Point BIPOC Scholarship for LGBTQ Students Program

The BIPOC Scholarship from Point Foundation provides financial, coaching and community support to Members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

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

Current Scholarship Recipients


WHO SHOULD APPLY TO THE BIPOC SCHOLARSHIP?
  • Members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who identify as LGBTQ.
  • Students must be enrolled or intending to be enrolled in an accredited community college, four-year college or university, or graduate program based in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, in the fall of 2022 or the winter/spring 2022 who are also:
    • Maintaining a full-time or part-time course load
    • Demonstration a proven commitment to furthering their education
HOW DOES THE BIPOC PROGRAM HELP STUDENTS?
  • Provides funding for tuition and other expenses such as the student’s housing, study tools and equipment.
  • Scholars can receive guidance and support in areas affecting BIPOC LGBTQ students from Point’s expert coaching discussions.
  • Point provides access to virtual leadership events and panel discussions.
  • Point scholars will have the opportunity to engage and further their LGBTQ network within the Point community.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY TO THE POINT BIPOC SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM?

Point Foundation requires the following for applications to be considered:

  • Scholarship recipients must identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) communities and 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 spring of 2022 or fall of 2023. Students enrolled or intending to enroll in a college or university in a United States territory are not eligible. 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.



Other factors considered in student applications:

  • Financial need or independence.
  • Personal history.
  • Academic achievement.
  • Community involvement and work experience.
Applicant Submission Deadlines

April 1, 2022:
Point BIPOC Scholarship Application opens.

May 9, 2022
Point BIPOC Scholarship Application closes at 9:00 am PST/12:00 p.m. EST.
Semifinalist decisions will be made after this deadline.

-+Will I need to submit any supplemental materials?

Student’s selected as semifinalists will be asked to submit a short video answering a question provided by Point Foundation and may also take part in a phone interview with the scholarship selections committee.


Past Scholarship Recipients

2022 Class
2021 Class

Inaugural Class

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.

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. 

Linsey Almodovar

She/Her
Miami Dade College
Nursing

Xavier Amaro

He/Him
Columbia University
Computer Science, Latin American Studies

Edwin Antonio

He/Him
University of Washington School of Medicine
Medicine

 

 

Sania Bandekar

She/He
De Anza College
Computer Studies

 

Elizabeth Braatz

She/Her
Western Oregon University
Criminal Justice

Maya Branch

She/They
Temple University
Human Development & Community Engagement

Chase Breaux

He/Him
Wabash College
Political Science

Seth Canada

He/Him
Georgetown University
Professional Media & Business and Entrepreneurship

Jamel Catoe

He/They
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Organizational Science

Brit Cervantes

They/Them
California State University Fullerton
Human Communications

Fernando Cuevas

He/They
University of North Carolina in Greensboro
Nursing

Tasha Denson-Byers

She/Her
St Cloud Technical & Community College
Computer Programming

Jevaughn Edwards

He/They
Drexel University
Economics & Legal Studies

Rukaiah El

She/Her
Fashion Institute of Technology
Fine Arts

Sabine Lopez

They/She
Pasadena City College
Studio Art

Roberto Fernandez

He/Him
Miami Dade College
Physical Therapy Assistant

Cai Fisher

She/Her
Leech Lake Tribal College
Liberal Arts (STEM Emphasis)

Daniel Flores

They/Them
Valley City State University
Communications

Slleven Gonzalez

They/Them
Santa Monica College
Communication Studies

Erika Guzman Cornejo

They/She
University of California, Los Angeles
Legal Studies

Kamaia Hall-Edwards

She/Her
Alabama A&M University
Food Science

Mystique Hargrove

They / She
Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery
Midwifery

Ryan Harris

She / They / He
Moore College of Art and Design
Fine Arts

Kat Hazel

She / Her
University of Colorado Denver
Political Science

Praise Iyiewua

She / Her
University of Vermont
Clinical Psychology

Chelsea Jenkins

She / They
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College
Business Administration

Jakaris Jones

He / Him
Miami Dade College
Pre-Nursing

Justin Jones

They/ Them
Phoenix College
Graphic Design

Jalia Joseph

They / She
Texas A&M University
Sociology

Alizae Jueves

They / Them
Wayne State University
Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies

Titi Kabi

She / Her
University of Pennsylvania
Nonprofit Leadership with LGBTQ+ Certificate

Isaiah King

He / Him
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Psychology

Quyen La

She / Her
University of Houston
Hotel and Restaurant Management

Celia Le

She / Her
Columbia University
Linguistics, East Asian Studies

Courtney LittleDog

She / Her
Blackfeet Community College
Business

Derrick Luster

He / Him
UCLA School of Law
Law / Critical Race Studies

Bella Martin

She/ Her
Southern Methodist University
Allied Health

Cody McCook

He / They
Santa Monica College
Sociology

Noelle Medina

They / Them
University of Hartford
Prosthetics and Orthotics

Sadie Miranda

She / Her
University of California, Los Angeles
Latin American Studies, Political Science

Farida Moalim

She / Her
Miami Dade College
Private Pilot Technology, Aviation

Alex Nguyen Ngoc

He / Him
University of California, Berkley
Materials Science And Engineering, Electrical and Computer Science

Ezie Nguyen

He / Him
University of Washington
Medicine

Teresa Nguyen

They / Them
Portland State University
Mechanical Engineering, Cosmics Studies

Devon Norberto

He / Him
University of New Mexico
Political Science, Sociology (Pre-Law)

Jenny Panergo

She/They
Saint Michael’s College
Political Science

Brayan Paredes

He/Him
Miami Dade College
Nursing

Justin Parker

He/Him
Austin Community College
Public Administration with a minor in Political Communication

Jessica Perez

She/Her
University of Vermont
Clinical Psychology

Sharron Perry

She/They
Cape Fear Community College
Arts & General Education

Monisha “Mo” Pirela

She/Her
Central Piedmont Community College
Architectural Technology

Malekai Ren Pola

They/He
Southern Oregon University
Psychology & Spanish

Aris Reyes

He/Him
Grinnell College
Sociology

Ricardo Rivas

He/Him/They
Berkeley City College
Political Science

Yasmene Rivera

They/Them
University of Arizona
Psychology & Creative Writing

Jae Robinson

She/Her
Metropolitan State University
Biology

Kadeem Robinson

They/Them
New York University Wagner
Non-Profit Management and Policy

Victor Romero

He/They
San Francisco State University
Nursing

Zoe Saunders

She/They
Rowan College at Burlington County
Psychology

Diara Seck

She/Her
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Forensic Psychology

Bri Serrano

He/They
Colorado State University
Higher Education Leadership

Albert Shin

He/Him
Harvard University
Computer Studies & East Asian Studies

Grant Siluangkhot

He/Him
University of Houston
Pharmacy

Chrystian Smith

She/They
San Diego State University
Post-Secondary Educational Leadership

Naomi Smith

She/Her
Chabot College
Psychology

Jimmy Strickland

He/Him
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Infomation Science

Kilin Tang

He/They
Swarthmore College
Politics, Philosophy, & Economics

Kyler Thompson

She/Her
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Gender and Sexuality Studies

Kay Trent

She/Her/They
Austin Community College
Psychology

Aime Turberville

She/Her
University of Southern California
International Relations & Spanish

Luis Tun

He/Him
University of Southern California
Political Science & Communication Data Science

Katherin Velazquez

They/She
University of California, Berkeley
Psychology

Laine Washington

They/Them
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Social Work

Victor Roman Williams Arana

He/Him/His/She
Langston University
Psychology

Ruben Young

He/Him
Miami Dade College
Pre-Law

Autumn Zaragoza

They/Them
University of California, San Diego
Art History


Alexis Lamb

She/Her
Washington County Community College
Welding

Carlos Matos Cancel

He/Him
University of Albany, SUNY
Biology

Teresa Nguyen

They/Them
Portland State University
Mechanical Engineering and Comic Studies

Ezie Nguyen

He/Him
University of Washington School of Medicine
Medicine

Jess Perez

She/Her
University of Vermont
Clinical Psychology

Alex Nguyen Ngoc

He/Him
University of California, Berkeley
Material Science and Engineering

Jessica Perezc\

She/Her
University of Vermont
Clinical Psychology


Javannah Davis
She/Her
Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing
Nursing

Javannah Davis is a black woman of trans experience and community leader/advocate. She has worked in healthcare with an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences for the past 16+ years. She started her career in hospitals and now works as a Medical Assistant for Trillium Health. Javannah is also the founder and CEO. of W.A.V.E. Women INC., a non-profit organization that aims to help black and brown trans and cis women and men in my community. She is CEO of Linj Enterprises LLC., a self-published author of three books, a columnist for BlaqueOut Magazine, a member of the Community Initiative for my local United Way, and an ordained minister. Each of these entities allows Javannah to share her knowledge, spirituality, compassion, lived and learned experiences, and achievements with those in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. She is passionate about healing, self-love, self-actualization, and helping others healthily live their best lives. Javannah has been awarded the Honorary Fatima Woods Award in both 2018 and 2021 by the members/peers of her community.


Aluysio De Albuquerque Silva Neto
He/Him
Santa Monica College
Film

Aluysio de Albuquerque Silva Neto, who goes by Alu, was born in Manaus, state of Amazonas, in Brazil. Before he moved to Los Angeles as an international student, he lived with his parents and sister. Alu has been a dreamer since childhood, telling everyone that someday he would go to the moon and be a Hollywood actor. While falling in love with acting, finding comfort in movies, and being enchanted by pictures, Alu grew up seeing people getting jobs as doctors, lawyers and engineers. However, he did not let his environment take away his dreamer side. He sang alone in his bedroom, took pictures of every moment, and recorded family and friends. Alu has been living in Los Angeles since February 2022 and misses his family and friends; however, he is now living his best life and is so grateful for this opportunity.


Meki Dunston
She/They
Seton Hall University
Biology

Mekiayla Dunston attends Seton Hall University. Born to multiracial/multicultural parents, she attended a diverse Christian school for the entirety of her childhood. Her mother passed at the age of four, which sparked her interest in science and medicine. Meki came out as LGBTQUIA+ at 13, despite struggling with the concept for years prior. Meki identifies as a demiromantic pansexual and majors in biology at Seton Hall University in pursuit of becoming a neurosurgeon. She owns a digital art and photography business called Diamante’s Perfections. Her hobbies include but aren’t limited to traveling, artistry, baking, investing, cosmetology, mythological study, and reading. She loves animals, and she has a bird and four dogs. Meki is passionate about science, equity, diversity, philanthropy, and self-expression and has committed her life to advocate for change for a better tomorrow for all people. One of her secret obsessions is creative writing, especially short stories and poetry. Meki is part of many organizations and has many awards and achievements; however, she credits God for her talents and successes. She feels nothing would have been possible without His endless love and support for her aspirations.


Serenity Dupree
She/Her
East Los Angeles College
Forensic Crime Scene Investigation
Serenity Harmony Dupree is a 23-year-old student from Pomona, Los Angeles. She was kidnapped and placed in foster care at two years old while her mother went to rehab for drug addiction. She has been homeless since she was 18 and has missed out on many of the experiences her peers have had. Growing up, Serenity wanted to be a teacher but changed her career path and now studies Forensic Crime Scene Investigation at East Los Angeles College.


Lexie Durfee
She/Her
Salt Lake Community College
Communications

Lexie Durfee has always been involved in sports, starting with playing soccer with her friends at recess. She achieved her dreams of becoming a college athlete but now wants to figure out what she could do for a career. As much as she loves all the varsity letters, medals, and athletic achievements, Lexie considers her greatest accomplishment to be just living. Lexie celebrates 19 years of life in the face of adversity, from her internal battles to the difficulty of life as someone who is not white, doesn’t have blood family, and isn’t straight.


Ray Fowler
He/Him
Front Range Community College
Criminal Justice

Ray Fowler is a junior at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado. As an early graduate, he will attend Front Range Community College in the fall of 2022. His accomplishments in high school include being part of the JROTC Air Force branch in his freshman and sophomore years. He obtained two positions as a first-year Drill Team Commander and a flight sergeant during this time. His drill team competed three times during freshman year and received first place in every competition. He was also awarded a national award as the best cadet of the year. During his junior year, he focused on completing extra high school classes and partaking in concurrent enrollment, allowing him to complete college classes in high school with 12 college credits at the time of graduation (May 21, 2022). His biggest goal is to become a law enforcement officer. Ray’s passion is to educate and enforce the law so civilians can have a peaceful and constructive interaction with a law enforcement officer.


Jaylyn Frazier
She/They
Northampton Community College
Business Management

Jaylyn Frazier was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, has a twin brother and a four-year-old sister, and loves basketball. She has received many certificates for honor roll and being a high school athlete. They have also received trophies for playing basketball with travel and school teams. She has been playing basketball since the 3rd grade. Jaylyn has been, on many occasions, a leader and has never quit. They are constantly there and always trying to find new ways to encourage their team and help in any way they can. This is most important to Jaylyn because she loves basketball and plays with her whole heart.


Enrico Gaxiola Melson
He/Him
Santa Monica College
Anthropology

Enrico Gaxiola Melson was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He has always been interested in the world’s cultures, histories and languages. His early influence comes from all the sounds and colors he is fortunate to experience in LA. Enrico started studying foreign languages at an early age, and at fourteen, he was an international exchange student in Japan. He is now an Anthropology major with a specialization in East Asian Studies. In 2021 he began tutoring Spanish and Japanese and became the first non-native Japanese tutor for the modern languages department in the history of SMC. The same year Enrico traveled to Mexico to serve local groups that perform indigenous plant medicine ceremonies and healing therapies. It was particularly important to him to use his language abilities to aid in preserving knowledge of plant medicines, their practical uses, and their history within the region. This experience motivated Enrico to continue his academic study of cultures. From it, he found the opportunity to combine his love for languages and his heritage with service to others. His sincere desire is to contribute to deepening the understanding of the human story.


Shaunie Hall
She/Her
Spartanburg Community College
Expanded Duty Dental Assisting

Rashaun Hall, who likes to go by Shaunie, is currently enrolled at Spartanburg Community College in the Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Program. She plans to become a certified dental assistant and a hygienist. She started her journey in the fall of 2021, a week after her serious shoulder surgery, but didn’t allow anything to stop her. Shaunie went to class with the stitches and the nerve block catheter still in her shoulder. She is proud of her determination, which runs deep. Shaunie has been singing since age five and plays several instruments, including the piano, organ, drums, and cello. She is her mother’s 2nd left-handed child, and she has two sisters and three brothers, including step-siblings. Shaunie loves her family, friends, people in general, and God. She believes we are all his children and were created perfectly in his image


Kiana Johnson
She/Her
Houston Community College
Liberal Arts and Humanities

Kiana Johnson is a 25-year-old community college student from Philadelphia. Having been through marginalization in her life due to an oppressive system, she has dedicated her education to helping those who a white supremacist society has oppressed to have a better life. She is a member of several social justice organizations, and in her downtime, she likes to play video games and watch documentaries. Kiana’s favorite color is blue, and her favorite food is oxtail.


Zahriyannah Karakashian-Jones
She/Her
Yale
Eastern European Studies
Zahriyannah Karakashian-Jones currently serves as the Student Body President at North Shore Community College. Aside from being a student at NSCC, she currently works as the manager of program and partnerships at an equity-first based community foundation in Brookline, Massachusetts. She is also the founder of Grassroots Brookline. Grassroots Brookline is an organization that puts together country-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, including Juneteenth events, pride marches, and disability awareness walks. These events include educational opportunities to continually support the furtherance of inclusivity in education, workplaces, and communities not only in her hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts but across the nation. Between professional experience and volunteering with non-profit organizations and diversity advisory committees, Khamiko has earned a reputation as a pillar in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, capable of bringing about and maintaining true, positive change.


Kawena Lorenzo
She/Her
Leeward Community College
Associates of Arts
A former multiple pageant titleholder, Kawena Lorenzo strives for excellence on and off the stage. She contributes her family’s support in all her endeavors making her feel that anything is possible as long as she believes in herself. She strives to maintain her 4.0 G.P.A. while being a peer mentor to other Native Hawaiian first-year students at Leeward Community College Lauhoe Cohort Program. Kawena is proudly out and is an activist for Native Hawaiian and LGBTQ rights. Kawena helped to promote awareness to the #wearemaunakea movement online and participated in advocating to have the Marriage Equality Act passed in Hawaii. Her academic focus is to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Hawaiian Studies. Her goal is to be able to use her platform as a voice for those who feel silenced by society and to push for Pacific Islander representation on television and the movie screens.


Sanjar Kurmanov
He/Him
Berkeley City College
Women’s and Gender Studies

Sanjar Kurmanov is a trans activist working on community research, organizing anti-violence campaigns and debating with the national anti-gender movement leaders. He started volunteering for a local LGBTQ organization called Labrys from 2009 to 2011, and worked as a community-building officer between 2011-2013 and acted as the executive director for five years. In 2019, he became a Board member of the Trans* Coalition in Post-Soviet space. Through this and other diverse experiences, he has deepened his understanding of systemic approaches to LGBTIQ defenders’ protection and the importance of community-based responses and advocacy tactics. His journey as an activist has been simultaneously inspirational and difficult. Although Sanjar now lives in the United States with his partner, he remains heavily involved in the field of human rights for LGBTIQ communities in Kyrgyzstan. On a daily basis, he responds to a wide range of security requests, whether for evacuation of feminists and their families in Kyrgyzstan or urgent legal aid to a trans activist in Kazakhstan. As a Muslim transgender activist from Central Asia who grew up in the post-Soviet space, he is a tireless advocate for Women’s and LGBTQ rights and economic justice.


Jariah Richardson
She/Her
Horry Georgetown Technical College
Radiologic Technology
Jariah Richardson was born in Florence, but raised in Conway, South Carolina since she was a baby. Jariah is the middle child of three, and the the oldest twin sister. In elementary school, she learned that she has a passion for drawing and reading which has both become her favorite hobbies. Since elementary school, Jariah always excelled in her grades and attended honors classes. During highschool, she joined two clubs, the FFA and the Beta Club, however she didn’t continue in them due to COVID-19. As of now, Jariah is on track toward being enrolled at Horry Georgetown Technical College for an Associates in Radiologic Technology and she hopes to increase the diversity of that profession and inspire other LGBTQ African American women!


Driss Mabrouki
He/Him
North Shore Community College
Aviation Management
Driss Mabrouki is 28 years old originaly from Morocco (born and raised). Driss moved to the US in the end of 2018. He came here by the US Green Card lottery. He is very proud of where he is today; he lives totally the freedom that he missed in all his 20 years, since he discovered his sexual orientation as a bisexual. Driss studies Aviation and loves to work at the airport, explore the types of aircraft, and take offs and landings. His goal is to become a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller.


Srijoni Mitra
She/Her
Northern Virginia Community College
Psychology
Srijoni Mitra went to the Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, West Bengal. She is the founder of the Modern High School Peer Support Group which operates within her school. She is passionate about psychology, photography, writing poetry and essays, and listening to a variety of musical genres. She learned various forms of dance including ballet, contemporary and classical Indian dance. She also studied robotics and video/audio editing at a young age. Her writings and photography have been published in local magazines as well as those abroad, like Progenitor 2022 published by the Arapahoe Community College. In her free time, Srijoni takes educational courses on Udemy, Coursera, and physical and online workshops for skill and knowledge building. In these courses, Srijoni secured 100% scores in more than four certificates based on philosophy, science and religion, psychology, etc. She was also an ambassador with Aspire for Her to gain certain skills such as social media handling, community service. Srijoni has done community service with a child care home for lost and abandoned girl children and with Project Balika to empower girls’ literacy through online help with the English language and other curricular courses.


Alexis Orr
They/She
Virginia Commonwealth University
Psychology

Alexis grew up in a military family moving around a lot and being generally surrounded by change. This led to them to be a very adaptable person though, unfortunately, this meant experiencing different cultural mindsets from very liberal to very conservative. Each place taught her something new about the world and she saw how queer people are treated all over the world, which gave her more reasons to be interested in the mental health field. Alexis hopes to take their diverse experiences and intersectionalities with them to expand the minds of everyone they come across professionally as well as in other areas of life.


Natalie Ortiz
She/Her
El Camino College
English
A South LA native, Natalie has dealt with abuse, bullying, poverty, and mental illness throughout her life, but she has always maintained her love of writing and literature, which have helped her during dark periods. She is currently a student at El Camino College, where she is majoring in English and is a leader for the Creative Writing Club. She loves learning about LGBTQ history and is especially passionate about LGBTQ art. She has helped curate two literary magazines that showcase the work of LGBTQ creatives, and she runs a blog that highlights obscure LGBTQ literature. She also helped organize the 2022 California Community College LGBTQ+ Summit, a conference for LGBTQ community college students in California, and was selected as a 2022 Lambda Literary Fellow. Her biggest goal is to start a press of her own and publish books by LGBTQ writers.


Justin Parker
He/Him
University of Connecticut
Government, Political Science
Justin Parker is a community advocate and student leader pursuing a Bachelor’s in Public Administration with a minor in Political Communication at Austin Community College. Justin is an advocate for education and voting rights in America. Justin has served as a Volunteer Deputy Registrar in Travis County collaborating with organizations like MOVE Texas and Texas Rising. Justin is a well respected leader as he has been nominated for leadership awards and led a delegation at Harvard University’s National Model United Nations. Justin started his career by interning as a Congressional Intern for the Office of Congressman Lloyd Doggett in Austin, Texas and later, was brought back to work as a legislative intern in Congressman Doggett’s Washington, D.C. office. Justin currently serves as a Commissioner for the City of Austin’s College Student Commission advocating for the needs of over 130,000 college students on issues regarding housing, mental health, transportation, accessibility, etc. Justin also serves as his college’s Student Body President where he is the chair of the Student Welfare Committee. Parker serves on his college’s shared governance Enrollment Services Committee, Administrative Services Council and is the Student Veterans Association’s chapter vice president.


Christian Peña
He/She/They
South Seattle College
Communications
Christian Peña grew up in Fresno, California and moved to Seattle when he was 18. She held numerous jobs and gigs over the years and didn’t feel happy and knew she wanted to do something more, so she enrolled in college. They got a late start in college, but are a proud example that it really is never too late to start your college journey. Christian volunteers at his local food bank because he knows what it’s like to have food insecurities. It is her way of giving back to the community. Their goals are to graduate from South Seattle College and transfer to the University of Washington in Seattle next year.


Nickole Penaloza Barros
She/They
Queensborough Community College
Business
Nickole Penaloza is a first-generation college student born in Cuenca, Ecuador. After struggling with mental illness and homelessness, she found herself at age 19 wondering if she would ever get the chance to go to college. When that chance came, she seized it. She uses her voice to amplify the voice of others in her community and on campus, whether that be through her volunteer work with progressive congress members, or her leadership roles in student government and clubs. She is passionate about activism and civil rights. Her goal is to give hope to anyone who has found themselves feeling hopeless about their future. Nickole plans to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and start a nonprofit for at-risk teenagers struggling with homelessness, abuse, and at-risk LGBTQ teens.


Gerardo Pesqueira
He/Him
University of Southern California
Biological Sciences
Gerardo Pesqueira sometimes shortens his name to Gera for peers who have a difficult time annunciating his Hispanic name. Despite moving to a new country at a young age, his culture and identity remain intact. For Gerardo, something as simple as an atole, a traditional beverage in Mexican cuisine made from masa harina, the type of corn flour that is traditionally used to make corn tortillas, allows him to stay connected with his roots that lie on the other side of a border. The opposing nature of residing in both identities has enabled him to see things from a distinct perspective. Gerardo often displays the beauty of his community through art. He had the amazing opportunity to auction a custom painting for the Black Lives Matter Organization which allowed him to promote inclusivity while helping his community. The improvement of his community has constantly been his goal. Distributing food alongside the LGBTQ Resource Center, teaching elementary students, and volunteering at the local hospital has allowed Gerardo to connect and listen to others’ stories. With this in mind, his mission is to contribute to cross-cultural learning and open-mindedness by devoting time to improving his community.


Verlaine Raber
She/Her
Houston Community College
Business
Verlaine is a lover of all things clothes, art, and film. After losing her mom as a kid, she grew up in Michigan with her dad. Her upbringing without a mom was a challenging and at times, difficult feat. Thankfully, she had a good few inspirational women in her life who shaped her into the person she is today. After losing her dad at fifteen years old, she was sent to live with her grandmother in Alaska. While living there, she discovered her love for fashion through the internet and the people who surrounded her. Making the decision to study the business side of fashion, she started to pursue an Associates Degree in Business. She aspires to transfer to a four-year university to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Business Management and follow a career in the fashion industry.


Abeo Robinson
She/They
College of Southern Nevada
Psychology
Abeo Robinson was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 1, 2004 (yes, that’s April Fool’s Day: no one believed it!). Her childhood was characterized by what seemed like an endless cycle of medical trauma and poverty as a result of her chronic disability, which would go on to pull her away from academia several times in K-12. The illness culminated in a relapse so intense in junior year of high school that she was forced to drop out. Yet, year later she entered a dual enrollment program, obtained a 4.0 GPA in her college classes, and managed to not only be on track to graduate high school, but also finish with a year of college under her belt as well! Today, she works towards her dream of being a psychologist, doing for others like her what handfuls of generous people had for her throughout the years.


Mugada Yoruba (Ruba) Secret
He/Him
Front Range Community College
Computer Science
Mugada Yoruba Secret, who goes by Ruba, is a proud gay biracial black man, a first-generation college student, and an aspiring software engineer. His mom and dad raised him in the suburbs of northern Colorado with his three older sisters. Growing up, Ruba watched his sisters struggle with addiction, his mother struggle with depression and disability, and his father struggle with anger issues, all the while being taught that LBGTQ identities were wrong and were not allowed inside his family. From middle school on, he began experiencing anxiety attacks, suicidal ideation, and shame about his identity. He didn’t have many friends and used video games and bass playing as a form of escapism. In high school, he entered an early college program, started getting professional help with his trauma, and started looking for family in his friendships. Now he has a passion for computer graphics and programming, confidence in his abilities and talents, and has finally found the light at the end of the tunnel.


Chris Silva
They/Them
Los Angeles Harbor College
Mechanical Engineering
Even while figuring out who they are, Chris Silva’s love for the world around them hasn’t changed. Chris especially enjoys animals, anyone in their family could tell you how fascinated they are by animals and how as a younger child, when everybody was reading Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, they had their nose dug into numerous books about animals. Chris also enjoyed reading about topics that confused them, such as the universe, theoretical physics, the natural world, and more. They also love to create art and, as a mechanical engineer, Chris found a perfect threshold where they can combine my love of art and science. Chris can help design and create technology that would help the natural world they are very fond of. Chris thanks their mom for allowing them to grow and achieve under her guidance, even when their dad got deported and it was scary for her and Chris’ brothers, she still was able to show strength. This is why Chris hopes, through their growth, to demonstrate that it’s okay to let your walls down.


Samuel Ton
He/Him
Front Range Community College
Psychology
Samuel Q Ton, born from the hues of Colorado, is an individual who has a flaring passion for life and everything that surrounds him. He is an open bisexual and transgender man who came out in 2017, just barely in his adolescence. When he did, however, Samuel faced an abundance of tragedy, facing the realities of a barely accepting family as well as an immense fear of wanting to use the right bathroom. He is luckily in a position that allows him to express himself as best as he is able to, especially considering the large steps he took to formally educate the people around him in order to make a real change in his life. His family now warmly accepts him fully as a transman and he is proud to say that he is still loving life just as much as he did before. He has a high passion for psychology, and why not put that effort into helping the people he cares about the most? He also has a flair for art and won a couple of school competitions before for his extraordinary works and galleries.


Ryan Tran
He/Him
Statue University of New York Community College, Adirondack
Information Technology, Cybersecurity
SUNY Adirondack Queensbury, NY Information Technology: Cybersecurity
Ryan Tran is a transgender, first-generation Vietnamese-American student with a passion for technology, digital art, and reptiles. While initially based out of West Florida, his family moved states every two-three years for most of his life due to his father’s travel nursing job. Due to constant instability, the only roots he could maintain were his tight-knit immediate family unit. By age 14, Ryan had realized that he was queer, but continued to live in the closet until adulthood out of fear of what his religious childhood friends and family in the South might think. At age 18, Ryan ran away from his home in West Florida in the night, abandoning his life with his family to live with his partner in upstate New York. After many emotional months of therapy and growing, Ryan is now openly queer and flourishing. He often acts as an outlet for other closeted queer individuals that he grew up with and happily gives them advice and encouragement. Ryan hopes to break into tech and become a queer voice within the industry. He also hopes his success inspires others around him to make a leap of faith.


Diana Trotman
She/They
Queensborough Community College
Psychology
Diana Trotman is a psychology major at Queens Community College. Her professional intention is to become a counseling psychologist so that she can assist others to overcome the challenges of each day. They would like to be in a position to assist different human beings to improve the satisfaction of their lives. Many human beings throughout the world combat disabling intellectual problems and disabilities. Diana wants to be capable of assisting with to coping with their problems and disabilities, and overcoming intellectual and emotional challenges. While being a psychologist can be demanding at times, Diana believes it is additionally a very enjoyable and pleasant occupation. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression, which affected her and her academic study. It was a terrible time period for them as Diana was in and out of school and their grades had dropped. It looked almost like Diana was going to drop out of high school. She changed several therapists and went to so many counseling sessions and changed several high schools, but in the end, Diana graduated high school.


Laila Anderson
She/They
The George Washington University
International Relations

Laila is a black queer woman from Prince George’s County Maryland majoring in International Relations at George Washington University. Her path to success has not been a clear road. She has struggled with financial setbacks, her identity, and mental health, but all have made her stronger. From a young age, she has wanted to help others, from helping with her little sister’s math homework to aiding as an Election Judge in the 2020 elections to cleaning up her neighborhood. She thrives when she is helping others. Her professional goals include working for the Department of State to facilitate cooperation between countries on issues of international importance such as global warming.


Elliot Babilonia
He/They
Manhattan College
Computer Science

Elliot Babilonia was born and raised in Bronx in New York City. He loves playing video games, writing poetry, participating in spoken word, acting, singing, and playing guitar. He has done advocacy work throughout his life as a transgender, bisexual man standing up for himself and being a minority surrounded by other minorities. He was bullied in elementary school for doing activities that boys typically do. He came out as a transgender male at 10 to his family, teachers and peers. He got in fights almost every day, constantly getting himself into trouble just for standing up for himself — that was when the teacher at his school made a GSA for the LGBTQ students at his middle school as a safe space. And when Elliot went into high school at Fordham High School For The Arts, he founded the GSA so the students at his high school would not have to experience the same oppression that he experienced growing up. He will study Computer Science at Manhattan College and minor in Music. He will continue advocating for his community as someone in the LGBTQ community but also as an Afro-Latino person.


Jeremiah Baldwin
He/Him
The University of Texas at Austin
Government, Rhetoric and Writing, and African and African Diaspora Studies

Jeremiah Baldwin was born and raised in a religious community in Corpus Christi, Texas, until he started his undergraduate education in Austin, Texas. Growing up, Jeremiah did not disclose his sexual orientation because he was fearful of how people in his community would react to his identity as a Black gay man. As someone with intersecting identities, Jeremiah is an extremely passionate advocate for marginalized communities, especially Black LGBTQ people. To commemorate his first Pride Month, Jeremiah hosted a podcast series during the summer of 2021 that discussed aspects of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectionality theory related to the LGBTQ community. The podcast is titled “Caught At An Intersection The Podcast.” It seeks to challenge the predominantly white and Eurocentric narratives that dominate mainstream Pride Month discourse here in the United States. Ultimately, Jeremiah plans to attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer who advocates for the rights of marginalized LGBTQ people in the United States and worldwide.


Kaylene Banania
She/They
Saint John’s University
Psychology

Kaylene Banania is a twenty five year old sophomore student at St. John’s University starting in the Fall of 2022. She has survived malpractice in clinical mental health settings, including invalidation, ineffective treatments, dismissiveness, and emotional abuse when relaying her severe symptoms. They found that advocating for themself in the inpatient and outpatient units came at a cost. She hopes that her Bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. will allow her to provide effective Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment, validation and compassion to patients. In addition, they are interested in starting an advocacy program for patients who were harmed or misguided in clinical settings. She hopes to guide patients to be the best version of themselves so they can advocate for themselves and others in mental health recovery.


Joi Berry
They/She
Fashion Institute of Technology
Art History and Museum Professions

Joi Berry is a non-binary curator, artist, and creative director studying art history and museum professions at the Fashion Institute of Technology. They have experience curating exhibitions across the lower Manhattan and Brooklyn areas. They often make it a point to showcase and echo BIPOC artists’ voices through exhibition opportunities, programs created for artists of color, and other initiatives for the betterment of BIPOC communities across the New York City Metropolitan Area. Despite being just 21 years old, they have been an Arts Administration Intern for The Appraisers Association of America and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, an Exhibition Coordinator at New York Art and Fashion, a Gallery Assistant at Kinetik Arts, the Young Designers Coordinator for Fashion Week Brooklyn, and the Operations Manager for The Art Career. They have also done freelance exhibition curation for the Fashion Institute of Technology and other arts education, administrative and curatorial endeavors. Their experiences include curation, grant writing, project management, administrative work, research, programming, museum collections, marketing, and public relations.


Kumari Billings
She/Her
Loyola Marymount University
Poltical Science

Kumari Ananda Devidasi Billings is an 18-year-old Los Angeles native. She currently attends Alexander Hamilton High School but plans on attending Loyola Marymount University in the fall to major in political science and minor in screenwriting. Ever since Kumari could speak, she’s been an activist; ever since she could write, she’s been a poet. As a mentee in the organization WriteGirl, Kumari has gotten her poetry published in two books and featured in an LA Weekly article. Kumari also got her poetry featured in an LAX mural by Renee Fox. However, her fiery activism has never distinguished. Through her clubs, Best Buddies and Amnesty, she could speak for the unspoken for and fight for those who don’t have justice readily available. In college, Kumari wants to combine her two passions; she dreams of making poetically-themed movies that unveil the criminal justice system’s true need for reform. Recently, Kumari got to experience this combination at a paid University of San Francisco event where her poetry was used to facilitate a discussion about intersectionality and pedagogy. Kumari Billings hopes to one day become the first Supreme Court Justice who also has an Oscar at home for Best Original Screenplay.


Madison Black
She/Her
Univeristy of North Carolina at Charlotte
Dental Hygiene

Do you know the color chartreuse? That’s Madison Black: strange, eccentric, and uniquely necessary to the color wheel. Like any color, chartreuse and Madison have varying shades, sometimes fluctuating on our own and often shifting from those around us. Throughout the seven years she was in orchestra learning to play the violin and bass, she recalls embodying yellow chartreuse, an almost audibly vibrant shade. However, Madison began to foster her strong interest in civil law by hearing about supreme court cases. Slowly, as she delved deeper into crime-centered podcasts, read further into the political articles, and became more emotionally invested in past/ present court rulings, her once yellowish chartreuse morphed into a green-dominant one. Yet, it was only after she began to emerge into fields where she was most passionate — the discrepancy of BIPOC in high-level classes, racial injustice, and the Spanish language — that Madison evolved into her true chartreuse. As she advanced into the person she did not always know she wanted to be but was glad to end up as, her chartreuse metamorphosed. Madison is now ready to venture upon the rocky and compelling route that encompasses her goal of becoming a lawyer.


Kaeleigh Cainn
She/Her
University of North Dakota
Medical Laboratory Sciences

Kaeleigh Cain is a first-generation Indigenous student. She was valedictorian of her high school and was involved in the National Honor Society, where she made sure the community knew they were there to support them. At FPCC, she joined Student Senate hoping to do more for her community. Kaeleigh’s club was able to have a haunted house and a Tribal Election forum for those who had questions for candidates. At Minot State University, she joined three clubs: the Science club, the Native American Club, and the Psychology and Addiction Studies club.


Jett Carter
She/Her
Emory University
Biology

Jett Carter was born on the island of Hawai’i in 2002 and spent her childhood growing up around sandy beaches and lush landscapes. Jett has always excelled at school. She found an early interest in robotics, which she pursued for four years until she reached high school. She dipped into various things– surfing, tennis, archery, and starting a few businesses. By the time she was in high school, Jett had focused on two new interests; botany and marine biology. Attending a school that specialized in both, she worked with NELHA’s Jan War to observe deep-sea creatures and the company Smart Yields. She started paddling for Keauhou Canoe Club and SHEfound, a community within Kailua Konas eSports league. After winning a few competitions in both, Jett was on her way to college. It wasn’t until the summer of 2021 that she began work on a coffee farm at home– and found a great fascination and career interest in botany, business, and agriculture. Jett wishes to one day make strides in the world of sustainable agriculture and create a better future through her work.


Leo Castaneda-Pineda
He/They
Rhode Island College
English & Creative Writing

Leo grew up in a single-parent household with his older brother in Providence, Rhode Island. The son of immigrants, they grew up surrounded by the vibrant music, food, and traditions of Guatemalan culture, as well as its strict expectations about gender roles and its anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiments. From a young age, he knew he was different, as did his peers, but had no access to information about the queer community. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic family while also attending Catholic school caused him to feel even more alienated and confused. After learning about transmasculinity at 13, he came out to his mother and brother a year later, only to have their identity suppressed. Despite the struggle of being rejected, Leo is now 21 and so proud of who they are. He is pursuing a degree in English & Creative Writing at Rhode Island College. They are passionate about queer representation in storytelling and the need for more characters with intersectional identities. Leo hopes their writing can inspire and educate others. He aspires to create stories featuring diverse characters to help others, especially young people, find themselves and feel seen.


Nube Cruz
They/He
University of California, Los Angeles
Art and Art History

Nube Cruz (they/them, he/his) is a college student pursuing a degree in art and art history. They have been an activist, artist, and community leader in their neighborhood. He also volunteers with two different organizations helping LGBTQ people in Los Angeles and hopes to continue the groundwork he does there and professionally. Their artwork has been exhibited and published in a few queer trans publications. Nube hopes to one day build a better curriculum, access to art and culturally competent research to help communities of color in Los Angeles.


Makayla Dawkins
She/Her
Human Sexuality
University of Connecticut

Makayla Dawkins is a student from the inner city of New Haven, CT. She is studying Gender, Sexuality, and Reproduction Studies at the University of Connecticut. When she isn’t studying, she is serving with USG Student Services as a Sexual Health and Education Advocacy Coordinator where she has implemented a menstrual care package program and created legislation in solidarity with UConn s queer community. She’s also human development and reproductive justice enthusiast who serves as a sexual health educator on campus. Additionally, she serves as a peer advocate for various causes pertaining to LGBTQ+ folks and other marginalized identities. Makayla is also an advocate for juvenile justice, children with incarcerated parents, and bereaved youth. She uses her knowledge, passion, and expertise to advance youth services across the country as a member of the Youth Catalyst Team and Girls Action Board.


Kit Eaton
They/Them
Arizona State University
Sociology

Kit grew up with a sense that they were different than other people. This difference led to much confusion and uncertainty as they felt like there was no place they belonged. When they entered their teenage years, they found a community online of LGBTQ people, where Kit was finally able to find a label that suited them. They realized they were queer through online communities and became involved in their high school’s GSA. In university, they became a part of Qmunity, ASU’s LGBTQ organization, and this fall will serve as the Facilitator of Community Programming. Kit looks for opportunities to serve their community whenever and wherever they can and prides themself on being inclusive and welcoming in everything they do. By studying sociology at Arizona State University, Kit hopes to prepare themselves for work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to make safe spaces a reality for any intersectionality of identities.


AmunDayo Edwards
He/Him
Liberty University
Community Care and Counseling: Pastoral Care and Counseling

AmunDayo De Edwards is the founder and senior master servant (pastor) of Integrated Praise Spiritual Center (I.P.S.C.). He is also the co-facilitator for the Trans Saints Ministry of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. He is currently a Supervisor with the Department of Human Assistance, managing a staff of 10 to 20 employees with the support of a co-supervisor. A gifted leader, husband, and father, AmunDayo’s tremendous love for people is undoubtedly awe-inspiring. Consequently, he embraces spiritual integration as well as radical inclusivity and expansion, activating the concepts and sharing the unconditional love of God wherever he goes and with all whom he contacts. AmunDayo has studied with various credible teachers from multiple institutions and spiritual paths. He earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Communication, a Master’s of Divinity, and a certificate in Ministry Studies. Currently, he is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences at Franklin University and preparing for a graduate program at Liberty University, where he will pursue a Doctorate of Education in Pastoral Care and Counseling. He hopes one day to become a transgender therapist to support the transition process by healing past traumas.


Katrina Erivez
She/Her
Northern Arizona University
Psycological Services

Katrina is a Latina, queer student attending NAU pursuing a master’s degree in Psychological Sciences. After seeing her family face hardships due to their ethnic background and suffering from self-doubt about her identity, she pushed herself through school to prove to herself and others that her background did not make her any less capable. She hopes to attend UW School of Medicine to get her medical degree and become a psychiatrist one day, making a positive impact in her community and making psychiatric care more available to people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. One of her ultimate goals is to break the stigma around mental health, wanting others to be able to openly talk and be encouraged to receive help after having to struggle with her mental health and identity on her own.


Omari Foote
She/Her
Howard University
Journalism

Omari Foote is a sophomore journalism major and graphic design minor at Howard University. When her family moved from New Jersey to Georgia, she got through the tough transition by reading and imagining worlds, getting lost in them. Omari eventually began to take on writing herself. She excelled quickly, garnering multiple awards, including the Steve Marine Poetry Award and recognition from the Georgia Scholastic Press Association for my Commentary Article. Omari is dedicated to empowering Black queer people and giving them a platform to express themselves creatively. Presently, she writes for The Hilltop and serves as a Social Media Intern for D.C Tutoring and Mentoring Initiative. In her free time, Omari writes poetry and plays basketball. She hopes to graduate in 2024 and eventually begin her career as a journalist.


Jose Gamboa
He/Him
University of Central Florida
International and Global Studies

Jose grew up in Catia La Mar, a small coastal town in Venezuela, where he spent most of his youth. He studied political sciences at Universidad Central de Venezuela and served as a Youth Outreach Coordinator for then Venezuelan congressman Juan Guaido and as an activist for the LGBTQ+ Movement Pro-Inclusion. Unfortunately, because of this activism, Jose had to leave Venezuela due to political persecution and targeted harassment. After leaving Venezuela, Jose found a new home in the United States as a refugee. He has been living in the Central Florida area for the past five years, where he continues to work to achieve his dreams. Jose is transferring from Seminole State College to the University of Central Florida, where he will pursue a bachelor’s in International and Global studies. He is very active in his community as an alumnus of the Orlando New Leaders Council and an activist for the Venezuelan community in the U.S.

Jose has worked for ActBlue since February of 2021 as a Democratic Politics and Elections associate, helping democratize political fundraising through online tools and helping candidates and committees up and down the ballot.


Pilar Garcia
They/Them
University of Tennessee
English & Journalism

Pilar Garcia is a two-spirit undergraduate studying English and Journalism at the University of Tennessee and an activist for psychiatric disabilities and indigenous and queer rights in the south. They are a prominent member of the Native American Student Association, the Honors and Scholars Programs, and the Sigma Tau Delta and Delta Alpha Pi honor societies. They have recently discovered their love for poetry, and since then, Pilar’s poems have been published three times in various journals since 2021. They hope to continue their poetic journey by beginning their MFA in 2023 after completing their Bachelors degree. In their free time, they volunteer at their local animal shelter and foster behavioral cats.


Maya Ghanem
They/Them
Duke University
International Comparative Studies, Concentration in the Middle East

Maya Ghanem (they/them) is an undergraduate student at Duke University majoring in International Comparative Studies, with a concentration in the Middle East. They seek a career in social work to support queer Muslims, QTIPOC environmental justice, and community renewable energy initiatives. Maya approaches social welfare as encompassing energy, technology, and the environment. They also hope to center queer Muslim joy and ways of being in every facet of their life. Maya takes part in Duke-funded research on the energy-health nexus in the Middle East and climate-induced urban migration. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, they are pursuing an honors thesis on Muslim, Indigenous, and queer environmentalisms in the United States. Maya also advocated for QTIPOC environmental organizers when they attended COP26. They engaged in community work through their involvement with Westminster Free Clinic, leading a food insecurity project and serving as both a student manager and medical intern. At Duke, Maya is the Justice Director of the Undergraduate Environmental Union, a content writer for Muslim Women For, a Jummah 4 All member, and a staff writer for Jasur Magazine.


Raheim
He/Him
Florida International University
Sociology, Anthropology and Biological Sciences

Raheim is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degrees in Biology and Anthropology/Sociology at Florida International University (FIU). At FIU, Raheim volunteers as an Ecology Peer Leader in the Peer-Led Team Learning program. In his role, Raheim utilizes active learning techniques and other strategies to ensure students comprehend course materials. In the summer of 2021, Raheim completed an independent research project with professor Dr. Sparkle Malone and other mentors titled “Evaluating the Effects of Drought Conditions on Area Burned in the Everglades.” While obtaining his Associate of Arts degree at Valencia Community College, Raheim, his professor Dr. Carmen Diaz, and another classmate formed the Student Anthropology and Sociology Club. As vice president and president, Raheim assisted in organizing diverse individuals to implement multicultural and cultural events on campus and in the community. Raheim volunteered with ‘Orlando Ideas For US’ on climate change and sustainability issues, participating in projects such as oyster restoration and urban gardening. His passion and interest lie in collaborating to understand and solve health disparities, racial disparities, and climate change issues. As part of his goal to work in public health and medical anthropology, Raheim aims to increase the diversity of approaches to interconnected issues.


Ashton Greene
Her/Him
Universiy of San Francisco
Psychology
Ashton Greene is 18 years and from Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Campbell High School while also doing dual enrollment at Chattahoochee technical college. He has received numerous accolades for his academic and extracurricular activities, such as being an honor roll recipient, MLK Humanitarian recipient, and most improved in marching band. She is the lead guard at Six Flags White Waters and simultaneously works at GAP. Ashton also volunteers at a local church with his grandparents every 1st Sunday of the month for a food bank. She loves to hang out with friends and travel around the world whenever there is a break during the school year. He also loves to read for fun, listen to RnB and hip pop, work out at the start of the day, and put a smile on people’s faces. Ashton wants to become a doctor in emergency medicine so she can help people in their most vulnerable state in the best way possible. He hopes to change this world and help people the most he can in whatever way he can.


Sophia Guerieri
They/Them
Emory University
Biology

Sophia Guerieri is a Brazilian-Italian American dual citizen from Atlanta, GA, graduating from Germantown High School in Madison, MS. They will be attending Emory University in the fall and majoring in Biology (Pre-Medicine). Sophia is a traditional artist, writer, ambassador for their Healthcare Academy, a leader in their World Culture and Beta Clubs, and principal harpist and percussionist in the symphonic, marching bands, and Indoor Percussion. Their greatest passions lie in serving others in their community through service and the sciences. Sophia’s goals in life are to lend their skills to communities that need them most, hopefully specializing in oncology and pediatric oncology services, and to bring love and diversity to the healthcare professions.


Caitlin Guidry
She/Her
The University of Texas at Austin
Psychology

Caitlin Guidry identifies as a Black and queer woman. She is a pre-med student from Houston, Texas, pursuing a B.S. in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her interests include biopsychology, behavioral neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychopharmacology. Caitlin is currently involved in neuroendocrinology, reward, and drug addiction research. In the future, she hopes to continue in research and become a physician. As a Black and queer woman attending one of Houston’s richest and least diverse private schools, Caitlin struggled with her identity growing up. She felt more secure in her identity as a Black woman, but her negative experiences with religion tainted my perspective on queerness. Through talking to trusted friends and therapy, she was able to unpack shame around my sexuality and move into a space where I can accept and celebrate all parts of herself. At 20, Caitlin is more sure of herself than ever. Her journey of self-discovery has motivated her to pursue a career in healthcare that can make health and self-acceptance more accessible to others.


He/They
Saint Joseph’s University
Interdisciplinary Health Studies

Sayed Hassan was born on March 16th, 2001, in West Philadelphia and has lived here for the entirety of his life. They realized they were gay in middle school, which was a terrifying experience. At that point, his family was religious, and there were no circumstances in which he could tell them. However, this all came to a head when his siblings sat Sayed down and told him they suspected he was gay and would never accept him for who he was. This devastated Sayed, as their family was their main source of support and best friends while growing up. In high school, they decided to focus on their academics and interests as they were uncertain if my family would support them in the future. Sayed gained an interest in swimming and swam all four years in high school and continues to swim in a swim club at his college. Being interested in healthcare, they are a health studies major and aspire to attend pharmacy school. Sayed hopes to become a resource to younger queer persons who may face similar struggles in the future.


Kat Hazel
She/Her
University of Colorado Denver
Political Science

Kat Hazel was raised in a Catholic home by her first-generationfirst-generation, maternal, immigrant grandparents in a small Northwest Texas town. Her father chose to forgo his parental obligations, and her mother was taken away from her at the age of three to serve a 35 to life prison sentence. Around the same time, Kat was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. Growing up in this heavily white-washed, Republican town was a challenge. Being a queer, Afro-Indigenous Latina, she experienced racism, classism, and homophobia. To find her place in a scary and isolating world, Kat made the brave decision to move away from Texas and begin her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado Denver. She works on campus as an educational trainer and event coordinator for the LGBTQ Student Resource Center. Kat is also a resident assistant, where she mentors students like herself to have the confidence to pursue their education regardless of their past. After undergrad, she plans on attending law school and studying constitutional and human rights law to continue fighting for those that are underprivileged.

Jack Jordan
They/Them
University of Central Florida
Social Work

Jack Lee Jordan (they/them) is a disabled, queer, nonbinary, Black Puerto Rican born and raised in Miami. Jack has been involved in South Florida activism for over ten years with a focus that has always been on queer/ trans liberation, critical sex positivity, risk-aware safer sex, inclusive and accessible spaces, and youth empowerment. They started doing activism work in their early teens to help medical professionals, teachers, social workers, and, most importantly, parents accept their queer and trans children. Jack is informed, engaged, and visible around many social justice issues. They offer their whole self to spaces they engage in and a vast understanding of the complexities of race, ability, class, gender, and orientation. They are pursuing a Bachelor’s in Social Work at the University of Central Florida.

Khamiko Konzsaki
She/Her
Northeast Helicopters
Helicopter Pilot

Khamiko Konzsaki loves working with her hands, pulling things apart to learn how it works then putting it back together then re-purposing it into something functional and cool. Her mother was never home as she worked all of the time, and never had any spare change to buy Khamiko any new toys when she was a child. Khamiko spent a lot of her time walking around the neighborhood picking up random broken things to make into a toy. She would tinker and combining this and that, in order to make a cool gizmo that she and her three sisters could entertain themselves with. This curiosity and mindset followed Khamiko into adulthood. She loves teaching ingenuity and the art of re-purposing to people of all ages and backgrounds. She has applied this to her underlining focus to teach people how to rewire their brains to be able to figure out brighter outcomes, no matter how dire the situation may seem. There is always a way to Macgyver it out. Khamiko is also a classical and a Jazz pianist, and before COVID she had a group of friends she used to play music with.


Quyen La
She/Her
University of Houston
Hotel and Restaurant Management

Born and raised in a low-income, single-mother immigrant household, Quyen La was more than aware that she was different from her peers. As a minority in a generation of change, she began her social advocacy journey at ten. She volunteered, participated, and helped fight for issues like ending homelessness in Houston, intersectional feminism, LGBTQ+ youth advocacy, anti-sexual violence and more. Although La realized her true identity at 11, she did not publicly come out as bisexual and demisexual until she was 18 due to negative stigmas. She began her college journey in 2020 at the University of Houston, majoring in Hotel and Restaurant Management with an emphasis in Weddings and Events. Post-graduation, she aims to be a leading voice and role model for underrepresented people in the hospitality and entertainment industries. In May 2021, La founded Giup, a non-profit mental health advocacy organization (@giuporg on Instagram). Currently, she holds positions as UHVSA’s Events Coordinator, Gourmet Night’s Event Manager, and UHFSA’s Member and Media Team Member. Outside the classroom, you can find her with her creative endeavors and hobbies, such as modeling and writing!


Braden Lee
He/Him
Carnegie Mellon University
Computer Engineering

Braden Lee is a native of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Currently, he attends Iolani high school as a senior. Despite the distinction typically drawn between the humanities and STEM, he finds himself intrigued by both, pursuing both Computer Engineering and Political Science degrees. His extracurricular involvement reflects this, serving as both a leadership council member for the Iolani Model United Nations team and a programming mentor for the Iolani FIRST Robotics team. As an Eagle Scout, Braden has worked intimately with the community, most recently collaborating with his troop to deliver bookshare structures and literature to native Hawaiian communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Above all, he believes in the ability of technology to connect. Braden hopes that he can apply modern innovations to solve contemporary issues through engineering.


Zoe Lemos
She/Her
The New School

Raised in Western Massachusetts, Zoe (she/her) discovered the power of music at a very young age. She’s been using her music as a vehicle for advocacy and social change ever since. When she was eleven years old, Zoe started writing original songs, playing in bands, and busking to raise money for justice. Since then, she’s performed at many events, including the March for Our Lives, the Women’s March Northampton, and a fundraiser for the LGBT Asylum Task Force, which she organized. Zoe volunteered at Standing Rock during three critical weeks in November of 2016 when protests against the Dakota Access pipeline were at their peak. She also interned at the International Indigenous Youth Council, helping with their March for Unity in DC in 2017, and marched 50 miles for gun control in 2018. Zoe graduated from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in 2021 and identifies as a biracial queer woman. She will be attending The New School in New York City this fall and plans to study contemporary music with a focus on protest music and social change.


Dove Little Home
She/They
Southern New Hampshire University
Anthropology with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability

Okii nistoo nitanikoo / hello my name is Dove Little Home.

Dove Little Home is a mixed Two-Spirit Blackfeet and Cree Native American. She has worked with Indigenous companies such as We R Native, Na’ah Illahee Fund, and Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board to create various artwork for Indigenous people across the nation. Their work highlights LGBTQ and Two-Spirit love and health-related support, such as HIV awareness. This work gave her the opportunity to speak in a panel for Black and Indigenous solidarity. They hope to expand their involvement with the community by working with Tribes in person as an anthropologist. When she is not creating art, she studies hard to earn her BA in anthropology with environmental sustainability to assist her Tribal reservations someday. They believe that the ancestral lands of Montana deserve nourishment and cultural revitalization for their people to continue to thrive. By doing this, Dove hopes their land becomes a safe place for all Natives, mentally and environmentally. She hopes to participate in anthropology internships that involve working with Indigenous people across North America for hands-on experience while she continues to earn her degree.


Brayan Lopez Llamas
He/Him
University of California Los Angeles
Business Economics
If Brayan Lopez Llama’s life was boiled down to a TV synopsis, it would be called “Brayan’s Life After” with a brief recap about his early life during the pilot episode. Then, season one takes place during high school and is depicted as a journey of self discovery. Most notably, Brayan realized in the four years his affinity for leadership after taking on positions like class president and treasurer. One entire episode focuses on a project where Brayan planned and executed a fundraiser for infants suffering from clubfoot in third world countries. Another episode highlights his decision to pursue business after competing in regional and state competitions. Other factors like personal realizations about family, sexuality, and friends are often discussed. At the end, the season inevitably ends with the speech he gave at his high school graduation. Season two, which is still in production, picks up at the beginning of his first quarter at University of California, Los Angeles after spending another summer working full time in construction. In this season, Brayan tackles new obstacles like independence, culture shock, and financial hardships. He also takes on new opportunities like a fellowship at the student body’s office of external vice president and joining the Latino Business Student Association on campus, all while tackling academics and making the Dean’s Honors List.


Ashton Love
He/Him
University of California, Berkeley
Social Welfare, Gender and Womens Studies
Dreaming of new worlds keeps Ashtpon Love grounded in his purpose. Ashton is passionate about collaborating with and empowering youth, promoting mental illness awareness, conspiring for social justice, embracing a Black feminist praxis, advocating for accessible education, advocating to treat transitioning as medically necessary, exploring gender and sexuality, and above all, serving queer and trans BIPOC communities. It is his dream to work as a psychologist serving trans BIPOC communities. Given the great deal of experience he has working with youth, Ashton would like to encourage trans youth of color to embrace living as their authentic selves. As seen with the hundreds of anti-trans bills coming out, it is evident that there is an attack on trans youth. It is a very scary time to grow up as trans and he would like to serve as a resource and support system so that trans youth know that they have a purpose and an opportunity to thrive.


Alejandro Mejia-Tejada
He/Him
Clemson University
Mathematical Sciences
As soon as he stepped foot on campus, Alejandro Mejia-Tejada knew he wanted to get involved and make campus a better place for those who come after him. Alejandro is a mathematical sciences senior at Clemson University and has served on different roles on the leadership team of Clemson Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Clemson’s main LGBTQ student organization. He is also a member of the Sexuality and Gender Engagement Committee part of student government, and has volunteered on different committees that plan programs for National Coming Out Week and the Clemson Pride Celebration. Alejandro plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Student Affairs, and hopes to show students with Latinx and/or LGBTQ identities that they can succeed in challenging career paths. He promises to alawys promote inclusion and equity through curricular and extracurricular activities in educational spaces.


Jadyn Newman
She/Her
American University
Justice and Law, Film Studies
Jayden Newman grew up in the south side area of Chicago and is a current second semester junior at American University. Jayden was afforded the incredible opportunity to double major in both film and justice and law studies, where Jaden’s passion lies. Jayden spent the past seven years doing freelance video work, including commissioned promotional videos, travel documentaries, or artistic projects, and she spent much time writing, which is her favorite part of filmmaking (screenplay work). In 2022, Jayden produced quite a few fiction films and a non-fiction video series about vaccine hesitancy in marginalized communities for their organization. Jayden truly enjoyed her coursework in social justice and the way it informs her work as an aspirational documentary filmmaker. Her film artist statement is a focus on amplifying the voices of marginalized groups through uplifting and powerful content, informed by social justice work, history, and the hidden stories of real individuals. Film is special in that way, in its ability to tell a story that might not otherwise be remembered.

Chiomya Nwoye
No pronouns/they/he/she
University of Chicago
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Cinema Media Studies
Chioma is a third-year student at the University of Chicago studying critical race and ethnic studies and cinema media studies. During their time on campus, Chioma has been involved in the Chicago Academic Achievement Program (CAAP), the Organization of Black Students (OBS), and student organizing with CareNotCops and UChicago United. Chioma hopes to attend law school following graduation so that they can aid in supporting those who have been penalized by the legal system while we work toward the horizon of a new future. Chioma is very glad to be a part of the Lab as a Mass Incarceration Working Group Fellow as we continue to learn and build the world we wish to see together.


Emily Odenkirk
She/Her
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Political Science

Emily is an 18-year-old queer, biracial young woman from suburban Wisconsin. She grew up feeling that her community presented a very tight box for what she could be. She was expected to be demure, acquiescent, and conservative. She first publicly stepped out of that box in a battle over a rock. When a local Black Lives Matter and Pride mural was vandalized repeatedly, she began repainting it. Milwaukee Magazine published the story of her repeated repairs, and she faced significant backlash from many in her community. That experience helped galvanize her about the direction her life’s work should take her. She plans to attend college to study political science and work in politics to fight for the rights of all marginalized groups.


Alana Okonkwo
She/Her
Stanford University
Global Studies
Alana Okonkwo has been actively involved in furthering racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and mental health services in her community throughout high school. Growing up as the older sister to a brother with Autism, Alana became an empathetic leader who strives toward the wellbeing of all marginalized groups in her community. Alana plays an active role in the city of Fontana as the chairperson of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, where she organizes teen leadership summits, hosts voter registration workshops, and meets frequently with the Mayor to discuss equity and inclusion in the city. Outside of Fontana, Alana has funded non-profit organizations in the Inland Empire through the Youth Grantmakers Program, has created legislation that addresses social problems, and has hosted an Open Mic Advocacy Night to empower the youth. She has been awarded the 30 Under 30 Award from assembly member Eloise Gomez Reyes for her innovative efforts to promote inclusivity and equity in the Inland Empire. Alana Okonkwo will attend Stanford University in the Fall of 2022 where she intends to major in global studies or political science with a minor in human rights.


Belen Padilla
She/Her
Scripps College
Neuroscience
Belen Padilla’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with tourist visas they overstayed. They struggled to provide for their family because they did not speak English, nor did they have legal documentation, or secondary education. After school counselors pressured Belen’s father to take her to therapy to treat my mental health, she realized that his immigration and patriarchal culture disrupted his emotional health. Over time, he developed stress-induced migraines and became intensely angry. He did not receive treatment while undocumented and uninsured. Belen’s father then took his anger out on her family by forcing them to endure domestic violence. Belen’s passion for medicine as a career is rooted in her experiences and desire to broaden access to culturally sensitive healthcare for mixed-status families like her own. She chose to major in neuroscience to gain deeper knowledge about how the stresses experienced by undocumented immigrants can devolve into chronic neurological disorders or emotional instability, as they did with her father. Belen wants to use her research and public service background to create a nonprofit that expands access to healthcare for undocumented families and advocates for policies that remedy race and class-based health disparities at the U.S-Mexico border.


Kaiden Releford
She/They
East Tennessee State University
Criminal Justice
Kaiden Releford is a student at East Tennessee State University studying criminal justice. She has always been passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of minority groups in her community. In high school, they started a diversity club that educated students, hosted community drives, and provided a safe space for LGBTQ students and students of color. Ever since then, Kaiden has been active in local democratic political campaigns, in the LGBTQ community in northeast Tennesse, and with the BIPOC community near the university. She hopes to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and go on to attend law school to become an attorney. From there they hope to open a nonprofit that focuses on rehabilitating recently incarcerated people and finding them jobs and housing.


Ness Rodriguez
They/She
Whittier College
Studio Art
Ness is a queer second-generation Mexican-American born and raised in the Los Angeles area. Having struggled with chronic illness for most of their life, she has a unique perspective of the disparities of healthcare and education when those in power have little understanding and empathy for others that are different from themselves. She recognizes that she has had the privilege of access to healthcare and education that have allowed her to further herself, and in furthering their education, she takes her communities with her. In spite of, or perhaps as a direct result of, these challenges in education and healthcare, they are currently working in education as an instructional aid and intend to pursue a teaching credential to teach art at the secondary school level.


MJ Rojas-Brand
They/He/She
Wheaton College
Sociology
MJ is a Latinx, genderqueer youth pursuing higher education. MJ is bubbly, determined, and for sure a jokester. MJ loves anime and creating art, specifically clay pottery or mini paintings. MJ is a local youth activist and the youth programming coordinator at a local nonprofit, the Providence Student Union. The union’s goal is to empower youth to better their education by building leadership skills and teaching social justice. MJ helps research and design workshops, programs, and events while building peer-to-peer relationships with other students. They are currently majoring in Sociology with a minor in Peace and Social Justice. Ultimately, he wants to become a social worker or continue social justice work and advocacy in another form. Activism is such a significant part of her life. MJ wants to continue to aid people so they can reach their potential: MJ wants people to feel supported and empowered in the world!


Yliana Roland
She/Her
University of Texas at Austin
Radio, TV, Film and Journalism
Yliana Roland is a queer student, writer, and filmmaker raised in Houston and is currently attending university at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Yliana realized she wanted to become a writer as a young teenager after spending a childhood constantly reading books, yet seldom seeing Black and Mexican-American identities and experiences reflected on the page. Yliana realized that going to college, studying film and journalism, and learning to tell stories would one day give her the position to improve representation in media for her communities. At the University of Texas, she received an honorable mention from the ACP Student Press for her successful advocation for the repatriation of indigenous remains to the Miakan-Garza tribe. She acted as the opinion editor for Orange Magazine, wrote articles pledging the university to do away with racist campus traditions like The Eyes Of Texas, and openly spoke about issues queer women face for student publications. Writing is how she makes sense of the world, and how she will make it better. Yliana hopes to one day write coming-of-age books and TV shows that platform Black, Brown, and queer young women. When not writing, you can find Yliana making home movies with friends.

Julian Rosario
Julian Rosario<a
He/Him
University of California Los Angeles
Spanish Community and Culture
Since graduating high school, Julian Rosario had the opportunity to volunteer in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and El Salvador. He has spent time working with youth in rural and urban communities. Now, at 31, Julian decided to return to school and apply all the knowledge and experiences he acquired throughout his life in an academic setting. Being a non-traditional student, Julian views school differently than he did when he was younger and now he embraces the challenges of academic learning. Having had so many incredible life experiences, he now feels the next step is to complete his education and obtain a doctoral degree. Julian believes the purpose of learning is to enlighten oneself, and in turn share that knowledge with others. As a lifelong student and eventual teacher, he is motivated by his passion to share and spread knowledge to others.


Amiee Sadler
She/They
University of Tennessee
Social Work
As a mother to two teenagers, Amiee Sadler wants to make the world better for them but this is not a new goal. She currently serves as an education and training manager for people3, INC, a diversity, equity, and inclusion firm in Nashville, Tennessee. Her passion started early. She founded the GSA at her high school, was the first student school board member for Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee, and served as an international officer for the United Methodist Youth Organization. Amiee is pursuing her BSW-MSW-JD from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. At UT, Amiee is a Student Ambassador and serves on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Collation of Black Social Workers. Amiee is the DEI Representative for the Bachelors Social Work Association. In 2021 she was awarded the Zora Neale Hurston Scholarship by the Secular Student Alliance. Amiee is a graduate of the Nashville Young Leaders Council and was nominated for the YLC’s Young Leader of the Year 2021. She currently serves on the board for Nashville Launchpad and AWAKE Nashville. In 2022, Amiee was recognized as one of Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.


Maanas Sharma
He/Him
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computer Science and Economics
Maanas Sharma grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, as a gay Indian-American. Isolated in a white, cis, hetero society, he spent much of his childhood nose-deep in a fantasy novel, tinkling away on the faded keys of his piano, or lost in the intricate solution of a new math problem each week. In high school, Maanas found true refuge in the unabashed (and thoroughly queer) debate community. There, a new love for policy bloomed, and he has found a home at the intersections of STEM and social justice ever since. Maanas is the founder & editor-in-chief of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Public Policy, an international publication highlighting advanced nontraditional youth perspectives in policy. Maanas published the landmark data-driven report “States of Emergency: The failure of prison system responses to COVID-19.” Currently, he is on the board of Parivar Bay Area, pushing the fight for queer and trans liberation forward in the South Asian diaspora. Maanas has previously served as the director of finance for Redefy and has written for countless publications, including the MIT Science Policy Review, Youth & Policy, and Working with Older People. Maanas will attend MIT to pursue a joint degree in computer science, economics, and data science.


Daniella Sirleaf
She/Her
Temple University
Finance
Daniella Sirleaf aspires to be a congress member. In her homeland of Liberia, Africa, many activists were persecuted for speaking against corruption and injustice. The government waged war on the innocent, and she has the privilege of exclaiming equality for her fellow minorities who are marginalized and mistreated! Daniella wants to make it illegal to wage war on civilians, advocate for immigrants and refugees, and legalize LGBTQ marriage in all countries worldwide. Daniella volunteers to feed abuse victims and the homeless. They see her as an escape from the chaos consuming their souls and they release their pain as Daniella carries their burdens with hands interlocked in hands in prayer, providing peace. Daniella encourages them that their pain is temporary, and they’ll blossom into bliss. She fights for equality by leading AMOUR campaigns. Protesters will march through city streets to spread awareness about social and economic injustices that minorities encounter, so her community can strategize on solutions. Daniella provides local politicians with proposals that increase the employment rate, eliminate homelessness, and create equal opportunity for all.


Jalen Smith
He/Him
Yale University
Political Science
Jalen Smith, a 20-year-old transgender man from South Pasadena, California, is a queer rights activist currently studying political science. After deciding to live as his authentic self in the spring of 2019, Jalen sought to better educate those around him through partaking in his own social advocacy. As a member of the Angels of Change cohort at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Jalen’s work consisted of empowering trans and gender-nonconforming youth and further promoting trans visibility. As a result of his work, he was awarded by Los Angeles City Council in 2019 on behalf of the city for demonstrating the strength and resilience of gender-diverse youth. This milestone made him feel ready to share his story. And now having had the pleasure of speaking with journalists and state legislators across the country about the struggles faced by LGBTQ youth, Jalen has gone on to lobby for monumental bills like the Equality Act, intern for the United States Senate, and even model for queer-inclusive rap group Brockhampton. As an HRC Youth Ambassador, he works to not only help others like him feel valid in their identities but help them understand the importance of living their story and their truth.


Sage (Kat) Velazquez
They/She
University of California, Berkeley
Media Studies
Kat Velazquez is a first-generation, low-income student at University of California, Berkeley. They are part of the Disabled Student Program, the Trio program, the Educational Opportunity Program, and a NavCal fellow. Kat intends to major in media studies and minor in digital humanities and get a certificate through Berkeley Innovation. Receiving a UC education means they have many fields to explore during and after college. For example, she hopes to join Peace Corps and pursue a career in UX design or marketing or go into education. However, as a sophomore going into my junior year, they have to narrow down what field they want to pursue. As an undergrad, she can apply for internships in these fields to see which she is most interested in joining. Another of Kat’s plans is to join a UX Design Bootcamp to get the necessary experience and knowledge required for the technology industry. Finally, Kat wants to find a way to intersect their social, environmental, and animal justice work into the career they choose. Ultimately, during her time at university and beyond, Kat hopes to inform those who aren’t aware of the injustices they’re facing.

Danae Watson
She/They
Depaul University
Psychology
Danae Watson is a Black and queer student, artist, and soon-to-be graduate from Harold Washington College with an associate degree in psychology. They are proud to have a strong 4.0 GPA. They plan to take their studies further at Depaul University to attain their bachelor’s degree. They are a member of Phi Theta Kappa and a One Million Degrees scholar. Growing up in South Bend, Indiana shaped who they are today. They survived trauma, abuse, and poverty as they traversed academia and found solace on the stage. They sing, dance, and act through the struggles of life as a member of the Art4 Theatre Company, the Black Voice artist collection, and UZIMA Drumming and Dance Company. They also create with local Chicago-based artist, Ezedike. When they are not studying for school, they are working at Bentley’s Pet Stuff as a pet consultant. They plan to incorporate their love for artistry and passion for psychology to create safe spaces for queer and Black folks in their hometown and beyond. They are extremely grateful for the individuals and communities that have brought them so far and are immensely proud of themselves for reaching their goals.


Zhaida Wilbanks
They/He
Fort Lewis College
Political Science
Zhaida Wilbanks proudly represents their Oneida and HoChunk tribal nations and two-spirit identity as a third-year Fort Lewis College student majoring in politcal science and double minoring in environmental conservation and adaptation and Native American and Indigenous studies. He grew up in a split life from being raised by a single mother alongside their three siblings in Chicago and growing up in the rural border-town Oneida Nation reservation. Zhaida grew up within the Urban-Indigenous community where kinship was part of survival. The community he was part of united when someone needed help or uplifting in any way they were able to help; from housing, car rides to ceremonies, food, regalia for pow-wows, learning cultural songs, and dances. Moving to the reservation border town came with an incredible culture shock; Indigenous people are viewed with hostility by non-Indigenous people. Zhaida was subject to this throughout middle and high school. Non-Indigenous students would mock Zhaida’s heritage by distasteful chants and fake headdresses. Bullying tactics would not rock the foundation of culture he was rooted in. Zhaida found their power by advocating for their Indigenous community within education and upholding millennia’s long tradition of smoke dancing with their Oneida community.


Indigo Wright
They/Them
University of Chicago
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Creative Writing
Madeline (Indigo) Wright is a junior at the University of Chicago studying Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and Creative Writing. Indigo has worked with a variety of arts and education organizations to make education accessible to everyone, specifically people impacted by prisons and policing. Outside of academics, Indigo works with various community organizations such as the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project, #DefundCPD Arts & Propaganda Committee, as well as on-campus organizing spaces. They also serve as a college counselor for Black high school students through the Ron Brown Scholars Guided Pathway Support Program and they are a writing instructor for the HUMA courses at the University. Indigo intends to earn a master’s and doctoral degree following undergraduate school with the hopes of utilizing their degrees to continue organizing and teaching liberatory politics both inside and outside prisons. Aside from their work, Indigo enjoys collectively creating joyful spaces for Black queers to share and exist freely through art, music, and food. Originally from South Los Angeles, Indigo hopes to impact at-risk communities both in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Luis Banegas
He/Him/His
Columbia University
Regional Studies
Luis Banegas is a first-generation college student majoring in economics and International Cultural Studies at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. He has worked in various industries such as management, global health, economic research, and government relations. He will be pursuing his M.A. in Regional Studies at Columbia University to reshape archaic research methodologies to give voice to marginalized communities who have suffered the consequences of living in countries that prevent them from achieving success. After graduation, he looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. and becoming the founder of a research institute to help communities in need across Latin America.


Luis Banegas
He/Him/His
Columbia University
Regional Studies
Luis Banegas is a first-generation college student majoring in economics and International Cultural Studies at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. He has worked in various industries such as management, global health, economic research, and government relations. He will be pursuing his M.A. in Regional Studies at Columbia University to reshape archaic research methodologies to give voice to marginalized communities who have suffered the consequences of living in countries that prevent them from achieving success. After graduation, he looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. and becoming the founder of a research institute to help communities in need across Latin America.


Anthony Barros
She/They
Loyola Marymount University
Counseling Psychology
Born in Van Nuys, CA, in a working-class Bolivian-Ecuadorian immigrant family, Anthony Barros majored in Political Science, concentrating in International Relations at UC Berkeley. Anthony is attending Loyola Marymount University for a master’s in counseling psychology on the School Counseling and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor tracks. Anthony develops curriculum and toolkits to advocate for trans-inclusive and affirming school environments that disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Anthony hopes to create and sustain student-driven, community-centered spaces that actively engage in racial and economic justice and cross-cultural student development by working directly with students and families. Anthony’s research focuses on suicide prevention for neurodivergent trans and queer youth of color in religious rural-suburban immigrant communities and multilingual education on race, gender, and sexuality. After graduating, Anthony plans to continue working in schools, social service agencies, health clinics, and non-profits while opening a multilingual private practice that supports low-income LGBTQIA youth, sex workers, and those living with HIV.


Theo Beltran
He/Him/His
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Epidemiology
Theo Beltran is a Chinese, Indonesian and Mexican transmasculine doctoral student studying social and pharmacoepidemiology, with a passion for disrupting systems that perpetuate health inequities. Theo began his LGBTQ advocacy work in 2014 as a programming intern for activism and education at UC San Diego. His work extended as a canvasser for Lambda Legal, an API LGBT Scholarship Recipient and board member, an HIV and Hepatitis-C counselor for the TransNational Study, and a summer organizer with Lavender Phoenix. He is a community safety organizer and mentor for historically marginalized students. Theo’s research applies an intersectional framework to describe health inequities by race and gender among transgender populations. He aims to increase transgender-led research by collaborating with colleagues at Lavender Phoenix and the Center of Applied Transgender Studies to become an independent researcher studying the intersection of structural, social, and political factors that affect transgender health inequities. Theo is committed to working towards eliminating health inequities for transgender people of color and has the training, expertise, support, and motivation necessary to reach his goals and create a lasting impact in transgender health.


Vanessa Beltran
She/Her/Hers
Harvard Divinity School
Religion, Ethics, and Politics
Vanessa brings together extensive experience in community nutrition as a clinician and a systems-level perspective on improving population health through policy advocacy. As a dietitian, Vanessa has worked primarily in under-resourced communities and has firsthand knowledge of how context impacts people’s lives and well-being. Witnessing stark health disparities and the multitudinous disadvantages her patients faced in seeking optimal health, Vanessa pursued her Master of Public Health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to affect change in the upstream determinants that structure opportunity for marginalized communities. She recently completed a fellowship through the Hogg Foundation to promote policies that improve youth mental health at Girls Empowerment Network. Inspired by her involvement in the 87th Texas Legislative Session, Vanessa will return to graduate school to pursue a Master of Theological Studies in Religion, Ethics, and Politics at the Harvard Divinity School. Through pursuing her MTS at Harvard, Vanessa hopes to better understand religion’s role in public life and learn key organizing skills to mobilize the religious left to support protections for LGBTQ+ youth and women’s rights.

Joe Bowie
He/They
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Dance

Joe Bowie was born in Lansing, Michigan, and started dancing as a Brown University student. After graduating, Bowie moved to New York City to pursue a dance career and danced professionally for more than twenty-five years. In NYC, he danced and toured domestically and internationally with the renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Since retiring from performing, Bowie has devoted much of his time to educating dancers and has given master classes in Modern, Contemporary, and Jazz Dance techniques at several colleges, conservatories, and universities throughout the United States. Before becoming a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Dance MFA 2024), Bowie was an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Dance Program at Northwestern University. Bowie also actively engages in the dance science and dance education communities and serves on the: Educators’ Committee, Intersectionality Task Force, and the Strategic Planning Workgroup of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS); and the Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JDEI) Workgroup of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). Bowie earned his A.B. with honors in English and American Literature with an Independent Concentration in African American Poetry from Brown University.


Hezi Cohen
He/Him
University of California, Berkeley
Business

Hezi Cohen is currently an MBA student at Berkeley Haas. Hezi was born and raised in Tel Aviv and Kadima, Israel, to a Jewish family of Persian-Bukharan descent. After almost a decade in the closet, he decided to live his life authentically during his undergraduate studies and came out as a gay man. Determined to help his community, he joined the Israeli LGBTQ+ Youth Movement to support young LGBTQ+ teens and co-founded a community for LGBTQ+ civil servants. After high school, Hezi served his compulsory military service as a combat soldier at the Golani Infantry Brigade of the Israeli Defense Forces. Then he studied Philosophy, Economics, and Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After graduation, he worked as a financial analyst. He then served as an economist at the Budget Department of the Israeli Ministry of Finance. He managed the budgets of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and led digital transformation projects to improve public services. At Haas, Hezi interned at the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund and co-led the Haas Israel Trek. He also serves as an International Student Representative, VP of Finance of Q@Haas, and Haas Jewish Business Club co-president.


Azalea Corral
She/Her
University of San Francisco
International and Multicultural Education
Azalea grew up in Southern California as the oldest of four siblings. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in both Latin American Studies and Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside, she will continue her education at the University of San Francisco to obtain her Master’s Degree in International and Multicultural Education. After losing her parents to a drunk driver in 2020, she aims to follow in their footsteps as educators by working in education herself. Her goal is to work in higher education to provide resources on college campuses to improve the graduation and retention rates of underrepresented minority students.


Wesley Cox
He/Him
San Diego State University & Claremont Graduate University
Education
Wesley recently graduated from UCLA with a Master’s Degree in African American Studies and a certificate in Digital Humanities. He is now a Ph.D. student in a joint doctoral program in Education at San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University. He has been a panelist on various topics ranging from Blackness and Queerness to Black Student Success. Wesley has two publications, “Book Review: We Are Worth Fighting for: A History of the Howard University Student Protest of 1989 (2020),” and co-authored “Black Student Engagement: Resilience & Success Under Duress (2018).” He currently has four digital projects as a part of his Digital Humanities portfolio. At San Francisco State University, he graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Industrial Design and a B.A. in Africana Studies. He helped to found the Afrocentric Living and Learning Community at San Francisco State and served as the Resources chair for the 15th annual Afrikan Black Coalition Conference (2018). Most importantly, he was one of the inaugural employees of the Black Unity Center at SFSU while also holding leadership roles on the executive boards of Black Residents United in Housing and Black Student Union.


Zachari Curtis
She/Her
Washington University in St. Louis
Law

Zachari has been a community accountable farmer and food systems expert working in Washington, DC for nearly a decade. At the helm of Good Sense Farm & Apiary, Zachari built one of the first and most prolific local mushroom farms in the District by leveraging the concept of rewilding to get folks excited about communing with nature. Zachari now brings all of this considerable experience to bear as Operations Director of Dreaming Out Loud, a food hub with a social mission to build a more healthy and equitable food system. Zachari developed her supply chain expertise by building a local food hub designed to support Black Farmers and food workers in gaining more equitable access to economic opportunity. The challenges she has faced are what inspire her to shape policy in pursuit of transformative solutions.


Jermisha Frazier
She/Her
Human Sexuality
California Institute of Integral Studies

Jermisha Frazier has supported individuals and organizations to drive culture change and increase their accountability through programs and initiatives designed to address biases, conflict, and systems of power for well over six years. Her expertise lies in advocating for equity for all marginalized communities through education and identity exploration in ways that proactively confront harm while ensuring all participants feel safe enough to be brave. From analyzing data and establishing forward-thinking programs to serving as a subject matter expert on the implications of intersectionality on experiences, Jermisha excels at directing strategic enhancements while communicating openly and routinely with internal and external stakeholders. She has designed and facilitated over 30 interventions and programs relevant to implementing change, engaging in courageous conversations, and authentically building rapport with diverse communities. With each of those programs, she was able to prompt the entire community to advance their understanding of incorporating anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into their praxis by effectively articulating information and responding honestly to questions from participants. In Jermisha’s previous roles, she has demonstrated her ability to lead people through change and engage partner organizations through one-on-one consultations, co-creating strategies, and curating a platform for shared resources.


Lakeesha Harris
She/Her
Northeastern Illinois University
Political Science

Lakeesha Harris is an unapologetic Black feminist, abolitionist, and writer and host of Old Pro News – a podcast dedicated to education on current issues, legislation and policy, and activism of sex workers globally. As the former Director of Reproductive Health and Justice at Women With A Vision, Inc, Lakeesha worked with Louisiana’s Representative Mandie Landy, spearheading the first comprehensive statewide bill in the nation to decriminalize sex work. With current and former sex workers, she developed the Deep South Decrim campaign to educate the community on what it means when sex workers are targeted and criminalized. In 2021, a group of 119 sex workers and allies provided three hours of testimony in the Louisiana House – a first in any statehouse. Celebrated by Bitch Media among its Bitch 50 activists for her work to maintain abortion access nationwide, Lakeesha produced two RJ Amicus Briefs that were presented to The Supreme Court on behalf of abortion access, one currently being considered in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. Lakeesha’s essays and interviews are featured on Democracy Now, The Advocate, and Rewire News.


Margaux Herrera
She/Her
Florida State University
Social Work
Margaux Herrera is a second-year graduate student pursuing her Master of Social Work at Florida State University. She plans to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) to practice mental health therapy in South Florida. Her main area of interest is developmental disorders, particularly autism and ADHD, a group significantly more likely to be LGBTQ. She is interested in the challenges these groups face in adulthood. Her goal is to provide financially accessible autism evaluations for adults in the South Florida area. In the fall, she will begin her fieldwork with an organization focused on providing free social services to autistic people.


Carla Ibarra
She/Her
University of Southern California
Public Health
Carla Ibarra is the Respond Lead and a Health Program Analyst for the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative (EHE) at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Before moving to LA County, she served as the Workforce Development Program Manager of the Transgender Health Program of St. John’s Community Health. This Los Angeles-based non-profit healthcare institution serves more than 3,500 transgender and non-binary individuals all over the West Coast. She is also a part of an all-trans research team at the Brown University School of Public Health. Carla is a council member of the Transgender Advisory Council of the City of Los Angeles, advising the mayor and other elected officials on key issues facing the transgender community. She is currently working on an MPH degree at the University of Southern California. Before moving to the United States in 2018, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs as an academic scholar at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. While finishing undergrad, Carla committed herself to grassroots community organizing, intending to empower the youth through education in the Philippines.


Tashana Joseph
She/They
New York University
Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness

Tashana Joseph was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and is a child of Guyanese immigrants. Growing up, she always thought it crucial to appeal to my parents’ wants by believing and achieving what they wanted her to. As they got older, they started to understand what it meant to be an individual. She learned that she is bisexual, does not believe in religion, is feminine, occasionally masculine, and sometimes both. Since analyzing their experiences, they have realized that they are not the only one with internal struggles. Because of this, she advocated for mental health and educated students during undergrad. Tashana also had the opportunity to intern at SUNY Oswego’s Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. They are interested in furthering their knowledge in the mental health field to become an effective LMHC with a private practice. Her passion involves helping underrepresented minority populations overcome trauma/PTSD and stigmas relating to mental health. Along the way, Tashana would like to get into research and advance their career in counseling psychology further to help flourishing of black and brown communities.


Vinh Le
He/Him
Cornell University
Hotel Administration

Vinh is a first-year master’s student in Hotel Administration at Cornell University. He has a special passion for job satisfaction among hospitality employees, hospitality innovation, and diversity, equity and inclusion in hospitality, all embedded in his research. Besides research, Vinh is a lead teaching assistant for Undergraduate Human Resource Management and Graduate Lodging Strategy and Innovation courses. Before Cornell University, Vinh graduated with honors from Michigan State University with his Bachelor in Hospitality Business. During his time at MSU, Vinh served as Chief Financial Officer for the MSU Hospitality Association and worked in different positions in the hotel, including Front Desk Supervisor and Certified Reservation Specialist. Vinh’s research has been presented at several conferences, including the 2019 Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences, 2020 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum in Michigan, 2021 Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management (SHFM) National Conference, and the 27th Annual Graduate Education & Graduate Student Research Conference in Hospitality and Tourism.


Alexia Leclercq
She/They
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Education

Alexia is an organizer based in Austin, Texas. They have worked in the climate space for the past five years on various issues from preserving the Colorado River, fighting land use policy and zoning that enforces race-based discrimination, passing local ordinances to address pollution from aggregate mining operations, conducting ethnographic research on climate health, to organizing mutual aid and youth programming. They have also shaped national legislation alongside members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance. Alexia is also the co-founder of Start: Empowerment, a BIPOC-led social and environmental justice education non-profit working with youth, educators, activists, and community members to implement justice-focused education and programming in schools and community spaces. S:E curriculum and programming has reached more than 2,000 students, been recognized by the New York City Department of Education, and taught in universities. In 2021, their work was recognized with the prestigious Brower Youth Award. Alexia is also an interdisciplinary artist, and their paintings have been featured at Austin City Hall and in Strides Magazine. They love spending time with friends, family, and animals (they even have an Instagram account for a kitten they rescued with 79,000 followers).


Junye Ma
He/Him
San Diego State University, University of California, San Diego
Clinical Psychology
Junye Ma is a doctoral student in the San Diego State University, University of California, San Diego joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Japanese Linguistics from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University. Before his doctoral studies, Junye worked as a study coordinator at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University. Guided by his lived experience as an Asian LGBTQ asylum seeker, Junye’s research interests focus on structural and sociocultural determinants of sexual minority health disparities (e.g., PrEP awareness/uptake; HIV treatment/prevention) among LGBTQ people of color. He also has a special interest in health outcomes among individuals with multiple marginalized identities and aims to design and implement culturally sensitive interventions for HIV prevention in the future.


Yagna Madala
She/Her
New York University
Business Administration
At four years old, Yagna and her family left India behind in search of a better life and planted roots in Arizona where she grew to understand the pivotal role media played in her conservative community becoming more open to people of color and LGBTQ issues. With a dream of making media more intersectional, she pursued film in undergrad where she became the president of the Film Association, vice president of the Student Ambassadors Club, and senator of the Undergraduate Student Government. In each of these roles, she made it a point to advocate for queer students and people of color by ensuring their organizations had access to resources from the university at large. Yagna implemented an appropriations process with approval from the Dean’s Office to ensure these practices continued. In her current role for Warner Bro. Discovery, Yagna continues to advocate for queer and people of color stories by giving them the financial backing and creative support to make it to air. She has been a part of greenlighting Discovery’s first majority people of color cast. Through her MBA journey, she hopes to make a larger impact in pushing media towards inclusion in the workplace and intersectionality on screen.


Cuauhtemoc Salinas Martell
He/They
Loyola Marymount University
Educational Leadership for Social Justice (Ed.D.)
Born in Acapulco, Mexico, Cuauhtemoc Salinas Martell immigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old. Although his single mother shared stories of the great opportunities in America, his home in the States was a cold, poorly lit, and cramped garage. Despite his childhood struggles, Cuauhtemoc loved going to school and went on to become the first person in his entire family to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. With more than 15 leadership positions, Cuauhtemoc was able to see and listen to the voices of the many communities he was part of. He continued his student activism at the University of Michigan where he received his Master’s in Social Work. Cuauhtemoc’s love for education has given him the impetus to pursue his doctoral studies in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University, where he hopes to empower Latinx, undocumented/DACAmented, LGBTQ, and first-generation students to know that their voices matter and that their presence is what will motivate future leaders to pursue higher education.


Niya McAdoo
She/They
University of Massachusetts Boston
Educational Administration
Being from a single parent, low-income home, Niya McAdoo had several opportunities in different after school and summer programs that she participated in. Programs like these connected them with supportive mentors, resources that helped them excel in regular classes, and create friendships that they still hold today. In her junior year of highschool, she was accepted into University of Kansas Upward Bound. Upward Bound gave Niya opportunities that they wish every student could experience; the received ACT preparation, participated in many different forms of community service, attended summer college prep programs, and got to visit many different states and institutions across the nation. Her experience now as a college student at the University of Kansas and working within Student Housing and as student body president has opened spaces for her to see the changes that students need on her college campuses. Niya has been able to work with KU administrators to create better communication plans for student outreach, target and accomplish DEI initiatives to improve campus culture, and create two KU endowment funds in partnership with Watkins Health and the Black Student Union.


Jaden Morales
They/Them
University of Southern California
American Studies and Ethnicity
Jaden Morales is a doctoral student in American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Their graduate research examines the history of Puerto Rican labor migration to Hawaiian sugar plantations to interrogate shared histories of global racial capitalism, imperial dislocations, and settler colonialism that link Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to the Pacific. Jaden received their B.A. in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration from Yale University in 2019. At Yale, Jaden was the recipient of the Justice Carlos Prize for the best senior essay in Latinx Studies and the La Casa Community Outreach Award for dedicating countless hours to further developing the relationship between the Latinx New Haven community and Yale. Before USC, Jaden worked as litigation paralegal at Bredhoff & Kaiser in Washington, D.C. managing complex civil litigation matters representing major working-class labor unions across the United States. Previously, they worked as an organizing intern with the Bronx Defenders and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England on issues related to prison abolition, anti-gentrification, and deportation. An aspiring professor, Jaden hopes to teach university-level ethnic studies to promote a strong sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment and offer the language for self- and community-based advocacy among students of color.


Luis Paulino
He/Him
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Education
Luis Paulino is the son of Dominican immigrants who has been residing in New York City. He is currently the volunteer engagement coordinator at the City University of New York Citizenship Now! There, he oversees an active network of volunteers including program functions, logistics, and activities in support of the organization’s events. Previous to this, he was the volunteer and training coordinator with Citizenship Now!’s national initiative, where he ensured the transfer of systems, policies, and procedures to new offices in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada in areas with a scarcity of free legal assistance and the Ventanilla in the Consulate of Mexico in New York City. Luis has also served as the legal assistant at the CUNY Citizenship Now! centers throughout the five boroughs in New York City. He graduated among the top five students of his class, receiving from ovation from former First Lady Michelle Obama during The City College of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) commencement, with a bachelor’s in political science and a minor in theater. Luis was admitted to the Master of Education program in Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship (ELOE) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Deen Rawlins-Harris
They/Them
University of Texas at Austin
Theater and Dance
Deen Rawlins-Harris is an educator, community organizer, and theatremaker who believes that theater can be used to imagine radically liberated worlds. Their approach to creating theater is multidisciplinary and pulls from their experience as a special education teacher and LGBTQ facilitator for youth. Whether organizing queer-affirming city-wide youth art events or teaching theater in public schools, Deen partners with young people to empower them as change-makers. Deen co-instructs the Collective Liberation and Performance for Students of Color Workshop and Applying Collective Liberation for BIPOC Artist Workshop to help artists identify liberating practices for creating art. Currently, Deen is developing Traces/Remain: Contagious Healing, a public intervention that explores the importance of building deep celebratory relationships in public spaces to encourage communal healing. Deen is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin with a focus in drama and theater for youth and communities. At the University of Texas at Austin, Deen will work with youth artists to create youth-led theatre festivals and examine how art programs prepare youth to be community leaders.

Dion Smith
They/Them
Washington University in St. Louis
Social Work

Dion was born in Cleveland, OH, and grew up as a foster kid. They grew up in conservative, religious homes that required them to hide and protect their trans and queer identities. They attended undergrad at Ohio University and graduated with a Child and Family Studies degree. After school, they knew they needed change, so they worked 80 hours a week and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. There they discovered more about themselves than years in a classroom could ever teach them. They returned to the states and continued their journey of self-discovery while working with adolescents experiencing crises. It was here that they gained more clarity around how the hardships they endured growing up gifted them the innate skills of mediation, trauma-informed care, community care and more. Dion is now studying Social Work so that they can understand how systems work. They have a strong dedication to community work and abolition. They hope to create more access to healing and community spaces for the most marginalized. They enjoy reading, writing, making art, and growing culinary and medicinal plants and mushrooms in their free time.


Josue Velasquez
They/Them
Boston College
Master of Social Work
Josue Velasquez is an undocumented student from Guatemala. In 2016 they became the first college graduate in their family and received dual bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and Chicanx/Latinx studies from University of California, Irvine. In the fall of 2022, they will be pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Boston College and they hope to become a clinical social worker. Over the last 6 years, Josue worked as a case manager for Latinx men, Black and Latinx transgender women, and the general population living with HIV in Los Angeles County and San Francisco. Their involvement began at the community college level, where they spent many years working with immigrant rights movements, the visibility of native and indigenous students and my LGBTQ community. Combining activism and drag art as Buganvilia Thorns, Josue served as Miss LA Pride 2017 and the fortyeigtht and fortyninth Empress of Los Angeles and Hollywood with the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood. From 2017 to 2019, Josue fundraised $22,000 to support other nonprofits, an education scholarship, and funded the Buganvilia Thorns Angel of Dreams DACA grant to support the renewal process for LGBTQ DACA recipients in LA County.