Zebra Coalition scholarship helps fund college for LGBT youth

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Orlando – The Zebra Coalition, in partnership with UCF, will start a fund to provide a scholarship opportunities to LGBT youth as they continue their higher education.

The Zebra Coalition LGBTQ Scholarship Foundation will establish a $25,000 fund that would be dispersed to LGBT youth that may have difficulty securing funding for college.
“Awareness is key when you’re talking about any issue, so being able to establish the scholarship alone—and having it specific to LGBT youth—shows that there is a specialized need for this population,” said Dexter Foxworth, director of Zebra Coalition.

An information session and donation event was held at the home of Karen Castelloes, co-chair for the Zebra Coalition Scholarship Fund, and Keith Morrison, a member of the Zebra Coalition and representative of Joy MCC. There, they explained the goal and long-term effects the scholarship fund will have on Central Florida LGBT youth.

“The important thing that we are trying to do is encourage, recognize, promote and give self-dignity to the LGBT community,” Castelloes said. “Not exactly singling them out, but rewarding them on their hard work and their challenges they’ve encountered in their life.”

The plan is to raise $30,000 and the Zebra Coalition Scholarship Fund, with $25,000 to go to a youth each year. The additional $5,000 will be invested into the next year’s fundraising to provide the scholarship to another recipient.
for the Zebra Coalition and UCF to award a scholarship in the near future to a recipient.

“It helps someone out financially,” Morrison said. “But also if someone is questioning their own sexual identity and whether or not they can be out, seeing a group of people gathered to say ‘We want to help you out,’ to me it codifies the willingness to be the person they were born to be.”

Morrison explained how nearly 10% of homeless youth are LGBT, and with this issue comes the added burdens of being able to have access to a higher education due to many of them not having family support.

“When you’re an LGBT youth, the range of accessibility can be really low to very high,” Castelloes said. “And the Zebra Coalition focuses on the distressed youth. But there is also a higher group that has made it through school and graduated from high school but maybe don’t have the funds to go on to college. So we are targeting that specific group of students for the higher education. Through this education foundation, we’re also going to be helping the students to get their GEDs, go to technical centers and also Valencia.”

Many people came to Castelloes and Morrison’s home to learn about the opportunity to donate to the fund, including Director of The UCF Fund Heather Junod, who is helping establish the scholarship fund, and Florida House Rep. Joe Saunders.

“I think that UCF is willing to partner with the Zebra Coalition to serve that [LGBT youth] is really incredible,” Saunders said. “There is a real need [for the funding]. I even hear it now when I’m on campus talking with the UCF students.”

Junod explained how the Zebra Coalition Scholarship Fund and UCF have drafted a gift agreement and set the criteria for the scholarship, which will be posted at the financial aid office on campus and online. Along with enrollment and GPA requirements, the candidate will also be required to submit an essay. A scholarship committee, which will include a member from the Zebra Coalition, will then make a selection for the recipient.

“We’re putting together a scholarship for a very specific population that has specialized needs,” Foxworth said. “The hope is that not only do we get to fund and support the youth but it brings awareness to the real issue as well.”

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