2011 PFLAG National Scholarship Winners

     

Zachary Hall

PFLAG National Scholarship

Hometown: Worcester, MA
College: West Point, United States Military Academy

Growing up in a culturally diverse family, Zachary (a straight ally) understood the important of bringing together diverse communities to work together on behalf of LGBT equality. Zachary’s advocacy work led him to establish his school’s first GSA. Zachary also supported the community by volunteering with a local group dedicated to supporting the social and emotional needs of LGBT individuals. Complimenting his LGBT advocacy, Zachary worked closely with Special Olympics Massachusetts as a volunteer at various events and also developed programs for the community. While active in advocacy and athletic extracurricular activities, he maintained a 4.2 GPA and received numerous academic awards throughout his high school career. In the fall, Zachary plans to study economics and political science with a concentration in international relations at West Point.

Leopoldo Torres

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
School: Palo Alto College

Leopoldo’s family is rich in culture and has strong ties to the LGBT community. When Leopoldo was reunited with long-lost relatives, he discovered he had two lesbian aunts and one gay uncle. This reunion set the stage for his future advocacy work. He joined his school’s GSA and became a strong LGBT advocate. Although Leopoldo was teased for his participation in the GSA, he continued to support his peers and his family. He also participated in varsity soccer as team captain and varsity cross country. In the fall, Leopoldo plans to study environmental or earth science at Palo Alto College.

Kaleena Kovach
PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Woodland Park, CO

School: Reed College

Kaleena believed that staying true to herself was one of her most important duties as an individual committed to change, and was never one to back down due to the verbal harassment she experienced at her school. Kaleena used her writing talents as a source of strength and power against the bigotry and hatred she experienced daily. She won numerous awards for her poetry which inspired and uplifted the spirits of her peers and the LGBT community. Keleena also worked with her local juvenile justice system as a co-facilitator. The program she worked with was designed to help teen offenders recognize the impact of their actions on the victims and their families through conversations and support groups. Kaleena was a proud member of her school’s GSA, and served as the president of her school’s Poetry Club. In the fall, Kaleena plans to study creative writing and political science at Reed College.

Mitchel Griffin

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Horn Lake, MS

College: Hendrix College

Mitchel struggled growing up as a gay student in the South. Starting in elementary school, his peers teased and tormented him, often making him feel unsafe and unwelcome in his own school community. Despite the teasing and torment in school, Mitchel remained true to himself by being of service to his community. Motivated by his struggles he started a blog and began supporting other LGBT students struggling to overcome bullying and harassment in their own communities nationwide. By sharing his story, Mitchel helped students just like him cope with intolerance and bigotry and inspired them to stand up for equality. His advocacy work led him to become the vice president of his school’s GSA. In this role, Mitchel helped organize LGBT movie nights and round table discussions about LGBT acceptance. In the fall, Mitchel will study at Hendrix College where he plans to continue working for LGBT equality.

Annabella Irvine

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Smithfield, NC
School: Oberlin College

Annabella’s conservative town and school community failed to support the needs of LGBT students. In order to create a more inclusive environment, she knew she had to create safer spaces for her peers. This passion for inclusion, fairness and equality motivated her to start a GSA. Unfortunately, the school administrators tried to stop her efforts. Working with organizations supporting her advocacy work to start a GSA, Annabella knew she had the law on her side. Although she rallied support from her school community, the GSA was denied a second time. Eventually, Annabella transferred to another school, where she continued her passion for equality by participating in her school’s Spectrum club, which supported diversity and LGBT acceptance. In the fall, Annabella will study archaeology at Oberlin College where she plans to continue her work for LGBT equality.

Jenna McPhail

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Hamden, CT
School: Bentley University

Jenna decided she had to do something to help students that were victims of anti-LGBT cyber-bullying, after intervening in a vicious online attack against her gay friend. She became president of Students Teaching Tolerance, Open-Mindedness and Pride (STTOP), a school club aimed at addressing equality for all students. Jenna led numerous STTOP-sponsored school-wide events that focused on peer interventions aimed at stopping and preventing cyber-bullying. Jenna also led a STTOP-sponsored event during Ally Week, where students worked together creating a mural from individually designed tiles that shared their vision of equality. In the fall, Jenna will attend Bentley University where she plans to major in global studies and management.

Cyrus Sinai

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA
College: University of California, Los Angeles

Cyrus believed from a very young age that his Iranian cultural and religious upbringing would negatively impact his family’s acceptance of his sexual orientation. When returning from a trip to Ghana, Cyrus found the courage to come out to his family and close friends where he was met with love and support. This family acceptance and encouragement prompted him to get actively involved in his school’s GSA. As president, Cyrus helped lead many educational events designed to engage the community in positive conversations about LGBT issues.  One such event was the first LGBT History Month project at his school where a biography of a famous LGBT person was read during the morning announcements. He also gave a speech at City Hall about marriage equality which was printed in the local newspaper. In the fall, Cyrus plans to study anthropology and journalism at the University of California.

Abbey Muzatko
PFLAG National Scholarship

Hometown: Green Bay, WI

College: School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Abbey committed herself to equality by actively participating in her school’s GSA throughout her entire high school career, concurrently maintaining a 3.9 GPA. Under her leadership, the GSA organized a Day of Silence and a Words Hurt Day, both of which educated the school community about the harmful effects of name calling. Outside the GSA, Abby continued her advocacy work as a youth leader for LGBT Partnership-Harmony Café, a program of Goodwill Industries, aimed at supporting LGBT and allied youth while fostering community togetherness. In addition to her advocacy work, Abby found time to play cello, sitting first chair in her school’s string orchestra. In the fall, Abbey will study fine arts and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.





Natalie Stefanelli
PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: Dallas, TX

College: McDaniel College

Natalie’s desire to build safe space and foster support for LGBT youth in her community drove her to lead an effort to have her school sponsor a GSA club. After many attempts from the administration to stop Natalie, Natalie eventually succeeded and, with her  leadership, the school had their first GSA-sponsored Day of Silence. Natalie and GSA members used the opportunity to train teachers and staff on how to properly respond to LGBT intolerance and bullying. In addition to her advocacy work, Natalie participated in student government, mock trial and varsity lacrosse. In the fall, she plans to study sociology or political science at McDaniel College.

Reuben Raff

PFLAG National Scholarship
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

School: Willamette University

Reuben, who was praised by his teachers for his maturity and wisdom, was involved in the local LGBT community for a long time, thanks to being raised by his very proud lesbian moms. Reuben proudly belongs to a local LGBT synagogue and has made many lifelong friendships through the congregation. While maintaining his studies and other extracurricular hobbies, Reuben served on a COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) panel where he shared his experiences growing up with lesbian moms. When Westboro Baptist Church visited his school to preach anti-LGBT hate, Reuben organized his classmates and was on the frontlines demonstrating against this organization. Reuben’s passion for youth empowerment led him to his work at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco as a peer counselor and mentor. In the fall, Reuben plans to study psychology and education at Willamette University.

Stephanie Pelayo

PFLAG National Scholarship

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
College: Westminster College

Stephanie never backed down from standing up for the rights of others. This passion and conviction for justice comes from the values her mother taught her, in particular, to respect other people and celebrate their differences. When Stephanie witnessed a gay peer being brutally attacked, she did not hesitate to confront his attackers. Stephanie’s unwavering leadership to achieve equality also led her to participate in community events aimed at educating people such as Big Brother Big Sister and the Cine Vegas Film Festival. Stephanie also found time to participate in the Society of Latinos student group and the Team Action Student Council. In the fall, Stephanie plans to continue her advocacy efforts of serving others and standing up for equality at Westminster College.


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