA. In addition, she is an outspoken advocate for issues such as Racial Equality, Intersectional Feminism, LGBT+ Rights, Mental Health Awareness, and more. Quyen also has multiple honors, awards, and roles under her belt. She is a 5x 2019 and 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recipient; a 2x and counting scholarship recipient; the 2021-2022 Events Manager for Gourmet Night; and the founder of Giup Organization, an online platform based on the social media platform, Instagram, that aims to help students (high school and up) access and learn more about mental health awareness, resources, treatments, and more. She hopes to become a Multicultural Wedding Planner and serve as representation for queer, female people of color with her multi-faced endeavors. Outside the classroom and social activism, Quyen is a social media creator and freelance model. Her hobbies include writing, photography, singing, and hanging out with her friends.

Christopher Johnson

Cincinnati State Technical & Community College
Political Science
He/Him/his

Christopher grew up in a conservative, religious, and outwardly homophobic family, which caused him to develop a multitude of insecurities and internal struggles about his sexuality. When he was 17 years old, his whole world was turned upside down when his father also came out as gay. This further complicated Christopher’s feelings and angered him as he watched his father become a happy and thriving openly gay individual. His father had broken free from the chains of shame and religious guilt, but Christopher had inherited it. Over time, Christopher and his father embraced acceptance, acknowledgment, and forgiveness, allowing them to form a strong bond. Now Christopher values the privilege of being a black gay man who also has a black gay father, and this dynamic has given him a unique perspective on his place in the LGBTQIA+ community. Christopher is pursuing an Associate of Arts degree at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. After graduating from Cincinnati State, he intends to transfer to a four-year university to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in African American studies. In addition to attending Cincinnati State full-time, Christopher works full-time in the accounting department of Republic Services, a waste management company. Christopher is the President of the Black Male Initiative, a club focused on increasing the retention rates of African American males attending Cincinnati State. Christopher is also interning as a Policy Aide on a local City Council election campaign.

Naomi Jacquez

Metropolitan State University of Denver
Biology
She/Her/Hers

Naomi grew up in series of small towns between New Mexico and southern Colorado with neither culture nor optimism. After having moved around often, she developed an ability to relate to just about anyone and understand their struggles. Coming from an environment of toxic mental, physical, and emotional behaviors/actions, she knew right from wrong and stood by what she thought was right no matter what. As she got older, she was bothered and confused by how others judged one another, places, animals, cultures, and experiences, based on assumptions. High school and college opened her eyes to the possibility of creating positive change for the world in a way she felt most passionate about. In her second year of junior college, she participated in the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative, presenting a gene analysis project for flies. The experience helped her realize she wanted to make a difference in the world through large exotic animals. The idea inspired her to create a sustainable and growing environment for animals who could not make a change themselves. She states” Humans will always have resources and a choice to find and use them, animals don’t and it’s up to our species to protect theirs.” Thus, she started her journey to become a wildlife field researcher beginning at Metropolitan State University (MSU) Denver. She plans to replenish the land and fight for the rights animals should always have and maintain them in the future.

Charlayne Hurlington

CUNY Queensborough
Liberal Arts and Science
She/Her/Hers

Charlayne was born and raised in an urban inner-city neighborhood in The Bronx, NY with her two older brothers in a single-parent household. Throughout her childhood, Charlayne attended public schools and then later transitioned into Catholic/Charter schools due to severe bullying. She always knew she was different, and her peers and educators could sense it as well. Being raised in a Jamaican household with a very strict culture that has anti-LGBTQIA+ embedded in its DNA caused Charlayne to suppress her identity due to fear of rejection and alienation from her family. It was not until 2011 when one of her brothers came out that she herself felt encouraged to come out herself as bisexual. Charlayne now attends CUNY Queensborough and is Vice President of Part-Time Students. She strives to use her platform to encourage students and others from Caribbean backgrounds to live and speak their truths about their identity and not in fear due to archaic cultural norms. She desires to dismantle the status quo in the Caribbean diaspora and create new programs to further support people from the LGBTQIA+ community who seek asylum in other countries due to persecution for their gender and sexual identities. Charlayne aspires to become a sustainable goods small business owner, who donates a percentage of her profits per purchase to an LGBTQIA+ organization that helps disadvantaged and troubled youth both locally and globally. Charlayne plans to pursue a degree in Digital & Social Media Marketing.

Nicholas Hastings

Duke University
Medicine
He/Him/His

Nicholas grew up in the small town of Shelby, North Carolina, where a conservative, evangelical community inundated him with harmful views of queer people. He spent much of his childhood playing sports and navigating this world’s toxic masculinity and heterosexism. This only pushed him deeper into the closet, despite knowing he was gay since middle school. Coming out to his mom as a senior in high school, and receiving a warm, supportive response, began the process of finding joy and pride in his queerness. Nicholas completed his undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a Summer Public Health Scholar at Columbia University, he interned with a Brooklyn based nonprofit and conducted focus-group sessions, comprised of parents of LGBTQ+ youth, discussing the correlation between familial acceptance of queer identity and positive health outcomes for queer young people. Qualitative data from this work was used for his senior capstone project, “Family Rejection of Sexuality and HIV in Young Black Gay and Bisexual Men.” During his graduate studies at Duke University, he further explored LGBTQ+ health while shadowing in the Duke Child and Adolescent Gender Care Clinic. His experiences in this clinic illustrated the life-saving effects of gender-affirming care for transgender and gender expansive youth, inspiring his graduate research on health disparities plaguing trans youth. Nicholas remains undecided on which medical specialty he will pursue but plans for a career working at the intersection of clinical care, research, and policy serving LGBTQ+ youth and adolescents.

Alvin Gordián-Arroyo

University of Chicago
Medicine
He/Him/His

Alvin Gordián-Arroyo grew up in the suburbs of Ocala, a small city in North Central Florida. Hailing from a working-class, Puerto Rican family, he witnessed first-hand how disparities in healthcare access impaired the health and wellbeing of marginalized people in his community. Motivated to address these inequities, Alvin aspired to become a physician. Alvin earned his bachelor’s at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied Human Evolutionary Biology and Global Health. Through his leadership in cultural groups, scholarship organizations, and the admissions office, he worked to expand mentorship and academic opportunities for other low-income, minority, and LGBTQ students. After college, Alvin went on to study Sexuality, Sexual and Reproductive Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, NY, where he led community outreach for HIV prevention studies aimed at LGBTQ youth as a graduate research assistant and health educator. After graduating with his MPH, Alvin co-authored and published his first scientific article describing trends in gay and bisexual adolescent males’ awareness and attitudes toward Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, using data to highlight opportunities for expanding access to PrEP among this vulnerable age group. Alvin is now a medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, where he continues to serve and work alongside vulnerable patients in the South Side of Chicago. Throughout his medical training, Alvin aims to use his research to develop interventions and policies that promote healthcare equity and access among underserved communities.

Wilmer Gonzalez

Fordham University
Law
He/Him/his

Wilmer is a Venezuelan human rights lawyer, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and a refugee. He is a member of the Wayuu people, an Indigenous group from the Guajira Peninsula in northwest Venezuela. Wilmer has experience advising NGOs on international law, human rights, and peacebuilding and negotiation strategies at the national and international levels. He has worked on cases involving mass arbitrary detentions of students, unfair military trials of civilians, and sexual torture by police forces. Despite facing a corrupt judicial system, he has achieved judicial victories helping his community. However, due to this success, he faced threats to his life and fled his country, family, and friends, relocating to Chile, where he continues supporting his community in Venezuela. He recently worked on filing a precautionary measure petition before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in favor of Indigenous families dying from lack of access to food and clean water related to the COVID-19 restrictions. Wilmer was selected in 2021 for the TotalLAW Prep program organized by the Vance Center for International Justice of the New York City Bar Association and TalentoTotal. With the support of this program, Wilmer was admitted to the International Law and Justice LLM program at Fordham University School of Law with a full-tuition scholarship. Through the LLM program, Wilmer intends to strengthen his knowledge and expertise in international human rights and humanitarian law while he continues to support Indigenous communities in Venezuela and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pilar Garcia

University of Tennessee
English
They/Them/Theirs

Pilar Garcia was raised in a rural, conservative town in Tennessee. Being multiracial and openly queer in a town with predominantly conservative values allowed them to help other LGBTQ+ students explore and accept their own identities. They attended Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee, where they were a prominent member of Sigma Kappa Delta and Phi Theta Kappa. They also assisted in readying their college’s GSA, PRISM, for re-opening following the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Spring of 2021, Pilar graduated from Columbia State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in English. In the Fall of 2021, Pilar will attend The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to finish their Bachelor’s degree in English.

Matthew Frank

University of Washington
Social Welfare
He/His/They

Matthew R. Frank, LMSW, MPH is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He is Director of Evaluation and Research at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Inc. in Portland, Oregon, and a PI of a NIH-NIDA funded pilot project focusing on a behavioral health intervention with Native American youth in the Southwest. He also serves as a part time social worker, leading community health workers, addressing health and social needs during COVID-19 contact tracing and case management. From 2019 to 2021, Matthew served a two-year term as secretary of Association of State and Territorial Public Health Social Workers. Matthew was also an adjunct professor of social work and served as a consultant to help develop an online HIV preventive intervention for substance-using Native American MSM. In addition, Matthew has played for five different rugby clubs, including International Gay Rugby teams in Kansas City and Saint Louis, Missouri. His motivation for doctoral study is to use his lived experiences to build on his scholarly knowledge, conduct ethical, rigorous, and community-engaged research, and teach passionately and effectively within a School of Social Work – all with special attention to equity and justice. Matthew would like to work at a university that has a center dedicated to racial/ethnic health disparities where he could collaborate with researchers examining Indigenous health.

Sophia Feliciano

University of California, Los Angeles
Psychology
She/Her/They/Them

Sophia Feliciano is a first-generation Dominican- American woman, living as a full-time employee and student in Los Angeles, California. She began her life in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Fairfield, Connecticut at a young age with her single mother and older brother. Throughout her adolescence she suffered from an identity crisis, having moved from a black and brown community to an affluent, white suburb. Although she visited her family in Brooklyn often, it was difficult adjusting to being the minority among her peers. She was also struggling to understand her space in the world as a bisexual young woman, always being ridiculed from both sides of the aisle. Moreover, she is a member of the Latino culture and community, which historically does not offer much support to LGBTQ people. After several years of grappling with her identity and dealing with other struggles, Sophia finally came out as a proud, bisexual woman at the age of 18. She moved to California and worked with programs and charities that support LGBTQ youth, such as the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Sophia is also a recovering alcoholic, who dedicates her life to her sobriety and helping others within her community, with a focus on LGBTQ and BIPOC youth. She sponsors many young women and supports them in their effort toward long term sobriety and mental health. Her experience drew her to UCLA’s Pre- Psych undergrad program, with a goal or obtaining a degree and become a clinical psychologist.

Carlos Escutia Rosas

Rush Medical College
Medicine
He/Him/His

Carlos grew up in a suburban neighborhood near Seattle, Washington. He was always aware of his and his family’s status as undocumented immigrants, which had a deep impact on the way he and his siblings were raised. Carlos knew he was gay in middle school, a realization that was mixed with shame and fear; often feeling like he had to “come out” twice to people when sharing his identities. Eventually Carlos learned to live proudly and unafraid through his involvement with these two communities. In June of 2018, Carlos graduated from the University of Washington, where he studied Psychology. During his time there, Carlos was the Dreamer Resource Coordinator for the undocumented student center on campus. He was also involved with Viva La Joteria, a group formed by BIPOC queer students on campus dedicated towards providing a safe space to connect and form community. Since then, Carlos has worked as a Patient Coordinator at Seattle Children’s Hospital while preparing himself to apply to medical school. This summer, Carlos will be moving to Chicago to begin his career in medicine at Rush Medical College. Carlos hopes to implement an Immigrant LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Program at Rush in order to solidify his understanding of the complex life circumstances preventing queer, immigrant individuals from receiving adequate care. His ultimate goal as a physician is to collaborate with other leaders to open a community health resource center that provides accessible healthcare and culturally competent health education to these communities.

Michael Davidson

Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University
Clinical Mental Health Counseling
He/Him/His

Michael was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a child, he read everything he could find about the LGBTQ+ community, searching for anything that resonated with him. In high school he finally found terminology that described his experience and he realized he was not alone. Unable to share this information with anyone, Michael kept it a secret. Once on his own, he began his transition, sacrificing all relationships for his truth. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology Education and became a laboratory manager and research assistant while he led a life of service to others. Michael was as an advocate for children placed in the foster care system. He also volunteered with a nonprofit organization that provides transitional living for people living with HIV/AIDS. Michael helped create and distribute a comprehensive database of transgender friendly resources and providers. Additionally, he lectured and served on panels informing medical students and physicians about trans and gender-nonconforming care. He has mentored other transmasculine individuals and volunteers as a peer crisis counselor for the LGBTQ+ community. Michael is pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to maximize his service to others, fulltime. He plans to offer multiculturally, trauma informed mental health counseling services to the LGBTQ+ community. He has a particular interest in the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identities, homelessness/housing insecurity, trauma, low-income/poverty, and substance abuse. Michael hopes to help inform the ever-changing best practices for working with the diverse LGBTQ+ population.

Charniece Crenshaw

Santa Monica College
Business Administration
Her/Ms/Miss

Charniece is the youngest of six children. Although she has many siblings, she often felt alone. Growing up in San Fernando Valley was tough for her. She went to schools in areas commonly referred to as the suburbs, and always had the feeling that she did not fit in. On top of battling with the peak of her sexuality, Charniece struggled with school as well. She went from a regular school setting to a home study program, and eventually stopped attending school. She faced many obstacles, outside of her sexuality. She was held back from her hopes and dreams due to circumstances that were out of her control at home. The obstacles that held her back eventually gave her the strength to be in the place she is today. She has achieved academic goals that she never thought would be possible. She is now on a journey to help people with mental health issues. It’s never been how it started for Charniece, but always how she finishes. The faith and dedication to herself and God is what keeps the fire to be great burning inside of her.

Ptah-Raet Craig

Pennsylvania State University
Marketing
He/Him/His

Ptah-Raet was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and he identifies as black and bisexual. Currently, he attends Penn State as a senior marketing major and international business minor. Ptah-Raet was recently accepted into Schreyer Honors College and joined Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity. He has worked for the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Penn State Abington for a short time, but his impact will be everlasting. Across campus Ptah-Raet is known for his welcoming spirit, and his dedication to making the campus a better place. He has run marketing projects for multiples offices, runs his own YouTube Channel (Simply Raet), and has been a great companion in the ODEI family. As an openly bisexual, and black man, he has faced many challenges, but he hopes to use his education to help members of his community be more successful.

Micah Leo Chang

University of Washington
Computer Engineering
He/Him/His

Micah comes from the city of Everett, Washington, and attended Everett High School. As a son of two immigrants, he was expected to do well in school so that he could get a successful job later in life. However, he also struggled with mental illness stemming from the divide between his East Asian heritage and his transgender identity. In his senior year of high school, Micah came out to his school, family, and friends, joining GSA. He also joined the school’s chapter of HOSA, Future Health Professionals of America, and found an interest in health technology, winning first place in the state’s Biomedical Laboratory Science competition. He intends on majoring in Computer Engineering with the goal of applying it towards medical technology.

Adrian Cebreros-Bueno

The New School
Fine Arts & Environmental Studies
He/Him/His

Adrian is an artist and aspiring educator living in Brooklyn, New York. Adrian’s artistic practice is intimately tied to growing up in North-East and South-East Los Angeles. Broadly, Adrian’s work is preoccupied with the themes of memory, language, grief, desire, and sexuality. Some of the core experiences that drive Adrian’s artistic practice and research include his upbringing as a monolingual Spanish speaker and his identification as a first generation Mexican American. He explores these questions through the mediums of film/video, printmaking, performance, painting, and sculpture. Adrian currently attends The New School where he is working towards a BFA in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design and a BA in Environmental Studies from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Adrian will be taking a printmaking course during the summer of 2021 titled Speculative worlds: Screenprint as Intervention at Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency in Saugatuck, MI As a student of the sciences–both home grown and through institutional merit–Adrian’s interests span across mycology, urban ecology, and environmental justice. While living in Los Angeles, Adrian was involved in a community based organization coined East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). Adrian hopes to engage in the emerging field of art + science as a teaching and working artist. Adrian wishes to start up an education program that offers art-based science courses through in-school and out of school programming.

Sean Ryan Castro

Long Beach City College
Fire Science
He/Him/His

Sean grew up in Long Beach, California his with his mom and twin sister. From a young age, Sean showed signs of queerness. In kindergarten, he asked his mom to cut his hair short and spiky like his dad’s, so he could fit in with boys rather than girls. He realized he was attracted to women in 7th grade, and in the 8th grade was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. This was a hard adjustment for him but luckily with the help of the internet and medication he would come to further understand and love his queerness and learning disability. Over the summer of Sean junior year, he started to really look further into exploring his gender identity and in the fall of his Senior he came out as a transgender man. Within this year of 2018 he would be inspired by one of his wrestling coaches to become a firefighter. Sean now attends Long Beach City College, majoring in fire science, and has served as Vice President of The Association Of Future Firefighters at Long Beach City College in 2019. He is currently working to achieve his Associates Degree and EMT Certification. His goal is to be a firefighter for the County of Los Angeles and continue to diversify the fire department and inspire future queer generations.

Seth Canada

Georgetown University
Liberal Studies
He/Him/His

Originally from Burma (Myanmar), first-generation immigrant Seth Canada attends Georgetown University in Washington, DC. An individualized major, Seth takes courses in journalism, communications, law, business and theater. He believes trans characters should be played only by trans actors to tell trans stories accurately. He is a firm believer in the media’s responsibility to give voice to the marginalized communities. Seth founded Transgender Resiliency Affirming News Source (TRANS), an online space to be launched in fall 2021 for transgender and gender nonbinary folx to tell their stories of triumph over tragedy. TRANS aims to train and pay TGNB student journalists who may also be BIPOC and// or disabled for sensitive and competent coverage of transgender issues without stigmatizing and re-traumatizing the trans community. During his first and second years at Point Park University, he wrote news and feature articles on gender, racial and immigration justice issues for the campus and community newspapers. In summer 2019, he interned as a paralegal at the Law Office of Irena Karpinski and gained experience in the areas of immigration and family laws. Having fought personal legal battles in immigration and family courts, he recognizes LGBTQ+ clients’ need for legal representation by culturally competent attorneys. Seth is proud to have interned with a LGBTQ+ legal advocacy organization, FreeState Justice, in spring 2021, developing skills transferable to the legal profession he aspires to enter as a civil rights and immigration lawyer. He plans to enroll in a JD program in the fall of 2022.

Kryssia Campos Selva

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Medicine
She/Her/Ella

Kryssia was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US with her family when she was 13 years old. The struggles she has faced as a queer undocumented immigrant have empowered her to get involved in advocacy and also affirmed her passion for medicine. In 2013, she earned a B.S. in Psychobiology from UCLA, and will earn a Doctor of Medicine degree in 2023 from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. At UCLA, Kryssia helped design and present the first UndocuAlly Training for faculty and staff and shared her story to push for policies that are now a reality, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). After graduating, Kryssia worked at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, where she worked to improve the services offered to undocumented LGBTQ+ clients and helped plan Models of Pride, the largest conference for LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, she has advocated for the rights of immigrants and Central American refugees as a member of the Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families. As one of the few undocumented/DACA students at her medical school, she helps raise awareness about issues affecting her communities. Currently, she is involved in research to identify the barriers LGBTQ+ patients face when accessing health care. She also co-leads a mentorship program to increase the number of Latinx medical students in Michigan. Kryssia is passionate about challenging the systemic inequalities that affect people’s health and is committed to becoming a physician to care and advocate for immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities.

Bayron Bonilla

Worcester State University
Business Administration
He/Him/His

Bayron is the first person in his family to attend college. He attends Worcester State University, where he is pursuing a business degree. College was not an easy decision for Bayron. Nobody expressed interest in assisting him with his education, and he was attacked for being gay and undocumented. After graduating from high school, he worked for one year to save money for college. He also developed technical expertise and he does his best to be kind, creative, and fun. He enjoys supporting other people who have been assaulted due to their identity. He understands because he has felt trapped in an unequal and oppressive society and his own Hispanic community. “They aren’t ready for change” he feels, which is something he hopes to alter in the future. He once had a suffocating life, unable to live as he pleased, under the tight leash of his family and society. Bayron believes in himself and believes he can make a difference in his community that accepts LGBTQ people for who they are.

Angelito Aya

University of Pittsburgh
Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling
He/Him/His

Angelito Aya was born in Colombia, South America, and adopted at the age of three by a biracial couple. He grew up in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, and he knew as a young child that his gender identity did not match the gender he was assigned at birth. He struggled to conform to the expectations of his assigned gender until he came out to his family at age 13 and transitioned socially. Angelito

experienced a great deal of bigotry in school, not only because of his gender, but also because he was one of only a handful of black and brown students in a very large school district. Through therapy, self-discovery, and family support, he was able to overcome his feelings of inadequacy due to being different. During this time, he grew in self-confidence and was able to find pride in himself and his achievements. At age 16, Angelito was hired as a peer youth counselor at Persad Center, a treatment facility in Pittsburgh that offers LGBTQ affirming mental health services. He worked with young people who were facing challenges at home, at school, and in their communities because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Later, as a counselor in a residential treatment facility for young people with behavioral and emotional challenges, he was able to connect with young people from multicultural backgrounds because of his origin and experiences. As a speaker for PFLAG Pittsburgh, Angelito tells his story in order to help community, school, and church organizations better understand the LGBTQ community and accept people for who they are. Angelito will be entering his second year of graduate school as a Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling major at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Services. His goal is to work in a college counseling center where he will be able to help all students, including those with multicultural backgrounds and students identifying as LGBTQ, work through challenges so that they can realize their potential.

Ari Luna

Texas State University
She/her

Ari Luna is an Afro-Latinx woman born and raised in Central Texas. At a very young age Ari knew that she was trans and also queer, which were challenging things to be in semi-rural Texas. After lots of challenges and hardships she graduated high school and moved to Austin, Texas for school. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and has over five years of experience in nonprofit administration. Since settling in Austin she has been engaged with various movement spaces and autonomous projects focused on Black autonomy and liberation, anti-capitalism, and queer and trans struggle. By day she’s excited to support Trans Lifeline’s mission, vision, and staff as the HR Director. By night she’s a comedian, hanging with friends, and/or eating some kind of delicious hot chip. Ari will attend Texas State University in San Marcos for a Master’s of Science in Human Resource Management, to gain greater insights into creating transformative workplaces for employees.

Astro Pittman

Seattle Central College
They/them

Astro Pittman was born in Italy, raised in Texas, and has called Seattle home for over 13 years. Astro is completing their senior year at Seattle Central College in the Astro Pittman was born in Italy, raised in Texas, and has called Seattle home for over 13 years. Astro is completing their senior year at Seattle Central College in the Applied Behavioral Science baccalaureate program and has applied to the 2021 Master of Social Work program at University of Washington. Astro works with at-risk LGBTQ+ youth as a drug and alcohol counselor, focusing on Queer, homeless, and POC youth. Astro is the President of Seattle Central’s LGBTQ+ student club, Queer Cooperative; a fully professed Guard with the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington (Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence); an award-winning journalist and editor-in-chief of Seattle Central’s newspaper, The Seattle Collegian; and the founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) Seattle, the Cis Ally Trio (Cissy), and SeattleTransVisibility.org.

They are also a regular guest panelist and speaker for various workshops and events spotlighting LGBTQ+ topics. Astro’s mission is to blend these spheres of service and activism into a collective vehicle for social welfare, anti-oppression, equity, and justice in their communities. Developing research, training, and curriculum specifically tailored to the needs of the LGBTQ+ recovery community is their passion and calling, and they have especially focused on the specific needs and challenges of transgender individuals in their research. Their most closely held dream is to create and run a treatment and recovery center for Queer individuals from all walks of the rainbow; where they receive targeted, trauma-informed, identity-affirming, and community-focused support from excellent clinicians who identify with their struggles through lived experience.

Juno Jeoboam

Florida Atlantic University
They/he

Juno is a black, queer, and nonbinary creative who was raised in the suburbs of Sunrise, Florida as the youngest of two siblings. By the age of 14, Juno enrolled in Florida Atlantic University High School; an extremely competitive and rigorous program where students are fully dual-enrolled at Florida Atlantic University from tenth grade through twelfth grade, taking college courses to fulfill high school requirements. At the age of 18, Juno gained the courage to remove themselves from their physically and emotionally abusive household, escaping an upbringing deeply rooted within the views of a religious cult. This choice resulted in 6 months of homelessness during which they continued to work during a pandemic and completed the remainder of high school with college credits. In the midst of living in unstable circumstances, Juno managed to create a creative writing club which welcomed LGBT+/ BIPOC youth as well as countless online servers where BIPOC/LGBT+ youth could connect with others who share similar experiences and assist their peers in getting involved at local LGBT+ outreach centers.

Juno is currently an active member of both the National Organization of Women and Generation Action. Within these organizations they work alongside like-minded change-makers to prioritize intersectional feminism and social issues surrounding equal rights, racism, gender, abortion, ability, economic justice, LGBTQ rights, and various other social issues. The contributions they have made to these groups include coordinating and organizing communal activities to mobilize advocates and broadening education past that of our privileged, heteronormative system. Juno participated as a journalist for the Florida Atlantic University’s “The University Press,” adding to the much-needed conversations surrounding marginalized LGBT+ youth and Bi/Pan erasure. They wish to use their education as a stepping stone, utilizing all forms of art in combination with sociological concepts to facilitate equitable universal change. Juno strives to have their work directly impact the lives of many and speak for those who lack the privilege to do so themselves by being the reaffirming, positive representation needed for the empowerment of other marginalized youth. Some of the diverse mediums Juno chose to explore when advocating for social change are music production, poetry, and the visual arts. They believe that portraying their messages through such mediums can be highly impactful while still being digestible and have a mission of maintaining the accessibility of art to all audiences.

Chase Breaux

Wabash College
He/him

Chase was raised in Houston, Texas with 3 older brothers and a younger sister by a preacher and a worship leader. He attended church regularly and participated in ministry. In his first year of middle school, Chase realized that he was pansexual and began to struggle with self-love and acceptance. It had been ingrained in his mind that homosexuals were undeserving of love. The following years consisted of finding the balance between existing as a Black, pansexual, Christian man and the internal and external struggles that come with it. In high school, Chase founded the AfroClub and Queer NHECHS as safe spaces for Black and LGBTQIA+ students on campus. In this, he found that he was not alone in his struggle and began to embrace all aspects of his identity. He quickly became an outspoken and passionate advocate for marginalized communities on and off-campus.

In his freshman year at Wabash College, Chase has already begun to do the same. He joined the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and ‘shOUT to advocate for Black and LGBTQIA+ students who are underrepresented on-campus. He has taken on the role as a writer for the student-run college newspaper, The Bachelor, and Secretary of the Student Senate Mental Health Concerns Special Committee. By doing so, he is able to bring attention to important issues such as mental health and various forms of bigotry. Going forward, Chase intends to major in Political Science with the goal of becoming a lawyer to pursue justice for communities that have historically been denied it.

Charlesia McKinney

University of Kansas
She/her

Charlesia is a proud Black Midwestern writer, teacher, and researcher born and raised throughout the Kansas City suburbs. She is an ambitious only child who was raised by an even more ambitious single mother. Charlesia is a first-generation college graduate from Kansas State University and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Kansas studying Rhetoric and Composition with a concentration on Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. She is broadly interested in Fat Studies, Black Feminist Rhetorics and Literacies, the Politics of Pleasure, and Queer Theory. Her dissertation is a qualitative study that investigates Black women’s relationship to pleasure through the lens of literacy.

She is the graduate assistant for the Office of Undergraduate Fellowships at KU and within the Department of English she teaches Introductory Composition, Professional Communication, Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition and a special topics course “Disney, Identity, and Feminism.” In 2018, Charlesia was awarded an Outstanding Instructor Award, and in the following year was awarded the Selden Lincoln Whitcomb Fellowship, which recognizes excellence in scholastic research and promise in the field of teaching. Existing at the intersection of Blackness, fatness, queerness and womanhood meant that she never saw herself fully represented in her instructors nor in the texts she was assigned. Birthed from a desire to embody intersectional visibility for future students, she vowed, to herself, to pursue the professoriate and to always center multiply-marginalized folks within her research and teaching career. She’s published in Composition Forum and the Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs and throughout her graduate career, she has served as the administrative intern for the First and Second Year English program, co-president for the Student Association of Graduates in English at KU, as well as co-president of Students of Color at KU, and a writing consultant at KU and Kansas State University.

Charlesia has known she is queer since elementary school but growing up in a conservative Christian church made it difficult to understand and claim that identity until her late 20s. Finding queer family in graduate school helped Charlesia claim the fullness of her queer identity privately and publicly in 2020. Following her recent coming out, she seeks to become more involved with queer initiatives on campus and to center queerness more within her teaching and research commitments.

Danyal Rizvi

Texas Tech University
He/him

Danyal grew up in Houston, Texas, with two brothers and a sister. Growing up in a South Asian Muslim household, he wasn’t left with much room to explore his identity since being anything, but “straight” was perceived as abnormal and dichotomous to being Muslim. In middle school, he decided to break social barriers imposed upon his sexuality and came out as gay. He was labeled as “different” at his house, classrooms, religious gatherings, and religious volunteer events. Upon entering high school with more autonomy and opportunities to take the initiative, he strived to combat the Muslim community’s stigma associated with LGBTQIA+. Danyal cofounded the Muslim Student Association at his school and competed at the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament, winning first place to exemplify that being different does not equate to being inferior or less competent. He continued volunteering at religious events such as raising funds for orphans in Muslim countries to illustrate that being LGBTQIA+ does not signify being distant from religion. With further exposure to societal issues, Danyal realized the prevalence of psychological disorders and the lack of attention towards them in the South Asian community, thus developing his interest in Psychology and a passion for mental health awareness.

He is currently an aspiring psychiatrist majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biology and on the pre-medicine track. Danyal continues to be involved in Muslim Student Association in college while researching code-switching and social chameleon-like tendencies in the LGBTQIA+ community to comprehend his own behavior and many others that combat similar social norms so they can find the normal in their “different.”

Eileen Jimenez

University of Washington, Tacoma – Muckleshoot Tribal College
She/her/ella

Eileen’s mother is Maria Cruz Jimenez, her grandmother is Eloisa Saavedra and her great grandmother is Isidora Saavedra, matriarchs of the Otomi people. She is an indigenous queer artist currently living in occupied Duwamish Territory (Seattle, WA). Eileen was born in southern California, but her family is from Michoacán and Mexico City.

As an indigenous leader, community member, and as an artist, everything she does and creates is influenced by her many intersecting identities and lived experiences. She creates the art, the structures, the programming, and the educational experiences she wishes her community and she would have seen and had access to as a self-described ‘girl from the ‘hood.’ Eileen’s leadership is grounded in community and specifically, she believes it is her role to continue to show up, disrupt the dominant narrative, and gain access to institutional resources to share them with her community. Her family’s stories, values, theories and practices keep her feeling whole throughout this process and she finds support through community care.

Currently, Eileen works at a community college supporting students to navigate higher education and trying to dismantle white supremacist and institutional racist policies and structures. She is currently in an Ed.D, in higher education program at the Muckleshoot Tribal College and the University of Washington, Tacoma. She loves reading and learning and you will probably see the themes of decolonized education in her current body of artwork and programming at work.

Elizabeth Braatz

Western Oregon University
She/her

Elizabeth was adopted as an infant in San Diego, California and moved to Anacortes, Washington when she started 6th grade. She was diagnosed with a learning disability as a child, but with hard work and help from tutors and her family she has been able to overcome her disability.

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Elizabeth helped form the Activist Student Union at her high school and organized a student walk-out and memorial for the victims. She was invited to speak at gun-violence protests and advocated for equal treatment of POC and LGBTQ+ students. She received the Student Volunteer-of-the-Year award from her school district for her community service activities. After racist incidents at Western Oregon University (WOU), she organized a March Against Hate and encouraged students to participate in the Salem Women’s March. She is very active in student government and clubs at WOU, previously serving as Vice President of her dorm and Vice President of residential housing, and currently as a Senator for the Associated Students of WOU and Vice President of the Black Student Union, and as a member of the Multicultural Club, Triangle Alliance, and the LGBTQ+ and POC affinity groups. Prior to the 2020 general election, Elizabeth participated in voter drives with Basic Rights Oregon (an LGBTQ+ rights organization).

Elizabeth plans to go to law school, then become a civil rights attorney, an advocate for sexual assault victims, or work for an agency that fights employment and housing discrimination.

Emmanuel Barrow

Bowie State University
He/him

Emmanuel is from the Washington, DC Area currently attending Bowie State University, a Historically Black University located in Prince George’s County Maryland. He is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Business Information Systems. Emmanuel is a first-generation college student whose future career goals involve business intelligence and data analytics. Emmanuel is currently involved in leadership and community development projects engaging members of the LGBTQIA community in broader human services, providing education and training around accessing social services and behavioral health initiatives. Emmanuel is focused on working with organizations to provide resources and opportunities to marginalized communities in the Washington, DC Area.

Genesis Perez

California State University Northridge
They/them

Genesis Perez is a queer Chicanx poet from Oxnard, California. Perez came out as bisexual at 14 and genderfluid at 19. Having grown up in Catholic household Perez was afraid of what others might say. However, over the years Perez has found the strength to live life loudly and proudly. They have been published in Scuffed Diamonds, a collection of Ventura Poets and Through Me, You Will See, a collection of Oxnard High School District slam poets. Perez has also read and hosted at events by local queer artist collective Get Loud Movement. Their poetry explores Chicanx culture, the struggles and joys of being queer, and mental health awareness. In 2019, they became the second Youth Poet Laureate of Ventura County. As a Poet Laureate, they have been working with students to develop their performance skills and a love of the arts. Perez currently attends California State University, Northridge. They are the first person in their family to go to college right out of high school.

Isio Oguni

University of Texas at Austin
They/them

Isio moved around a lot growing up. Born in Nigeria, they were shuffled firstly between states, then countries until they finally settled in Muscat, Oman at eleven years old. All this moving around states and countries meant they had to reinvent themself with every new location; they never got the chance to really understand who they were outside of who they were expected to be. So it’s no surprise that when they realized they were queer in middle school their first instinct was to ignore it and hope it went away. It took a lot of time, but with support from online queer spaces, they were able to understand and embrace their queerness.

Isio is currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin where they’ve grown a lot compared to that terrified 13-year-old. They’re out and proud as a nonbinary lesbian, and they do everything in their power to make life a little easier for LGBT youth of color who might be going through the same thing they went through. Currently, Isio is an officer in QTPOCA, a college organization that aims to make the transition to college easier for LGBTBIPOC. It gives incoming students a community of queer people of color they can rely on.

Jo Lew

Southern Methodist University
They/them

Jo Lew is a sophomore at Southern Methodist University studying Political Science, Public Policy, and Human Rights with a minor in History. They grew up as an only child to two immigrant parents in the predominantly white neighborhood of Coppell, Texas. From an early age, Jo knew that they were different from what they had grown up seeing: they were not upper middle class, straight, cisgender, or white. They often felt “othered” within their community and these early formative experiences pushed Jo towards activism for minority representation within their community. This interest led them to attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. SMU allowed Jo to pursue their interests in Human Rights through the Embrey Human Rights Program while also simultaneously studying Political Science and Public Policy. Jo is currently serving in their second term as SMU’s Queer Senator while also serving as the Vice President of both the First Generation Association and the East Asian Student Association.

They also serve as the Vice President, Events Coordinator, and a Peer Academic Leader for their commons in addition to acting as a student advisor on multiple advisory boards. Jo will graduate from SMU in the Spring of 2023 and they hope to work for the government in the future to ensure that there is a voice and representation for all.

Kaylin Moss

Marist College
She/her

Kaylin Moss is from Charleston, South Carolina. She is a junior at Marist College, where she is studying computer science. Kaylin Moss is a strong advocate for women, and racial minorities interested in technology careers. She has been working with the Marist College Student Government Association and Department of Computer Science and Mathematics to charter a Marist Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Outside of NSBE, she partners with the Newburgh Early College High School program to mentor high school students interested in computing.

Khouri Lassiter

Towson University
They/she

Khouri Lassiter is a rising senior at Towson University majoring in Family and Human Services with a minor in Applied Adult Disability Studies (AADS). They currently serve on the Youth Resource cohort for Advocates for Youth, directly working on policies for LGBTQ+ youth. They are also interning with the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute working on the facilitation and recruitment of LGBTQ+ elected officials domestically and internationally. Prior to their position at Advocates for Youth and Victory Institute, they were the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for their Student Government Association, directly writing inclusive policies for Towson’s marginalized students. Khouri has also been a fellow for the Poor People’s Campaign directly leading issue-based campaigns for policy changes that support impoverished people. In her current position as an LGBTQ+ intern for the Center for Student Diversity, Khouri has written and passed legislation to get LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty accounted for in the data at her institution. A lot of Khouri’s work has been based on her personal experiences of being a Black, Queer, Non-binary woman. She is a strong advocate for social justice, equity, and breaking institutionalized barriers within marginalized communities. After Khouri’s undergraduate career, she plans on obtaining her Master’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Social Policy.

Kia Session

Mountain View College
She/her

Kia Session is a 2019 Cedar Hill High School alum. She is currently a twenty-year-old sophomore from Cedar Hill, Texas and an incoming transfer student from Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas. She grew up in a single parent home with her older brother, Devin who is now 23. She has a younger sister from her dad named Trenity who is now 15. The importance of God was always stressed in her household, therefore when she made the decision to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex, she told none of my family members and kept it a secret, while listening to her mom make homophobic remarks and even say that she “praises God” neither of her children are gay. Eventually, her sexuality become exposed against her will and that event sent her into counseling. Through counseling she has been able to walk in her truth and it has inspired her to not only become a teacher, but eventually a counseling psychologist to be able to help others walk in their truth no matter what.

Kimberly Elias Castellanos

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
She/her

Originally from El Salvador, Kimberly grew up in the Northern Virginia area. They went to an underfunded high school with a primarily Black and Latine student body, where she was a part of the International Baccalaureate program. Due to some unlawful redistricting her senior year, Kimberly and her classmates rallied at school board meetings and town halls to ultimately obtain millions in funding for their school and a new speciality program. Through her involvement in organizations like Latin Link and Galipatia, Kimberly advocates for an inclusive STEM environment for underrepresented students of all backgrounds and abilities at Virginia Tech. In the future, Kimberly hopes to dedicate her career to developing sustainable practices for space exploration, while encouraging the inclusion of diverse voices in the Aerospace field.

Pa’Shence Young

University of Oklahoma
She/her

Pa’Shence grew up in Idabel, which is a small conservative town in Oklahoma. Idabel is a community that does not embrace change or people that are different. ‘Small town’ politics and racism is the heart of Idabel. She is the oldest of two children and is the first in her family to receive a college degree. When she was younger, she suppressed a lot of her identities growing up in a white heterosexual space. When entering college, she became involved with the LGBTQ center on campus: Gender and Equality Center. This was the first time that she was in an accepting environment in an academic setting. She took notice of all the people that embraced all of their intersectionalities simultaneously. She went through college less guarded but still lacked understanding of her sexuality. She grew up in a heterosexual household, that automatically assumed she was ‘straight’. This put pressure on Pa’Shence to carry out the idea of heterosexuality. She never dated anyone because she was so unsure of her identity and didn’t want to put anyone through that. In 2018, she encouraged herself to explore her sexuality and met her current partner. She came out to parents in 2020, and they embraced her and her partner with loving arms. Pa’Shence wants to work with LGBTQ young adults who are struggling with their identities and intersectionalities. She wants people to know that it is never too late to find their own happiness, and they never have to settle for it.

Peter Pham

De Anza College
He/him

Peter is a proud community college student interested in the intersection of the environment, public policy, and health. His long-term goal is to become a public health and primary care physician to medically underserved communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.

He grew up in the Bay Area of California to traditional immigrant parents and was raised in Catholic schools and faith through the end of high school. During this entire chapter of his life, he knew nothing about the existence of the LGBTQ+ community. After surviving sexual assault from a priest and wrestling with Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down all bans to same-sex marriages in the United States, Peter realized that he is gay. Although initially ashamed, he gradually accepted and values this aspect of his identity, which has motivated him to pursue service to the LGBTQ+ community among other historically underserved and marginalized communities. He conducted a study examining the prevalence of ADHD prescription misuse among LGBTQ+ community college students and helped gather resources specifically for LGBTQ+ students when the pandemic first hit. He has been involved with LYRIC: Center for LGBTQQ Youth where he is part of a community of queer youth leaders and continues to find ways to integrate LGBTQ+ voices and work into all of his other work because the LGBTQ+ community extends across all other identity distinctions: race, ethnicity, citizenship, class/socioeconomic status, education, biological sex, specific interests, etc.

Peter has also been involved in the youth climate movement. He has fought for better bus services in his county to offset regional emissions, improve traffic congestion and air quality, and increase access to opportunities and resources for the roughly 2 million residents of Silicon Valley. He serves as co-lead of the San Jose Youth Climate Action Team, who helped organize the 2019 September Climate Strike and pass “reach codes” in San Jose, and mentors youths to be transformational climate leaders. In his free time, Peter enjoys learning languages and chatting with friends over boba.

Rie Harding

University of Massachusetts – Amherst
She/her

Rie is a doctoral candidate in the Sociology program at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst and is receiving an advanced certificate in Feminist Studies. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minored in Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University. Rie’s research interests include race, gender, sexuality, queer studies, trans* studies, feminist studies, and sexual violence. Rie identifies as a queer woman of color with disabilities who upholds a nonconforming gender presentation, and these identities inform the work she does as a scholar and educator. Rie was involved in the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University during her undergraduate journey as a peer educator and volunteer student advocate for the 24/7 interpersonal violence hotline. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Rie worked as a victim advocate within the same center. In both roles she supported survivors of interpersonal violence (gender-based violence, domestic violence, stalking, and childhood sexual abuse) with their healing process. These roles allowed Rie to be a resource and support system for queer and trans* survivors on campus. In her current role as a graduate student, Rie hopes to obtain a doctoral degree in Sociology in order to become an educator and researcher. She hopes to use her role as an educator to support marginalized students in the classroom and her role as a researcher to give voice to queer and trans* experiences.

Sydney Latimer

Inver Hills College
They/them

Sydney Latimer (Divinewords) is a queer interdisciplinary artist, writer, and activist from the Twin Cities, MN. As a poet and visual artist, they have worked with The Last Poets, Ursula Rucker, Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali, The Guerilla Girls, and Barry McGee (Twist). Sydney was raised in a family that is supportive of LGBTQ+ people and came out as bisexual in their late teens; however, after receiving a negative reaction from their peers, they remained closeted until their late 20’s. In 2020, they came out as a genderqueer femme. Sydney started their post-secondary education in 1999 but dropped out after freshman year. After a period of economic hardship during the late-2000s recession, they became a grocer for 12.5 years but longed to become a full-time artist and entrepreneur. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Sydney bravely left their grocery job to pursue a degree in Creative Design Business Management. They have managed a course load of 19 credits per semester while maintaining a 3.84-4.0 GPA. Outside of Sydney’s extraordinary academic accomplishments, they are a former Huffington Post contributor, a three-time marathon finisher, Tough Mudder NoCal Finisher, and has been recognized several times over the years for their outstanding achievements in the arts and community activism for social justice and LGBTQ+ rights.

Gabriel Rasheed

Austin Community College
He/him

Gabriel Rasheed immigrated to the US back in 2015 and became a US citizen ever since. Originally, he is from Sudan, a sub-Saharan African country that has suffered armed conflicts and civil wars since its independence. These wars took the lives of nearly 2.5 million people. He is from a working-class family; his father passed away after battling prostate cancer, leaving them in a complicated situation. He is the second in a family of five siblings, two boys and two girls. His mother was a factory worker before retiring only one year after the death of his father, and they all had to work and study just to make a living.

Middle school was a complicated time for Gabriel because he realized that he was gay, and immediately felt ashamed of his identity. Being gay increased his stress and impacted his behavior. Homosexuality is taboo in Africa. The penalty for being gay is death in his country, so that why he kept it secret and he felt isolated and different. Furthermore, corporal punishment is a systematic approach in his home country. He cannot remember how many times he was beaten, insulted, hit with an object, or forced to stand in the hot sun for a long time. Immigrating to the US was a dream that came true for him. He was one of the luckiest people on Earth who won the DV-Lottery visa, a program established by the U.S. State Department. His life has changed since the moment his plane arrived at John Fitzgerald Kennedy Airport.

Gabriel lived in Philadelphia before he moved to Texas. He faced many problems in the first months, like language, using technology, culture shock, and people have different values and new ways of doing things that seemed strange to him. He worked hard and more hours to get enough money to help his family in Africa, but he had less time to study and to enjoy his life. Although he did not have enough time, he started studying at Austin County Community College. Studying in an American school is a new experience for him, and with new experiences come new challenges.

Teddy Onditi

California State University Long Beach
He/him

Teddy Onditi is a Computer Science Major at California State University Long Beach. Learning and manipulating Software has become his life’s passion. Software and the force of the digital era has completely shifted the world. He intends to use my education to improve on that shift focusing on disenfranchised communities. Growing up in Kisumu, Kenya gave him a unique perspective on life. Most of my life in Kenya was focused on academic molding with very little exploration of individuality. After all, education in developing nations is conditioned to be the only key to success. Knowing he is different and contemplating how to navigate that is a common experience in the LGBTQ+ community. It is illegal to be gay in Kenya, one could be jailed and in extreme cases murdered. At the age of 19 he decided to move to America for school, his gut knew his time in Kenya was done, and in a beautiful way fate was leading him to self-love and acceptance. He found self in America and learned about his incredible community. He took part in LGBT center’s UCLA Health Research program, aimed at sensitization of sexual and mental health. He aspires to be a champion for members of the LGBTQ community and espouse the notion of self-love and acceptance. It is his life’s goal to help debunk stigmas and misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community and encourage coexistence.

Tiana Tran

Lone Star Honors College – University Park
She/her

Tiana was born in Seattle, Washington and raised in a conservative household and suburb in Spring, Texas. She has 2 younger siblings and 2 older siblings. Growing up, Tiana was often surrounded by racism, sexism, and homophobia from within and outside of her home. For years and years, she was ashamed to be who she was: an Asian-American, bisexual woman. After struggling with her identity for years on end, everything changed when she stepped foot on the Lone Star Honors College campus. From there, her environment completely did a 180, as she was now surrounded by a diverse community that celebrated and embraced their differences. Tiana found confidence in her identity and her ability to achieve her goals again. She is currently involved in several student leadership positions, including the Honors College Events Coordinator, and she makes it her duty to create a loving, diverse, and inclusive environment for current and incoming students. She seeks to continue her education at the University of Texas, major in electrical engineering, and to continue advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and making sure her peers can find the same sense of pride that she found at the Honors College.

Willow Tomeo

Southwestern College
Any Pronouns

Willow spent her childhood and teen years in the Northwestern city Spokane, Washington as an only child. Willow’s family was mostly Christian, but she had a couple bisexual cousins around her age who gave her a sense of confidence in herself. She attended a pride parade in Spokane and later on visited Oklahoma City during pride week. This support connected her to the community around her, despite the homophobia and gendered expectations from older family members.    

Willow learned to draw before she learned to read. So, the connection between art and communication made sense to her at a young age. She especially enjoyed the storytelling method of comics. She was part of the Spokane Comicsmiths’ Guild in her hometown. After that, Willow attended the Institute of American Indian Arts for her BFA. She attended the first two Indigenous Comic Conventions in Albuquerque, New Mexico.   

This sense of hope in humanity pushed Willow towards an interest in therapy and psychology. Willow’s dream is to get a MA in art therapy and counseling at Southwestern College to help guide and inspire others towards healthier choices and coping methods. There is value in seeing older LGBTQ+ and Native adults for possible patients, clients, and students in art therapy, especially when many never make it to old age.