Hollywood High School senior, Daion Stanford, has witnessed bullying at her school, especially towards her best friend, Anthony Cleveland, for his sexual orientation. Stanford was compelled to write an essay about the bullying, and the need for LGBT equality. She submitted the essay to the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Stonewall Scholarship Committee, and today, she will be awarded the RuPaul Scholarship for $1,000.
“I have a lot of bisexual, lesbian and gay friends, and I’ve seen them treated unfairly and I don’t think that’s right,” Stanford said.
Stanford, who will be attending Howard University in the fall, plans to study political science with aspirations of becoming a lawyer.
“She chose a specific focus on the law and her personal life,” said Donald Willis, of the UTLA Stonewall Scholarship Committee. “She has a friend that’s LGBT and she defends him. We saw her as an ally. She witnessed her best friend deal with the constant barrage of negative situations and she couldn’t help but defend him. She talked about human rights and how government should apply the law. She has a fire and passion for equality.”
The Stonewall Scholarship was started by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Issues Committee (GALIC) and provides financial assistance to deserving LAUSD high school students of all sexual orientations to further their educational goals. Funding for the scholarships came from union members donating money from dues, and from sponsors and private donors.
“The GALIC members decided to extend their reach into the community,” Willis said. “It’s the way we, as UTLA members, keep a consistent connection to the community.”
The scholarship takes its name from the Stonewall riots that took place in Greenwich Village in New York in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. The rebellion, according to the scholarship committee, marked the start of the gay rights movement.
According to Willis, most of the students are aware of the Stonewall history.
“Most understand the connection,” Willis said. “We try to have the topic be about current LGBT issues. Most students are aware of the Stonewall Rebellion.”
Many of the submitted essays touched upon very heartfelt subject matter, including dealing with conservative parents at home and constantly feeling as though they are “being beat down.”
“One [essay] sounded almost suicidal,” Willis said. “It’s painful. That’s why our program is so important. It’s so amazing to see people standing up for LGBT rights.”
The scholarship ceremony is being sponsored by several advocacy groups.
The event will take place on May 26 at 7.p.m. at Luminarias Restaurant, 3500 Romana Blvd, in Monterey Park. For tickets, call at (909)240-7364.
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