The Chicago chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) hosted its 8th annual Youth Scholarships event April 22. The youth were selected from a wide pool of applicants based on their demonstration of outstanding commitment to advancing LGBT equality and visibility in elementary and secondary schools.
The six girls and one boy receiving scholarships boast a dizzying array of accomplishments and talents. The April 30 Windy City Times has more details on each of the winners. Among those honored was Patience Meeks, a graduating senior at Jones College Prep High School in Chicago. She received the Bayard Rustin Legacy Award, presented by Affinity.
Meeks plans to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2004. She started her school's gay-straight alliance (GSA) as a freshman, after meeting her first girlfriend. Jones College Prep now boasts the largest GSA of any school in the area, with a membership exceeding 100. When asked how she wants to be remembered by her high school community, Meeks told Windy City Times/BLACKlines that as a high school student, she was simply 'somebody who stood up for what she believed in, no matter what.' Meeks intends to continue with LGBT activism in college.
Receiving the GLSEN Chicago Pathfinder award was pioneering educator Toni Armstrong Jr. Toni, founder and former coordinator of GLSEN Chicago's Youth Leadership Development program, entered teaching immediately after college and has dedicated her career to mentoring and coaching young people. Armstrong, who was praised by presenter Betty Lark Ross as 'brilliant, passionate, determined and strong,' joined GLSEN in March of 1995 and quickly took a leadership role, spearheading not only youth leadership summits and symposiums but the scholarship program itself. Armstrong's support and mentoring of LGBT students played a crucial role in the eventual establishment of more than 50 GSA's in the Chicagoland area.
After presenting Armstrong with the award, Betty Lark Ross announced that the Pathfinder award would hereafter be known as the Toni Armstrong Jr. Pathfinder Award.
The Bayard Legacy Award was established in 2001 honoring the memory of Bayard Rustin, the civil-rights leader who organized many of the large-scale actions for which Martin Luther King Jr. became famous. Today it is widely acknowledged that this great man was denied his place in history because he was gay. The scholarship is awarded to an African-American student who has shown dedication to advancing civil rights for all, including the LGBT community.
— Lori Weiner