Zebra Coalition raises more than $21K for LGBT youth scholarships

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Orlando –The Zebra Coalition raised $21,671 on Feb. 27 at its Education Fund Launch event for the Jefferson R. Voss Education Fund with the help of the local LGBT community.

About 130 people attended the event, held to raise awareness and collect generous donations to help fund the Jefferson R. Voss Education Fund. The fund will provide LGBTQ+ youth with the opportunity to apply for scholarships to continue their education or to obtain their GED. The Zebra Coalition is partnering with UCF, community colleges, career and technical centers, and GED programming in Brevard, Lake, Osceola, Orange, Polk and Seminole counties to provide for further education opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth.

“Let’s face it, everyone thinks ‘OK, we got marriage equality now. We’re good to go.’ That’s just one tip of the star of everything we’re trying to achieve,” said Zebra Coalition Executive Director Dexter Foxworth. “And for youth, especially those who are coming out, even though the youth are coming out at a faster and higher percentage than they would when we did growing up, they are faced with so much rejection and oppression in our community because of that. That affects and creates barriers to higher education and education at all.”

Zebra Coalition has the necessary funds for scholarships to give out for this year, but the Education Fund Launch was to raise money and support to sustain the fund for years to come. Applications are now available on the Zebra Coalition’s website for students to start applying for the various scholarship opportunities.

The host committee’s UCF representative has created a mentoring group that will be available to the Zebra Coalition Youth so that in addition to scholarship funds, they get the support they need all the way through their schooling.

“One other thing that is unique about our scholarships is that we’re not just going to award money to the students, we’re going to do a mentoring follow up with them and follow them through and create a relationship with the scholars so we can make sure that their experience is going to be successful,” said Karen Castelloes, the co-chair for the Jefferson R. Voss Education Fund.

Castelloes and Foxworth said that the first scholarships recipients will be announced in late May or early June, and will receive their scholarship in August.

Jeff Voss, whom the fund is named after, also attended the event.

“It’s very weird and somewhat embarrassing because I don’t like recognition,” Voss said. “I just like getting things done. It’s an honor that they named it after me, but at the end of the day, it’s not about me, the coalition or the education fund. It’s all about the young people that we help, and that’s what’s important.”

Voss founded the Zebra Coalition five years ago.

“This is a milestone,” Voss said. “When we started the Zebra Coalition, our goal was to create a continuum of care for LGBTQ youth at-risk or in need. That started with a hotline and then housing came along and health counseling and this is one more part of that continuum of care. While I’m really excited about this and that it’s happening, there’s still a lot more to come.”

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