Zebra Coalition awards six scholarships

By : Kimberly Schlicter
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Hope emanated from the group gathered at The Abbey on Aug. 27 as attendees celebrated the six recipients of the Jefferson R. Voss Education Fund.

The scholarship, which is organized by Zebra Coalition, is offered to local LGBT youth who plan to attend UCF, community college, a career and technical center or to get their GED.
“I would say the short term [goal] would be to offer an education to a youth that probably never thought they could do it, either because they didn’t have the money or because they didn’t have the support from their family,” said Karen Castelloes, the co-founder of the fund. “Long term is that I’m hoping through the skills of the Zebra staff, they will be able to support and encourage the students to finish their education.”

Three of this year’s participants are working towards getting their GEDs, one will be attending a local community college and the remaining two will study at UCF.

Haley Zilberberg, 19, is one of the UCF recipients and is majoring in social work, with a creative writing minor.

“It was one of the scholarships I was really looking forward to hearing back about,” said Zilberberg. “Since LGBT students are often times marginalized and don’t have the same opportunities because of how they identify, I believe that the scholarship is going to give a great deal of support to Central Florida students.”

Nicole Richardson, 22, is planning to get her GED with her scholarship money and will then pursue cosmetology and business management.

“I was very happy I was able to make that goal and get to a point where I could actually complete something,” said Richardson. “[The fund] has a very big impact on the LGBT community because it lets them know that they don’t have to settle, that they actually have a chance to go back to school and do the things that they need to do.”

Despite only being around for a little over a year, the Fund has collected a significant amount of money.

“In a year’s time, we have been able to pay all of the endowment, which is $25,000, for the UCF scholarship, which means it is a legacy,” said Castelloes. “It will be in existence from now until the end of UCF.”

This means that at least $1,000 will be given to a UCF recipient of the scholarship every year. So far, $30,000 has been donated for the part of the fund that covers community college, career and technical centers and GED programs.

In addition to raising more money, Castelloes hopes to see the scholarship spread to locations beyond Orange County.

The biggest challenge  Zebra Coalition is currently facing with the Jefferson R. Voss Education Fund is getting students to apply. At their next meeting, Zebra Coalition will brainstorm what social media methods would attract applicants.

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