A new scholarship fund for disenfranchised gay youth has been created under the Maricopa Community College Foundation.
The scholarship is open to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer/questioning) teens who need extra help pursuing secondary education because they were kicked out of their homes by their parents at a young age.
They recently awarded the first scholarship to 20-year-old Phoenix resident T.J. Wright.
Wright was among 17 applicants for the scholarship, called the Out and Up Endowed Scholarship Fund, which consists of tuition, books and fees up to 60 credit hours and $5,000.
"Two years ago there was attention brought to a whole group of adults that came out to families early in life and were thrown out," said Rachel Rabinovich, senior development officer for MCCF. "They are living a typical life and trying to make ends meet and a lot of times education isn't even considered because they don't have the funding or the time."
Wright bounced around from job to job after he left his parent's Mesa home. He was able to attend secondary education at first, but then his bills overcame him and he was forced to leave school and focus solely on work.
"I was at Grand Canyon University and was doing well but after a while I just didn't have enough money to continue," he said. "I came out at an early age and it took a huge effect on my family. It's hard because you need to talk about it and it feels good to talk about it, but my parents wouldn't."
Wright was chosen as the first recipient of the scholarship by a selection committee after an interview process with the top four candidates.
"All the kids' stories had sadness and tragedy," said Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lisa Malachowsky, who was on the selection committee. "T.J. just seemed like he had his stuff together and he was absolutely going to do something good for the community."
Wright will attend Phoenix College in the fall and work toward finishing the register nursing program. He previously received his paramedic certification.
"If I could do anything where money wasn't a factor, I would still do nursing," he said. "My brother had cystic fibrosis and I went to the doctor's appointments with him to see what is going on and to make him feel better. I always wanted to make a difference and help by making someone's day better."
The goal for the scholarship fund organizers is to raise $200,000 and they have already achieved about half of that. Rabinovich said they will award two scholarship starting next year.
To find out more, visit the website, www.Maricopa.edu/foundation.
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