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Brodey Bartlett

2895

Bold Points

1x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

I am a visual artist with a passion for self-portrait photography. I have been photographing myself since I was 10 years old and am truly enjoying working on my BFA at Arizona State University. You can see my work at RiverRedwood.com I am also a transgender man and I spend time advocating for transgender rights and for social change to benefit all marginalized people. I am passionate about fixing the issues that have caused climate collapse and protecting wild spaces. I am a dedicated vegan and I advocate for the rights of animals and for the compassion that all living beings deserve.

Education

Arizona State University Online

Bachelor's degree program
2021 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Visual and Performing Arts, General
    • Film/Video and Photographic Arts

Central Community College

Associate's degree program
2012 - 2014
  • Majors:
    • Visual and Performing Arts, General
  • Minors:
    • Business/Commerce, General

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Film/Video and Photographic Arts
    • Visual and Performing Arts, General
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Photography

    • Dream career goals:

      Photography professor at University

    • Bartender

      The Eagle Bar
      2012 – 20175 years
    • Merchandiser

      Red Bull
      2014 – 20162 years
    • Photo center manager

      Walmart
      2007 – 20147 years

    Sports

    Basketball

    Junior Varsity
    2000 – 20044 years

    Cross-Country Running

    Junior Varsity
    2000 – 20066 years

    Karate

    Varsity
    1995 – 200611 years

    Awards

    • Junior Leader, 3rd degree black belt, National weapons champion 4x, national forms champion 3x, National sparring champion 2x.

    Soccer

    Varsity
    2004 – 20062 years

    Awards

    • Team Captin

    Swimming

    Varsity
    1998 – 20068 years

    Soccer

    Junior Varsity
    2001 – 20043 years

    Awards

    • Best footwork, best crossover

    Research

    • Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies, Other

      LA LGBTQ center — Participating
      2021 – 2022

    Arts

    • University of Nebraska at Omaha

      Performance Art
      Cast member at The Max Omaha, Cast member at The Alley Omaha, Cast member at the Eagle in Omaha.
      2015 – 2019
    • The Rose Children's theater

      Acting
      Pete the Cat, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sherlock Holmes, The Grinch, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Theif, The Lion the witch and the wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, The Cat in the Hat, and Brigadoon.
      2015 – 2017
    • Grand Island Little Theatre

      Acting
      The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe. Peter Pan. Brigadoon. King Arthur. Through the Roof. It's raining Toads! Joseph's amazing tenicolor dreamcoat. Prince Caspian. There's a Dragon in my backyard.
      1996 – 2006

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Brave Trails — Camp Counselor & teacher
      2016 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    LGBTQ+ Wellness in Action Scholarship
    Winner
    My life is like a river rafting trip; some parts are slow and steady, and others are white water rapids at breakneck speeds. As a person with ADHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder, it has always been difficult for me to manage the cycles of mania and depression that are hardwired in my DNA. With the help of my psychiatrist, I have found right mix of medication, but I always need to be aware of the mental cycles occurring inside my brain. In the past I have experienced manic bipolar episodes paired with my ADHD, which has allowed me to prolifically create artworks that show deep vulnerability and madness. When the mania ended and a depressive episode set in, I couldn’t create anything let alone get out of bed. I was worried that taking medication for my mental health conditions would destroy my ability to create; but it has done the opposite. My medication allows me to remove myself from the highs and lows of my disorder and create in a profoundly directed way. My art is no longer madness, it’s thoughtful and curious. I began practicing yoga after my therapist suggested it and it has brought a deeper balance to my life. Practicing yoga has taught me that my mental health is directly influenced by what’s happening in my body. My mental health medication and physical activity have taught me how to take care of myself and live a balanced, healthy life. I practice yoga and meditation daily; this has helped me develop a routine that keeps me mentally and physically healthy. When I roll out my yoga mat, I am honoring my journey by continuing to show up. Wellness isn’t something you achieve in one day; it’s an ongoing journey towards a balanced life. When I’m not feeling my best, I show up for yoga anyway. (I do online yoga). When all I can do is stretch, I show up anyway. Just showing up is half the battle. Developing a meditation practice has taught me how to identify and ignore my intrusive thoughts. I began working out 5 days a week because I needed something to supplement my yoga. I wasn’t expecting to experience such a dramatic change when I began my fitness journey, but working out gives me more control over my mental state. If I can be dedicated to experiencing what’s happening in my body, it’s easier to be dedicated to controlling my mind. Wellness is a lifestyle, not a 9-5 job where you clock in and out. It takes dedication, perseverance, and strength. I am committed to living a balanced life.
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    I have personally been impacted by my experience with my mental health challenges and as LGBTQIA+ person because the two are intertwined in my life. My gender dysphoria influences my mental health, and my mental health affects my ability to build community with other Queer people and have healthy relationships. As a transgender person, my mental health has always suffered from the dysphoria that occurs when other people chose to erase my identity. Growing up I thought that the thoughts and feelings of other people were my fault, and I struggled under the weight of what I could do to get other people to understand me. When my childhood therapists refused to believe me when I told them that I was transgender, my mental health suffered tremendously. I knew that I was a boy, yet every adult in my life refused to believe me. It made me feel like a ghost in my own life. By the time I became a teenager, I had friends who believed in me and my mental health improved significantly. Although the adults in my life still refused to use my chosen name and correct pronouns, my friends did use my chosen name and my correct pronouns. This allowed me to finally move my internal self-belief into the physical world and stand up for who I truly am. When I was 16 years old I began my medical transition and started taking testosterone injections once a week. My brain finally cleared and I could feel emotions other than sorrow for the first time in my life. Once the hormones ended my gender dysphoria and helped me feel like myself for the first time in years, I noticed that something was still out of place in me. I finally felt at home in my body, but I didn’t feel many emotions. I still felt hollow. Since this was the way I had felt my entire life, I didn’t think this was an abnormal way to feel. I figured that everyone felt hollow, that everyone had constant intrusive thoughts, and that everyone struggled to keep their head above water in life. I was eventually misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder and prescribed anti-depressants. The medication did not help at all, and it made my mental health worse, along with adding in side effects such as insomnia, headaches, and irritability. My psychiatrist misdiagnosed me with major depressive disorder because he assumed that since I was a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I was suffering because of oppression, not because of my own brain. For years I was prescribed different drugs to try and treat major depressive disorder and nothing helped. I moved to Los Angles, California and started my treatment at the LGBT center, where I was correctly diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. My Queer psychiatrist looked past my gender identity and saw me as a person. My psychiatrist listened to my symptoms and told me that the anti-depressants had made things worse for me because they were trying to treat something that wasn’t wrong. Rapid cycling Bipolar 1 disorder means that I have extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression) for three months at a time, alternating back and forth. Once I was correctly diagnosed, I started medication to balance out my emotions. After much trial and error, I have finally found a combination of medications that clears my head and keeps my mood stable and consistent. I can finally understand that my life before my bipolar diagnosis was chaotic and abnormal, and my life today is stable and safe.
    Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat Scholarship
    I was born brave and bold. I came out as a transgender boy when I was just three years old. I have always known who I am, and I have always fought to be recognized as my authentic self. Despite tremendous pressure to conform to the gender I was assigned at birth, I never waivered from standing in my truth. This is why I would be sorted into the Gryffindor house. Gryffindors always do what is right, even at great personal cost. Living life as my authentic self, a boy, has caused me tremendous pain and loss, but it has also given me hope, a chosen family, and strength. As a child, I faced pressure to conform from my parents, extended family, teachers, classmates and child psychologists. No matter who told me I was wrong or pretending, I knew who I was and I refused to yield. For example, in elementary school, I was told that I was not allowed to use the boy's bathroom and that if I needed to use the restroom at school, I would have to use the girl's bathroom. I knew that this was an attempt to force me to betray myself, so I refused to use the bathroom at school. It was brutal to endure, but it was better to suffer the pain than to betray who I am. I am brave because I believe in myself, and because I won't ever give up on myself. Harry Potter was my first friend. I identified with Harry because I didn't have any friends at my public school either. Harry was the kid with baggy clothes that everyone hated because of Dudley, and I was the kid that everyone hated because I was transgender. When my teachers gave me zeros on my homework for writing my chosen name instead of my legal name, I just kept on doing it. Even though my teachers had authority over me, I refused to betray myself by using a name that wasn't mine. I took the zeros because I'm brave and bold enough to stand up for who I am. I'm a Gryffindor because I always stand up for other people and make sure that everyone is included. In high school, things got better for me and I made sure to spread it around. I invited the kid without friends to sit at my lunch table, and we became friends. I stopped a kid from being beaten up, and he became my best friend. We're still friends 15 years later. Even though it was scary to stand between a kid I didn't know and a bully, I did it without thinking, because no one had ever done that for me. I believe that kindness is the most important act a person can commit and that we should strive to be kind to every living thing, especially when it is hard. I radiate kindness because it wasn’t often shown to me as a child. As an adult, I continue to include people. I invite people to sit at my table, I talk to people about their interests, and I help people whenever I can. I mentor transgender youth to show them that they can grow up to be wonderful people. Every day I do at least three kind acts. It is our actions that show who we are, far more than our abilities. This is why I am a Gryffindor. I always do what's right, I'm not afraid to stand up for other people, and I radiate kindness and love.
    Dylan's Journey Memorial Scholarship
    The school has always been a challenge for me because of my ADHD. I've constantly struggled with being able to focus and sit still at the same time, which is required in the American public school system. The compulsory stillness imposed on me made it impossible for me to complete my work, let alone do my best. Most of my teachers didn’t understand me and I was constantly being reprimanded and punished for my inability to hold still. In elementary school my knuckles were smacked with rulers, my legs were tied to the chair so I couldn't tap my feet, and I lost recess privileges, which made everything worse. I thought it was normal to be punished for who I was. I couldn't focus on learning anything because I was too worried about what I would be punished for next. Things got so out of control that my teachers insisted that my parents enroll me in sports. I joined taekwondo, which helped me develop some discipline and control over my behavior. My dad took me running every morning before school to burn off energy and I joined youth soccer, for the running. My parents thought it would be best for me to be exhausted and able to focus at school. It helped a bit. Despite all the exercise my grades failed to improve. I fidgeted less, but still at a noticeable level. I was still being punished for fidgeting and not paying attention, but now I was being sent to sit alone in the hallway. I read goosebumps books while I waited for my time-out to be over because I could focus on scary stories. It wasn't until I was in fourth grade that my grades drastically improved to match my high IQ- I had a teacher who allowed me to fidget, tap my desk, bounce my legs and walk around the back of the classroom while she was talking. The ability to satisfy my sensory needs allowed me to focus and learn the material being taught. For the first time, I had positive reviews from a teacher and my parents had proof that I wasn't stupid- I just wasn’t being treated properly. As I grew up I never stopped fidgeting in school, but I wasn't punished for it either. Many of my teachers in middle school and high school allowed me to walk around the back of the classroom during lectures, which allowed me to focus on the material. Having teachers who didn't punish me because of my ADHD helped me understand that I wasn't a burden, I just learned differently than everyone else did, and that it wasn't a bad thing. I am motivated to be in college because, for the first time in my life, my learning differences are being celebrated. My way of thinking has allowed me to thrive in my classes and make the dean's list every semester. I am now about to start the senior year of my photography degree and I plan to enroll in graduate school after I graduate with my B.F.A. I love to learn and going to school online has allowed me to go to school on my terms. I can fidget, walk around, or pause for a break anytime I need it! I am a good candidate for this scholarship because I see my ADHD as my greatest strength. I can think about things in new ways that often lead to creative ideas that make my work stand out. I am dedicated to achieving my goal of becoming a college professor and my ADHD will help me get there.
    Wild Scholarship
    I am a queer transgender visual artist. I live in southern California but am originally from Nebraska, and have lived in Chicago, Miami, New York City and Atlanta. My parents are professional actors so I was raised backstage, running around empty theaters and doing my maths homework in empty balconies. The first time I felt truly alive was the first play I was ever in; Auntie Mame. My mother played Mame, My father played Mr. Babcock and I played young Patrick. That first night standing in front of 5,000 people in Chicago I could not have felt more at home. Acting is one of my many passions, and I have performed in so many shows that I can't even name a quarter of them. My favorites have always been the shows where I have been cast with family. My twin sister and I once played King Peter and Queen Susan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was one of the greatest shows I have ever been involved in because it was so much fun. I began performing in drag shows in my early 20s and eventually became a member of several show casts that performed weekly in major drag clubs. I performed solo numbers, group numbers, and as a backup dancer for other entertainers. I truly enjoyed myself but I knew I had more to say than just lip-synching in a bar. I am choosing to pursue my education in the arts because it is the only thing that brings me joy. After I earned my AA in art, I tried to force myself to pursue a 'sensible' career such as psychology or management, but it was so soul-sucking that I felt like I had died. I failed all of my psychology classes and I dropped out of school to find myself again. I got a job acting and teaching theater at a children's theater which reignited my passion for the arts and helped me feel alive again. I moved to California to pursue stage acting and did very well for myself, I was cast consistently in well-paying roles and was able to make acting my full-time job. However, the roles I was getting weren't anything profound, they weren’t even fun. In 2019, I started booking roles that fit me better and were so much fun. And then 2020 happened, and the pandemic shut everything down. In 2021 after a year of not working, I decided to go back to school and pursue another one of my passions, digital photography. Nothing has ever felt so right. I know that I am expressing myself to the fullest that I can with my current skillset, and every semester I learn even more so I get better at expressing myself every semester. I have an incredible mentor who believes in my work and pushes me to be my very best. The art I am focused on currently is self-portraits that celebrate transgender joy and express the interconnectedness of all life. My work challenges the tragic trans-person narrative and offers an honest, alternate storyline. I am currently learning how to use photoshop to create composites and combine images to create digital collages as well as create images with minimal editing.
    Eco-Warrior Scholarship
    I make intentional choices to live sustainably in nearly all areas of my life. Water conservation is an important part of life in California, where I currently live, and I believe it will become a worldwide issue in the immediate future. To save water, I take five-minute showers and use a bucket to capture water for my plants. I live in an apartment so I don't have grass to water and to use less electricity because my apartment is much smaller than a house. Although I can't compost since I live in an apartment, I can recycle all my plastic bottles and cans. Once a week I walk along the street I live on, which is next to a busy road and pick up trash. I keep the bottles and cans I find on the street to recycle and dispose of non-recyclable items. I do this to keep our neighborhood cleaner and to ensure these items are recycled and not sent to a landfill with regular trash. I enjoy cleaning up the streets so this is not a chore for me. I am lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, California which has the second-best public transportation system in America after New York City. This means that I do not need to have a car even though the city is not walkable. I can take the train anywhere I need to go, which means I'm not using gasoline because the trains run on electricity. Taking public transportation is better for the environment because it creates less emissions, which leads to cleaner air. The trains give you a great view of the city and are surprisingly clean; I have only seen a few messes on the train in the ten years I have been using them. The most important thing I do to ensure that I live sustainably is that I am vegan and I don't use any animal products. Factory farms supply 99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs in the United States, and factory farms create the worst pollutants. 87% of all the agricultural land in the United States is used for industrialized livestock production. This means that only 13% of agricultural land is used to produce crops to eat, and 50% of that percentage goes to feed animals on factory farms. This is food that could be redirected for human consumption if we eliminated factory farms. By refusing to support factory farms by not purchasing their products, I am making a stand against these cruel industries and causing their sales to drop. Even though the amount of money these industries lose from only one person refusing to participate is small, there is strength in numbers. The more vegans there are, the more money industrial farms lose, which causes them to breed fewer animals and create less pollution. Factory farms emit methane and nitrous oxide, which are up to 300 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Animals on factory farms in the United States produce 885 billion pounds of manure which is not treated or regulated by any government agency. By reducing and eliminating factory farms we can completely change the current climate collapse and restore our environment to its former glory. It is important to reduce our carbon footprint because we are already past the tipping point. Refusing to use plastic straws will not fix the problem. Only eliminating the worst polluters such as factory farms and commercial fishing operations will make a difference. It's time for the world to pivot and invest in sustainable agriculture.
    Barbara Cain Literary Scholarship
    The most essential lesson I have learned from books is how to process grief. When I was eight years old my best friend drowned and no one taught me how to cope. My parents refused to take me to the funeral and at school, everyone acted like Ryan never existed. I asked the public librarian for books about friends dying and with her recommendations I retreated into books. The first story I found solace in was 'Where the Red Fern Grows'. I identified with Billy and his rural life, I grew up in the sandhill country of Nebraska. Although Billy's best friends were dogs, their loyalty and dedication to each other mirrored my friendship with Ryan. When one dog is killed by a mountain lion, the other dog commits suicide due to grief and although it was extremely sad, I started to feel less alone in my grief. I learned that growing up means that we have to say goodbye to certain parts of ourselves as we experience new things. Even though it's painful, we have to keep moving forward in life. "Bridge to Terabithia" mirrored my grief almost exactly; two human best friends create a world rich in detail and full of adventures. I resonated with Jesse as a fellow child from a low-income family. Jesse's decision to go to town without inviting Leslie haunts him because if Jesse had invited her, Leslie wouldn't have died. If I had gone swimming with Ryan, he might not have drowned. I learned that we can't change the past no matter how much we want to and that living in the present moment is the only way to honor the dead. A short story called "The Body" by Stephen King is what finally pulled me out of my depression over Ryan's death. Although I have never gotten over it, when I think of Ryan I think of how Gordie grieved the loss of his older brother. I learned that everyone grieves in different ways, and it's not always healthy. Gordie's parents stated that they felt that the wrong son had died and my family and friends pretended Ryan never existed. Neither of these reactions facilitated closure or healing. Stephen King's "IT" is the story that fully brought me back into reality. The main character, Bill, is grieving the loss of his younger brother Georgie, who was murdered. Bill must be brave and band with his friends to destroy the evil thing that killed Georgie. Bill wants to avenge Georgie's death, which shows that Bill is living in the present. Bill is grieving Georgie and actively trying to avenge him and trying to make a better future by ridding the world of the evil murderous presence. "IT" taught me that you have to face your grief head-on. The books that I have read have helped me shape my goals by teaching me how to honor the memories of the past but not to let them keep me from living my life now. I know that my choice to live in the present is due to the experience of losing my childhood best friend. I can honor Ryan by dedicating myself to creating art that represents who I truly am and by pursuing an education in my passion. My most important goal for the future is to continue to face my grief head-on when it happens, so I don't end up like the kids in "IT", having to deal with it 30 years later. A wound heals better when you treat it immediately after it happens, and so it is with grief.
    Bright Lights Scholarship
    My plan for the future is to graduate with my B.F.A. in photography in the spring of 2024, attend graduate school for photography and earn my M.F.A. in the spring of 2026 and work as a college professor of photography and be a published artist. I know that I want to be a college professor of photography because photography is my deepest passion and the thing that makes me want to get up in the morning. I truly enjoy helping my classmates understand our assignments and pushing them to take their work past their limits. I put more effort into my peer critiques than any of my classmates because I want to practice my constructive criticism and help my peers make stronger work. Teaching is my second greatest passion in life, I taught photography classes at a summer camp for four summers, I worked as a preschool teacher for five years, I taught taekwondo for 15 years, and I taught yoga for five years. I truly enjoy helping others reach their fullest potential and finding a way to connect with each student no matter what their ability or disability may be. I believe that the best way to make the world a better place is to help other people learn to believe in themselves. Although I am excited to expand my teaching methods, I know that I have a strong foundation to build on. I know that to teach, you must always be open to being a student and learning new things. Every person has something unique to teach you and you must never think that you know it all, or that your way is the best way. Teaching is about being flexible and making space for curiosity. Most importantly, teaching is about allowing the student to make mistakes and learn from them while creating a safe environment to catch them when they fall. This scholarship will help me because I have always struggled to make ends meet. I have had to drop out of college twice becacuse I wasn't able to pay my rent on just one job any longer. I am now in my 4th year of college and in one year I will graduate, but I began attending college in 2012. It has taken me 11 years to get to my senior year because I simply couldn’t afford to attend full-time classes four years in a row. Despite my financial struggles, I have maintained a 3.7 GPA and earned positive recognition from my teachers. I have never turned in a late assignment and I have never missed an assignment. I am completely dedicated to my studies and I truly enjoy them. This scholarship would help me attend school full-time for my last year and allow me to graduate in the spring of 2024. I am ready to close the undergraduate chapter of my life and begin the graduate chapter. Without scholarships, I would not have been able to attend college at all. My low-income family is not able to financially contribute to my education, although they do support my art and my journey. I live in an expensive city even though I live in one of the rougher neighborhoods. I plan to move to a more affordable city for graduate school depending on where I am accepted and what scholarships I am offered. This scholarship would help me by allowing me to focus on my studies and spend less time worrying about how I'm going to pay for everything. I am excited for my future and I know I will have a positive impact on the world.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Music & Art Scholarship
    in 1996, the first photographic book of trans masculine self-portraits made by Loren Cameron, a transgender man, was published. For the past 27 years "The Body Alchemy" has stood alone as the only work of its kind, a display of authentic representation that has inspired thousands of transgender men, including myself, to fully embrace who they are and imagine a future where they feel comfortable in their skin. Representation matters. "The Body Alchemy" changed my life by showing me that I wasn't alone and that other people like me were living their lives to the fullest, surrounded by people who loved them. "The Body Alchemy" has shaped me into the person I am because of Cameron's unabashed vulnerability. In my photographic work, I plan to make a positive impact on the world by challenging the narrative that transgender people are tragic survivors of immeasurable horrors. Despite my optimism and lust for life, my personal story of transition has been described by outsiders as tragic, brave, and unimaginable. I dispute these descriptions because my life, while difficult and times and full of struggles, has been full of joy, hope, and authentic self-expression. Where Cameron's work aims to humanize transgender men, my work aims to celebrate our joy. In contrast to the everyday activities and classic portraits that Cameron creates, my work is about opening a whimsical window into my soul and seeing what pours out. I want to show the world that transgender joy is more powerful than transgender suffering by allowing my fearlessness to shine through my images. My self-portraits are making a positive impact on viewers by inspiring them to explore their own identities and get closer to who they truly are. I invite the viewer to grow because I am unafraid to be myself or to showcase my vulnerability. It is always a risk to be publicly vulnerable but it is necessary for personal growth. How can I ask the viewer to examine themselves and their beliefs if I am not doing the same thing? My work already makes an impact on the world by creating a new narrative about transgender people. My work is empowering to other transgender people as well as anyone with a marginalized identity. Because my work is so authentically me, it invites the viewer to show up just as they are. My work matters because it gives the viewer agency over their lives.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship
    My greatest achievement so far in my life has been to survive to the age of 35. There have been so many obstacles that I've had to overcome in my life, but my drive to make the world a better place for those who come after me has given me the wherewithal to survive. The average lifespan of transgender people like me is just 35 years old. In my home state, the average lifespan of a transgender person is the young age of 18. I've been out as transgender since I was three years old, which means I grew up expecting to be dead by the age of 18. Some people might let that knowledge frighten them into living an inauthentic life just to stay alive a little while longer, but not me. I would rather live an authentic life and die young than betray myself for a long life of self-denial and misery. Under the expectation of my approaching death, I decided to live my life to the fullest at the loudest possible volume. I decided that no matter what life threw at me, I would respond with kindness, love and joy because I knew exactly who I was and I was willing to die for it. I learned that people fear what they don't understand, and that their fear wasn’t really about me. As a child, I was often picked on and singled out for being transgender by classmates, teachers, and adults in my life. I didn’t let it bother me. I knew it was because they were afraid of my authenticity. When my classmates laughed at me, I laughed the loudest. I wasn't ashamed to be myself, so nothing they did could hurt me. When a teacher called me by the wrong name, I just laughed and corrected them. I learned that not being afraid to laugh at a bully is the quickest way to take their power away. In my life, I have learned that we are each responsible for the way that we live our lives, and who we give authority over us. No one can take your power away unless you allow it. Instead of blaming the world for what's happening to you, the best thing you can do is face it head-on and embrace it. Every bad experience is an opportunity to learn a lesson and grow as a person. Unfortunately, not everyone can overcome these bad experiences. Suicide is an incredibly dangerous risk for transgender people, and all of us have been personally affected by it. I have lost over 25 of my personal transgender friends to suicide, and it never gets any easier. When facing merciless public mockery, legislation designed to exclude us from public life, barriers to gender-affirming care and the danger we face from being assaulted or killed by people who don't understand us, it's easy to understand why my community has one of the highest suicide rates in America. We even have our own suicide hotline, called the trans lifeline, because the publicly funded one has been proven to mock and belittle transgender people who call which puts them at an even higher risk of suicide. Sometimes it's hard to stay positive when I think about all the lives that have been cut short due to ignorance and fear. I miss my friends, and I wonder what their lives would be like now, had they survived. I think of my own life as a gift and each day I'm grateful to still be here. My survival to the age of 35 and beyond is because I have dedicated my life to living authenticity, which inspires other people to do the same. I am a beacon of light that welcomes everyone to the journey of self-acceptance no matter who they are. In the future, I hope to continue to inspire people to live authentic lives and to be curious rather than close-minded. I hope to continue to mentor other transgender people and offer them a supportive community of their peers. I hope to become a trans elder and survive to the age of 50. I hope to show the public that transgender people like myself have wonderful things to offer and that we deserve love and respect. Outliving my expected death date has taught me that as long as I continue to appreciate each moment and be kind to every living thing, my life will have made this world a better place for everyone.
    Your Health Journey Scholarship
    When I was 27 my health started to drastically decline. After years of competitive sports, I developed chronic lower back pain, digestive issues and migraines. I slowly lost flexibility and muscle mass due to my chronic pain limiting my ability to exercise. I had to have my gallbladder removed and receive cortozone shots in my back, which allowed me to clear my head enough to realize that the way that I was eating and exercising was the reason my health was in such terrible condition. I started slowly making changes to my life beginning with my diet. I researched various healthy diets and eventually settled on switching to a vegan lifestyle because of the animals, the environmental benefits, and the effect it would have on my body. It was daunting to completely change the way I ate so I did it in steps. First I added more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet, followed by reducing meats and adding plant-based protein to my diet. I learned that I could swap meat for beans or tofu in every one of my favorite dishes which helped to speed up my transition. After becoming vegan, I knew I needed to make further changes to my diet. I began eliminating processed foods and sugars from my diet in stages. I switched from white to brown rice, swapped soda and fruit juices for water and tea, and banned candy from my apartment. I learned to cook much better than I ever had before because I had to cook most meals at home to stick to my new diet. This helped me stretch my mind and problem-solve in addition to contributing to a healthy lifestyle. My headaches stopped and have not returned. Once I had my diet under control I focused on the way I was exercising. I was lifting weights five days a week and swimming once a week. I kept throwing my back out and was unable to sleep through the night because of the pain in my back. I started stretching every day and changed my weightlifting routine to running, swimming and yoga. Since I wasn't straining my back during weightlifting, my pain drastically decreased and I realized that I had been working out in a way that was wrong for my body. Although it took a few weeks, I started to feel better than I ever had before. I lost some muscle but gained mobility through daily yoga, breath control from running and swimming three times a week, and endurance from riding a stationary bike three times a week and I learned that I enjoyed body weight workouts much more than weightlifting workouts. I also discovered a desire to complete a triathlon and am currently training for my first one. The final thing I did to improve my health was to start a daily meditation practice to find balance in my mind. This taught me how to slow down my thoughts and be fully present in my life. Daily meditation allowed me to learn to develop a tolerance for ice baths and cold water swimming, which clear the mind instantly due to system-wide shock. I definitely wouldn’t have changed the way I ate, exercised and thought without experiencing the pain and shutdown I went through. It was the pain that forced me to find a new way to live, and the pain is responsible for how balanced my life is today. I am grateful for the pain I experienced because it reminds me to always take care of myself so that I don't end up experiencing it again.
    Mind, Body, & Soul Scholarship
    Photography is my greatest passion because every time I make a great picture it feels like I am in perfect harmony with the entire Universe. I am excited to continue my photographic education and develop stronger technical skills that will allow me to bring my vision to life. I truly enjoy being pushed by my teachers to make the best work I possibly can, and being critiqued and critiquing my classmates in a kind and honest way. I am also extremely excited to study the history of photography in greater depth. I have already taken a history of photography course in my 2nd year which was illuminating and inquisitive. I find it fascinating that photography has only been around since the year 1826 when the first photograph was taken in France. Photography is only about 200 years old and yet it is a constant part of our everyday lives- we each have a camera on our phones and we look at pictures, or moving pictures daily. My classes inspire me to do research outside of my assigned schoolwork to discover more about the history of the medium I love so much. This helps me stretch my mind and stay sharp so that I can do my best in classes that I don't enjoy as much such as maths and sciences. Learning about the evolution of film development from dangerous, harsh chemicals in dark rooms to the streamlined process of safe and easy film processing developed by the Kodak company has inspired me to pay closer attention to chemical reactions mentioned in science classes. Understanding the triangle of exposure, aperture, and shutter speed on my camera uses math to help me capture the image the way I want it to look. Outside of school, I maintain a healthy mind by speaking with my therapist weekly and my psychiatrist monthly to manage my mental health conditions. I schedule time with friends and spend time with my pets to give myself time to relax and reset. I like to figure things out instead of googling how to do something, which makes me a better thinker because I can solve problems instead of just looking everything up. To maintain a healthy body I practice yoga and meditation every morning before school which also helps my mental health. I enjoy taking a daily three-mile walk with my dog in the evening to balance out the day. My favorite activity to maintain a healthy body is to go hiking, I typically hike twice a week but when school is out for the summer I hike nearly every day! My favorite hiking trail is the place I feel most at peace and the place I go to refresh my spirit when I'm feeling stressed or empty. It's only a three-mile hike but it is quite challenging because it requires you to descend into a canyon and cross a river that is between 12 and 24 inches deep 12 times. You have to wear water shoes and the cold water on your feet helps you get a fresh perspective on your place in the world. The middle point of the hike is a 30-foot-high waterfall and a five-foot-deep pool of freezing cold water. Most hikers take their shoes off and soak their feet in the cold water and rest before hiking out of the canyon. I always strip down to my swimming trunks and swim under the waterfall. It's freezing and it takes your breath away but it's worth it because you feel completely connected to the natural world and your spirit is nourished.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    In addition to my compassion, dedication and indomitable spirit, the dream version of my future self will have earned my M.F.A. from UCLA, be teaching photography at an undergraduate University, working on my personal creative projects and thriving in all areas of my life.
    Healthy Eating Scholarship
    I believe that it's important to have healthy eating habits because you need to feel good to do your best in school and in life. Healthy eating is also much better for the environment and that's something that we should all care about as we fall deeper and deeper into the global climate crisis. As a person who grew up in a low-income household where we often experienced food scarcity, we weren’t often able to choose what we got to eat, so eating healthy was completely out of our reach. My parents tried their best to serve us canned vegetables and fruits and encouraged us to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which are healthier than baloney at least. My childhood experience with food meant that I thought feeling sluggish and groggy due to eating was normal. While I was in high school I took a nutrition class that changed my understanding of food and taught me how to build and cook healthier meals. Through my own research, I learned about the suffering of animals raised for food and the environmental impact of factory farming. I became vegan shortly after this and started exploring my food options. Once I became vegan and stopped eating processed foods and lots of tofu and fresh vegetables, I was amazed by the change in how I felt. I wasn't groggy after meals anymore and I had more energy to run cross-country. I even swam faster and beat all my previous time records. I had no idea that eating healthier could have such a positive impact on the way I felt. After I cleaned up my diet I became stronger and fitter because of all the extra energy I had for physical activity. Eating healthier and cutting out animal products was the first step into a whole new life, and exercise carried me up half the staircase. I made new friends from playing new sports and I bonded with teammates I hadn't met before because of our differences in ability. I felt great and I noticed that I thought about things differently too. The changes in my mental health after going vegan and eating healthier were immense. My thoughts became clearer and I was more focused on my schoolwork. I was able to plan my days better and create dedicated times to study and exercise. I felt happier than I ever had before and I thought I was happy before the change! By far the biggest change I experienced was I no longer felt guilty about what I was eating. Fresh vegetables taste much better than canned vegetables, and fresh cut fruit is dedicant compared to the canned peaches we were fed at school. Eating tofu taught me that I was eating animal flesh and it made me feel horrible. I learned that respecting the sanctity of all life made me a better person, and feel more at ease in the rest of my life. If Americans all became vegan, the world would be much healthier because all the land used to grow food to feed animals raised for slaughter on factory farms (40% of all food grown in America) were no longer here, we could use that 40% to feed everyone and more. Countless studies have shown that a vegan diet rich in fresh foods is healthier than any other diet and it is much better for the environment than a diet rich in animal flesh. Being vegan also helps the environment by eliminating animal byproduct waste such as blood, feces and urine that contaminate the environment.
    Dr. Alexanderia K. Lane Memorial Scholarship
    When I was 12 years old, someone helped me and it changed my life forever. I wouldn't be the person I am today without this person's help, and I don't even know his name. This experience taught me that no matter the cost, it is essential to help anyone who needs it. I haven't always been the kind, confident, self-assured guy that I am today. As a transgender child, I was often the target of severe bullying from my classmates and teachers because they rejected me for being a boy who was labeled a girl at birth. I learned to keep my head down to protect myself from constant public ridicule. Some of the events that made me feel helpless were when my teachers mocked me and banned me from using the school bathrooms. Nothing was done when my classmates threw my lunch away or pushed me down in the hallway. Even the school principal participated in my public humiliation when he banned me from performing in the school Christmas program because I refused to wear a dress. Over time I became better at being invisible. I learned to hide inside books and developed a rich inner world I could escape to when my life became too much to bear. Books gave me my first friend, Harry Potter. Books saved me when no one else would. In the seventh grade, the library was my hiding place. I would sit in the reference section reading tales of adventure and often overhearing people talk about me behind my back. I was used to it. One afternoon as I was approaching the stairs with a stack of library books to take home for the weekend, I saw a group of my worst bullies walking up the stairs. My stomach wrenched and their eyes shined with glee. I took a deep breath and readied myself for the onslaught of abuse. I winced as my books were knocked to the floor and slid down the stairs. Laughter rang in my ears as I attempted to pick everything up. I kept my eyes on the ground and refused to let out any tears when I heard footsteps marching up the stairs. Suddenly someone yelled "STOP IT!" and I was so shocked that I dropped all my books back onto the ground. The voice then said, "Leave him alone. What's he ever done to you?". And the bullies walked away. The voice knelt and helped me collect my books. I raised my eyes to meet his and thanked him for his help before we went our separate ways. Someone stood up for me and I never forgot. On the first day of high school, I saw a kid I met in class about to get beat up. Before I knew what I was doing I had placed myself between this kid and the bully. I heard myself say "LEAVE HIM ALONE!" the same way it was said for me, and the bully stopped. The crowd dissolved and my new friend and I left without a scratch on us. I knew then that my purpose in life was to defend others from the abuses I had endured. I refused to allow anyone to suffer the way I did without standing up for them. It only took one person to change my life forever, and I have now passed that help on to hundreds, maybe thousands of people, and I will never stop passing the help I received to others in need. Kindness is my superpower, and it's the best one there is.
    Charles Pulling Sr. Memorial Scholarship
    I am a non-traditional student because, at the age of 33 I decided to go back to school and complete my B.F.A. degree in photography. I decided to go back to school for two main reasons: I had always wanted to complete my B.F.A. degree and the global covid-19 pandemic put me out of work. Without a job or an income, I moved back in with my dad and tried to figure out what to do next. It didn’t seem like I would be able to go back to work as a yoga teacher for quite some time and I knew it was time to find myself a new path. This was not the first time I returned to school as an adult. in 2012, 6 years after graduating from high school, I enrolled in community college to earn an associate's degree in business. I worked full-time at Walmart while attending school and after three years I earned my degree, but I couldn’t find a job. It turns out that having an associate of business degree doesn’t qualify you for many jobs at all, so I moved to a city with a University and began taking classes to earn my bachelor's degree in business. After a year at University, I had to drop out because I couldn't survive on a part-time job. I worked many different full-time, minimum-wage jobs, often full-time and part-time jobs at the same time to make ends meet. I had now spent 4 years on just one associate degree! I dreamed of going back to school but I didn’t ever think I would be able to. The Covid-19 pandemic forced me to realize what was truly important and what I truly wanted out of life. Moving in with my dad gave us a chance to get to know each other again and repair our relationship. It was my dad that suggested I go back to school to earn my B.F.A. because I already had the associate's degree, so I was more than halfway there! After considering all the different degree options at the online accredited University I had been accepted into, I decided to major in psychology to become a therapist. Shortly after this decision, I began having panic attacks. I discovered that the panic attacks were happening because I didn't feel good about my choice of major. This was one week before school was scheduled to begin, and when I asked myself what I wanted, it was to major in photography and make art. I swapped my psychology classes for Intro to photography and art history classes. I worked hard and earned all A's in my first semester at school. As I began taking more advanced photography classes, my teachers often commented on how much work I put into my projects and how I went above and beyond with all of my photography. I am driven to do more because I am completely dedicated to the art of photography and I want to use my art to change people's perceptions of the issues I care about and to use my knowledge to help other artists reach their full potential. My goal is to become a professor of photography at a University so that I can give back to students the way my teachers have helped me. I want to live a life full of joy and I know that I am on the correct path to realize my dreams.
    Mental Health Importance Scholarship
    Taking care of my mental health is important to me because it helps me to be my best self. I have to be aware of what's affecting my mental landscape at all times because I have ADHD, OCD, and Bipolar 1 disorder. Any imbalances in my mental landscape can cause huge repercussions that will affect every area of my life. Maintaining positive mental health is something I consider essential to me because I watched both my parents struggle with bipolar 1 disorder and refuse to take medication to help them get the disorder under control and I don't want my life to go off the rails the way that their lives have or the way that mine has in the past when my medication was not working. Bipolar 1 has had the most impact on my life because it causes me to experience extreme highs where I engage in extremely risky behaviors such as binge drinking, unhealthy relationships, neglecting relationships with important people in my life and staying up all night for days at a time before crashing and sleeping for 18 hours. When the cycle of highs ends, I experience extreme lows that cause me to be unable to get out of bed for days or even do something as simple as a reply to a text message. The constant roller coaster of these highs and lows is exhausting. To maintain my condition, I rely on the help of my psychiatrist to monitor the effect that my medication is having on me and to modify the dosage or type of medication when my current medication is no longer working. My psychiatrist helps me track my cycles of highs and lows and healthily manage them. I make sure that I take my medication every day and always refill it on time so that I can continue to live my life with my bipolar 1 under control. Living a healthy lifestyle is essential to maintaining my mental wellness because it makes me feel good and gives my brain the endorphins it needs to be happy. Not every exercise works for me but I have found that yoga, swimming, soccer and martial arts are a great fit for me. To exercise I have to eat healthy and stay hydrated, so I track my meals and water intake throughout the day. This helps me ensure that I am not forgetting meals, which sometimes happens as an effect of bipolar disorder. I usually don't know if I miss a meal so it helps to be able to track what I've eaten in a day. The most important thing that I do to maintain my mental wellness is to meditate twice a day, after my morning and evening workouts. Calming my brain down and experiencing stillness helps me to relax and not take things too seriously. It helps me keep my worries in check because people with bipolar like me can let their worries carry them away and drown in a sea of regret. My inner world has calmed down immensely after I started practicing meditation and I am grateful for it.
    Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    Growing up my parents referred to me as a busy guy because I was always doing something, such as organizing the clothes in my dresser by color at the age of 5, or lining up my shoes by height from left to right. I have always liked things to be in order and even today my apartment is completely organized. I didn't realize this was not the way other people's brains worked until I began seeing a child psychiatrist at the age of five. My psychiatrist immediately diagnosed me with ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder after our first session. I was prescribed Ritalin to control my ADHD as well as anxiety medication and exposure therapy for my OCD. The Ritalin turned me into a five-year-old zombie and the exposure therapy scarred me for life by forcing me to mess up my room and sit in it for an hour each day, and I was punished for attempting to organize things. After one year of watching me suffer, my parents took me off Ritalin and stopped practicing exposure therapy on me. I can still remember how much pain I felt during that year, and the image of my messy bedroom still shows up in my dreams, thirty years later. My parents found a new child psychiatrist who took a gentler approach. Instead of medication, we were told to find a sports outlet to allow me to get exercise to control my hyperactivity. My first success was with soccer because of all the running- it cleared my head and allowed me to focus on the game. Gymnastics taught me to focus on complex routines in my mind and learn how to practice difficult tricks safely. I truly enjoyed doing flips and putting complicated moves together, but after a year I became bored with gymnastics and wanted to try something else. My life changed forever when I joined a taekwondo dojo. I learned how to discipline my mind and control where I put my attention. I learned that if I exercised first, I could focus on tasks and sit still. The way we lined up in the dojo, perfectly spaced apart satisfied my need for order as did the journey from the white belt to the black belt. I was a dedicated and eager student and my instructors recognized my drive, when I earned my green belt, they began allowing me to compete in regional tournaments. At the age of ten and rank of blue belt, I began running with my father every morning before school, which allowed me to focus and raise my grades to all As. Immediately after school, I went to soccer practice four days a week, which allowed me to focus on my homework. After dinner, I went to taekwondo two days a week, which allowed me to practice the discipline I would rely on for the rest of my life. I finally started to bring balance into my life and started to thrive. The combination of soccer and taekwondo controlled my ADHD and OCD without medication. I do not believe that medication is evil or unnecessary, but I know that it's not a good fit for me, so I manage my conditions in other ways. By the time I earned my first-degree black belt in taekwondo, I was a national taekwondo champion in three age brackets; boys 10-12 and boys 13-14 and boys 15-17 and a junior instructor. By the time I earned my third-degree black belt at age 21 years old, I was a certified taekwondo instructor, an all levels tournament judge, and a nationally ranked men's top ten martial artist in both forms and weapons competitions. Martial arts continue to be a core part of my life to this day, although I have retired from competition to focus on teaching and personal growth. My experiences with mental health have influenced my beliefs by teaching me that everyone's brains work differently and we all have unique perspectives and thought processes. I believe that every person has something wonderful to offer the world and I work hard as a taekwondo teacher to help my students embrace who they are and face their fears with grace. I know that no matter what someone is going through, just being a friend who listens can have an enormous positive effect. My relationships have been affected because I have to work hard to pay attention to my friends and family, which sometimes makes people end our relationship. I practice active listening and not interrupting my friends while they speak. Sometimes when I meet new people they think that I'm not paying attention to them and they decide not to continue our relationship, which used to hurt me but now I know that not everyone is meant to be friends. We are all walking on our own path and not everyone's path falls side by side. My career aspirations have been especially affected by my ADHD because I am unable to sit at a desk all day. To thrive, I need to be in a place where I can move freely and express my creativity while having a great time. While working as a part-time taekwondo instructor, I started attending college where I wanted to become a therapist to help people like me, but I couldn’t understand all the complicated psychology classes so I changed course. I earned my associate's degree in visual art and took a break from college to teach taekwondo full-time for five years. I had a blast, but I knew I didn’t want to teach full-time forever so I decided to go back to school to earn my BFA in photography. My need for organization helps me to get assignments done on time and my ADHD helps me to get excited and motivated about my work. I don't see my mental health diagnoses as a burden, I see them as a gift. They helped me become the person I am today, and I like myself.
    VNutrition & Wellness’ Annual LGBTQ+ Vitality Scholarship
    I plan to use my education in the arts to be the person that I needed when I was younger. I came out as a transgender boy when I was three in 1992. Not many people knew about transgender people and the few that did know only knew about transgender women. When I first told my parents that I was a boy they didn’t know how to respond. They had never heard of a child declaring that they were a gender different than what they were assigned at birth before, but I was adamant that I was a boy and never waivered. After six months of wondering what to do and my refusal to stop being myself, my parents finally accepted that I was what I claimed to be; their son. In the 1990s the only representation of transgender people available was on syndicated tabloid talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show, which was problematic at best and extremely damaging to both the individuals on the show and to those of us watching from home. The first time I ever saw anyone like me was while watching 'Sally Jesse Raphael' with my brother one summer afternoon when I was ten years old. The episode focused on 'Girls who look like boys' which was extremely humiliating and downright abusive to the kids on the show. The most damaging part of the show was when each of the five featured guests were lined up with 4 biological boys. The five kids would stand under a number on stage and the audience voted on who they thought the biological girl was. The audience never guessed right, and when the 'girl' was revealed, they laughed and gasped. I knew the sound well because it was the reaction I received every day at school when kids would call me a boy/girl. At the end of the show, the biological girls were paraded around the stage after being given a makeover to force them into clothes designed for people who identify as girls. The parents were happy, but I could see the pain and humiliation on the kid's faces because I knew it well, I had experienced it myself. I vividly recall my brother looking me in the eyes and saying "Never do that. You're a boy". Representation matters because this experience reinforced my belief that the world didn't have a place for me. I knew who I was, I knew I was living my truth, and I knew that I would likely be ridiculed everywhere I went. However, I knew that I would rather be ridiculed than deny who I am. I have already made an impact on transgender youth by spending my summers volunteering at an LGBTQ youth summer camp. This camp experience is inclusive of all genders and orientations and the cabins are assigned by age, not gender. We teach workshops on government advocacy, writing letters to legislators as well as normal camp activities. The most important part of camp is the LGBTQ counselors, who show the campers that they can grow up and thrive as queer people in a world that can be harsh. I look forward to camp every summer. I plan to continue my work of creating self-portraits that celebrate transgender joy. If I had seen my work as a child, I would have known that I have a place in the world. My work exists to make people feel included and seen. If my artwork has a positive impact on just one person then that is enough. I will never stop trying to help more people feel seen.
    Book Lovers Scholarship
    If I could have everyone in the world read just one book, I would choose "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. 'The Call of the Wild' is a classic adventure book, it's short but captivating. One of the things that set The Call of the Wild apart from other adventure books is that it is told from the point of view of the main character, who is a dog named Buck. Everyone loves dogs, and books about dogs are usually great, but books written from a dog's perspective are rare- I can only think of one other book, called "The Art of Racing in the Rain" but it's not nearly as well done as The Call of the Wild is. The Call of the Wild is an essential read because it has something for everyone, and it's a story everyone can relate to at some point. The main character is kidnapped from his life of luxury and sold to the Yukon territories to be used as a sled dog. Buck has never met an aggressive human before and his first interaction with 'the man with the club' nearly breaks his spirit. Buck yields to the man's power... but shortly after finds a way to escape and knocks the man to the ground, and Buck remained unbroken. The Call of the Wild is a story about hope and perseverance. I think the most important takeaway from the story is that no matter what Buck has to endure, no matter who he loses or what humans put him through, his spirit is never broken. Eventually, Buck meets a human worthy of him and they go on a grand adventure to the edge of the map and beyond. It's a story about hope, about learning to trust again, and about the power of love. I read The Call of the Wild for the first time in the third grade, and I have read it hundreds of times since then. It is a story that will live in my heart until the day that I die, and I feel lucky to have it there.
    Trever David Clark Memorial Scholarship
    My personal experience with my own mental health has shaped my entire life. I have bipolar 1 and ADHD, together these two things make me a tornado of energy! I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was five years old and the psychiatrist who diagnosed me immediately convinced my parents to medicate me. I don't remember any of this, but my parents said that after three months on the medication and watching me do nothing but sit still and stare at the T.V. set, they couldn't handle having a zombie child anymore and took me off the medication. I don't think that medication used to treat mental health issues is always a bad thing, but I do think putting young children on medication without first exploring other options is not the right thing to do. After my parents took me off the ADHD medication, they knew that they needed to find an outlet for me to burn energy and learn how to control myself. My father enrolled me in taekwondo, where I would learn discipline and self-control. Martial arts helped tremendously and has become a lifelong passion. It has been 30 years since I began my journey and today I am a 5th-degree black belt, a certified taekwondo instructor, and a former national champion. Martial arts has been the most helpful ADHD coping mechanism. My experience with ADHD was overwhelmingly positive, even though I did have issues sitting still at school. In contrast, I have always struggled immensely with bipolar 1, and I wasn't diagnosed with bipolar 1 until I was 25. My entire life I have had to fight so hard just to keep my head above water that I never had a moment to consider that there could be something out there that would help me deal with my mind. Even though I regularly saw a child therapist and a child psychiatrist from age 5-18, I was never formally diagnosed with bipolar 1; I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and put on SSRIs, which don't treat bipolar at all and aggravated the symptoms of my bipolar 1. I got into recreational drugs and alcohol as a teenager in an attempt to self-medicate because I couldn't cope with how extreme things were inside my mind. These substances only made my extreme mood swings worse, which made me double down and use even more substances. I thought that everyone else had the same kind of tornado going on inside of their heads, and since my therapist never said anything about the chaos I spoke to her about, I assumed that this was just what my life was going to be like until I died. My extreme emotional highs and lows exploded in my 20s because I no longer had health insurance so I lost access to my therapist and my medications. Without my SSRIs my life significantly improved because I was no longer taking the wrong drugs for my condition, however, I still tried to run my life into the ground by working as a bartender and constantly drinking my weight in liquor. Once I got sober at 25 I was diagnosed with bipolar 1, which changed my entire life. I finally understood why I had felt so unstable my entire life, and I saw that there was a way to control this with medication. Once I got acclimated to my bipolar medication I was able to go to college. I am in my 3rd year now and I have a 3.7 GPA. I truly enjoy school but I enjoy my stable life even more.
    PRIDE in Education Award
    As a transgender person who came out at the age of three, I often felt out of sync with the world and the people around me. I have always known that I was a boy despite what my birth certificate said. This deep inner knowledge is a gift and a curse because it allows me to be completely comfortable with who and what I am, while also allowing me to experience the deep discomfort my existence causes to those around me who are not living an authentic life. My early experiences of being singled out and bullied because I was different shaped me into the bold, kind, and outspoken man I am today. I stand up for people who need it by advocating for equity, I make sure that everyone in the room feels included by truly listening to what they have to say, and I am always looking for ways to help my LGBTQ+ community such as teaching free self-defense workshops and mentoring younger trans men. I believe that building a more equitable world starts with being the best person you can be. I truly adore the natural world and my favorite hobby is spending time outside. I enjoy hiking, especially to waterfalls where I can go swimming. I currently live at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in southern California. I often hike with a group of Queer friends and we call ourselves the Unicorn Hikers. The best thing about hiking is being fully present and noticing each plant moving in the wind and watching the birds cross the wide open blue skies. Visual art is my deepest passion and I express that through many mediums including acting, painting, dancing, modeling, performing in drag shows and my favorite medium, photography. I love being able to create a piece of art that makes people feel seen and that makes people feel included. In my opinion, the best feeling in the world is of standing on a stage giving it your all and feeling how much fun the crowd is having watching your performance. I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would collect and redeem aluminum cans to earn money to buy film. I began making self-portraits when I was just ten years old with the timer function on the family camera because I wanted to document my life as a transgender person. I wanted to create a record that I was truly here on this Earth, and photography offered me that opportunity. My first major photography project was documenting the effects of testosterone on my body from age 16-18. I made two self-portraits every week for the first two years I was on testosterone injections. The entire project was a labor of love because I was documenting my transition into looking the way I always dreamed of looking. Once I had all the images printed I put them into an album so that the viewer could flip through and see me grow up by flipping quickly through. I decided to major in digital photography because it is the thing I am most passionate about. Photography is the best way for me to express myself and the medium that allows me the freedom to create my own world. Photography is the medium that gives me a chance to change the world for the better by showcasing my passion for transgender rights, my belief in myself, and my dedication to building a better world.
    Gender Expansive & Transgender Scholarship
    I first came out as transgender when I was three years old. I’ve lived almost my entire life as my authentic self, despite pressure conform to the gender I was assigned at birth. I have always valued living my truth more than conforming to societal norms. Although I came out when I was very young, I still had to overcome many struggles to be seen as who I truly am. In school, I was banned from using the boy’s restroom and forced to participate in gym classes with the girls or accept a failing grade. I was barred from playing on the boys’ sports teams and told that if I truly wanted to play, I should accept that I belong on the girl’s teams. Rather than humiliate myself by playing on a team I didn’t belong on, I didn’t play at all. Despite the pressure to betray myself, I never caved in. I learned to trust myself and my indominable spirit. Instead of banging on doors that were slammed shut in my face, I blazed my own trail. In my entire education before college, I didn’t have any support from the school faculty. The school staff made no attempt to understand what being transgender was or what it meant to have a transgender student. Instead of being treated like a child I was treated as a lunatic. This experience taught me to be resourceful, brave, and calm. My negative first-hand experience with teachers and school staff taught me exactly how to be a good teacher in contrast. Even though being disrespected and mistreated by my teachers was difficult to endure at the time, I am grateful for that experience because it made me more resilient, it made me stronger, and it made me kinder. You can do two things with pain; you can suppress it and allow it to eat you alive, or you can let it go and be grateful for the lessons it taught you. I will always choose the latter because it allows me to make things better for the generations that come after me. Because of me my old school now has gender neutral bathrooms and inclusive policies for transgender students. No one else will have to suffer the way I did because I did something to stop it from continuing to happen. I rose to the occasion just by being myself. My major is digital photography, and it is my greatest passion. I use photography to express myself and convey transgender joy by creating self-portraits. After I graduate with my B.F.A. in May 2024, I will attend graduate school to earn an M.F.A. in photography and visual art. My goal is to have several gallery exhibitions of my work as well as to become a college photography professor so that I can pay it forward. You can see my work at Riverredwood.com After completing my undergraduate degree, I will continue to make an impact on the LGBTQ+ community by advocating for myself and my transgender siblings through my photography. A picture is worth a thousand words and can change minds and rewrite opinions. A self-portrait I made of a happy, unabashed transgender person could be the thing that makes a young trans person feel like they’re going to be okay. That picture could save someone from suicide, or it could make someone believe that a future where they can be themselves is not only possible, but accessible. I also volunteer at an LGBTQ+ youth summer camp where I get to work directly with youth and help them imagine a future where they are truly free.
    Diane Amendt Memorial Scholarship for the Arts
    Like many other Queer people, my art teachers were some of the most influential people in my young life. Art teachers often have a way of seeing you before you can see yourself and teaching you ways to express yourself while you're still figuring everything out. I was lucky enough to have several art teachers who supported and encouraged me while I figured out who I am. As a person with ADHD and bipolar 1 disorder, the rigidity of traditional school has always been a struggle for me. I don't do well in math or science, but I excel in English and all creative pursuits. I have a lot of energy and there is nothing that I love more than the freedom of a blank piece of paper and the ability to create my own narrative. The first real memory I have of an art class was my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Nichols, who taught all our subjects but had a passion for the arts. Mrs. Nichols spent the year teaching us origami, the dimensions of shapes, watercolor painting and creating pop-up art out of construction paper. For our final art project of fourth grade, we were allowed to create whatever we wanted- Mrs. Nichols put the power directly into our hands! What I created is prevalent because the true gift that Mrs. Nichols gave me was the power to have full control over what I created and what mediums I used. In middle school, art became a stand-alone class, which I was extremely excited about. I worked hard to learn all the new techniques we were introduced to such as pottery, charcoal drawing, spray paint art, watercolor painting and figure drawing. Although I enjoyed experimenting with new mediums, I did not get much direction in my three years at middle school. Unfortunately, my teacher didn’t seem to like me, or the other LGBTQ art students in my classes. We weren’t bullied, but we definitely didn’t feel welcomed. My experience working with a teacher who clearly didn’t like me taught me quite a bit about myself. I learned that the opinions of others, even people in positions of power or people with authority over me, do not matter at all. The only opinion about me that matters is the one I hold about myself. I am the only person who gets to define what I am, and that is a powerful lesson. By far the person who pushed me to grow as an artist and to continue to pursue my craft was my high school art teacher, Mr. Thomas. After two years of extensive study and practice in various artistic mediums, Mr. Thomas pointed out that I had a real talent for using watercolors in new and exciting ways. In my 3rd year of high school, Mr. Thomas set me up with an independent study in art where I would be allowed to design my own projects and focus on developing the talents that brought me the most joy. My independent study in art was a phenomenal experience. Every day I worked in Mr. Thomas's classroom while he taught all levels of other students, and I received personalized feedback and attention during every class. Mr. Thomas went out of his way to support my creativity and it still has an impact on the way I create today. I am as passionate as I am, and I plan to become an art teacher, all because I had an art teacher who really cared about me. Thanks Mr. Thomas!
    Isaac Yunhu Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship
    This image is my favorite self-portrait photograph I've made this year. The image is called "Starlight inside a Star". The concept behind this particular image was to create a body of work that was a Russian nesting doll of meaning layered on top of a Russian nesting doll of symbolism. "Starlight Inside a Star" was created in response to a prompt from a teacher to create a cohesive body of work that conveyed a sense of who I truly am as a person as well as an artist. I'm lucky to have a teacher that pushes me to push past what my goals are and step into the realm of endless possibility. Before I created "Starlight Inside a Star" my original work consisted of a disjointed mash of images; images focused on stars and images focused on plant life. In the beginning, I planned to call the work "Organic Matter" since it was focused on things that naturally occur in our environment. Once I showed the work to my teacher and had a conversation about it, I understood that I was trying to use two different concepts in the same project. I needed to focus deeper on just one concept- both ideas were good, but I only had time to create one of them. The other idea would be tucked away for later exploration. I chose to pursue the concept of stars because stars are my favorite thing in the world. It took me a while to realize this, but after remembering how many tattoos I have of stars, how all of my blankets have either star prints or constellations on them, and how much art I have of constellations hanging on my walls, it became clear. Not to mention the fact that I can point out and name all the constellations in the night sky. It's crystal clear that I'm star crazy so why not lean into that in my work? This piece was created quite by accident. I hung up one of my favorite constellation blankets and put a star print blanket on the ground. I set up a bench and draped a sheet over it. I used a projector I to move green stars across the scene and tried posing in different outfits. None of the images looked natural, and it suddenly hit me that if I wanted to authentically represent stardust, I should shed all my clothing and pose in the most natural way possible. It was a bit tricky to figure out how to pose- I wanted to pose nude but I wanted it to be classic and non-offensive so I had to spend quite a bit of time figuring out angles and ways to sit without showing anything x-rated. One of the things I love most about this image is how soft it appears. It is definitely my best work yet and I am excited to explore more work in this direction.
    Pool Family LGBT+ Scholarship
    I first came out as transgender when I was three years old, it was 1993 in the middle of Nebraska- not the most friendly of places for a young queer person. Although my parents supported my identity and raised me as their son, I still had to deal with the way the rest of the town treated me. At home, I was the real me, a little boy named Brodey who was funny, happy, and intelligent. I was given the freedom to dress, play, and act like myself at home. At school, I was a ghost because I wasn't really there. The teachers wouldn’t call me by my chosen name or use my correct pronouns (he/him) which set the example for all of my classmates to disrespect me as well. I wasn’t allowed to use the school bathrooms or play on any of the sports teams so I never felt like a member of the student body. No matter what other people said about me, I never compromised who I was. I never gave in to the demands that I conform to being something I wasn't. I spent my recesses hidden inside a half-buried tractor tire, watching the other boys play soccer. I would imagine myself playing with them, and imagine being their friend. I often think about my time in the tire and reflect on how much I learned about human behavior. My time inside the tire is the reason I have such a rich inner world, and no matter how painful it was, I am grateful for it. I never did become friends with any of the boys who played soccer, instead, books became my refuge. I did eventually make some friends, Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, and Shiloh. Growing up under that kind of constant humiliation leaves a deep scar on a person and it also helps you to develop the ability to be incredibly resilient. We don't choose the obstacles that we will have to face, but we can choose how we face them. I was able to start hormone replacement therapy at the age of 16, after spending two years on a waitlist. I felt more myself than I ever had before! I spent the next two years saving money to have top surgery, which was not covered by any health insurance plans at that time (2006). I co-founded a social support group for transgender men in Nebraska with my mentor. The group met once a month and had over 30 members ranging in age from 16 (me) to 75! We built a community of safety and support and always encouraged each other to be our best selves. I have now founded many trans social support groups across the country, in person and online. My life today is full of joy and passion. I have a wonderful chosen family around me and my best friend is a 75-year-old guy who has been with his husband for 60 years! I create work that celebrates being transgender and fully honors the journey it took to get here. Every day I wake up grateful to be myself. I am currently a senior at Arizona State University studying photography and visual art and will graduate with a B.F.A. in May of 2024. I plan to continue my academic journey and attend graduate school and earn an M.F.A. in photography from U.C.L.A. After I earn my M.F.A. I plan to teach college photography while continuing to work on my photographic works. My work focuses on the concept of transgender joy. You can see my work at riverredwood.com
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    My choice to live authentically as myself, a queer transgender man, has impacted my life in nearly every way possible. Firstly, and most importantly, it has allowed me to be my true self, which allows me to feel true inner peace and happiness. Secondly, it has taught me that being your authentic self is worth dying for because it’s better to die as who you are than live as who you aren’t. In choosing to transition and live in harmony with who I truly am, I am also putting myself at risk because there are people who would like to see me dead. The murder rate and suicide rates for transgender people in America are significantly higher than that of other minorities, including that of gay and lesbian people. Just choosing to be myself is a political statement and that is a lot of pressure for someone who just wants to enjoy life as their authentic self. I have been out as trans since I was three years old, so I’ve been living under a constant pressure for my entire life. Growing up hearing people on T.V. calling for your extermination, hearing them say that you’re just crazy or making it up, it wears on you. It causes other people to question you and to attack you. It turns friends into enemies and makes a trip to the grocery store a dangerous exercise. I also live with bipolar 1 disorder, which means that I have to work five times as hard as a regular person does just to control my emotions and keep myself on schedule for a normal life. I have to make sure that I take my medication every single day or else my mood swings become the Grand Canyon; clear one moment and a thunderstorm the next. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my mind completely tamed, but I do try really hard. I actually think of my bipolar as one of my superpowers. Sometimes it causes problems but other times it helps me understand the world better. I understand human behavior extremely well because my bipolar wants me to observe people often. I understand how to organize complex tasks because my brain operates on a complex series of levels. I can empathize with all different kinds of people in many different kinds of situations because I often feel overwhelmed with what feels like every emotion a person can feel all at once. Sometimes my bipolar disorder can be overwhelming but when it’s under control with my medication, I actually really enjoy the way it makes me think. Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience with suicide. As a member of both the LGBTQ and bipolar communities, it’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t been touched by suicide. I have lost many friends to suicide because they didn’t have access to life saving resources, housing, or medical intervention. Last year one of my best friends committed suicide because he couldn’t afford to get his bipolar medication anymore. I still miss him but I try to keep moving forward and dedicate myself to living my best and safest life.
    Veterans Writing Group of San Diego Ernie Pyle Award
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    Lauren Czebatul Scholarship
    As a child growing up in a low-income family, many of my most memorable and cherished memories were facilitated by dedicated volunteers. I learned so much about myself in classes taught by volunteers about playing piano, painting, gardening, woodworking, and many other hobbies. I was able to attend summer camp through scholarships and the young volunteers helped shape me into a kind human being because they were kind, patient and understanding with me. Because I had such wonderful experiences with volunteers in my childhood, I knew that I had to pay it forward and become a volunteer myself! I started volunteering to teach art classes while I was a teenager, and then began volunteering to help clean up local parks. In the summers I volunteered at a local day camp program and helped run the sports program and supervised the art activities. Once I turned 18 I was able to become a volunteer summer camp counselor, which is something I still do every single summer. Volunteering every summer with different kids and different coworkers has taught me that every single person has something incredible to offer the world, and that we are all more alike than we are different. Volunteering is so different than having a paying job because your heart really has to be in it. It’s hard work, you work long hours and you often have to deal with difficult situations and big feelings, but you get to be there for the growth of others and you own as well. Meeting kids from low-income families like mine inspires me to keep volunteering and showing them that if you keep trying you can earn a chance at a better life. Meeting those kids is a chance for me to give them what I never had- someone to believe in me. This scholarship would help me financially because I am in my last year of college and I have run out of available loans. Even though i have a 3.75 GPA, my school is not able to offer me any more pell grants or loans. I have a 75% scholarship through my department at the University, but the remaining amount due to complete my degree is substantial. Despite how hard I have worked and how much I have given volunteering, I will not be able to afford to finish my BFA degree without the support of scholarships. I am a first generation college student, and I am from a low income family, so my parents cannot help with the cost of school at all. I am barely able to pay my rent because my school is in an expensive city, so cutting back on rent is not an option either. I’m between a rock and a hard place here. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my essay. Have a wonderful day!
    Godi Arts Scholarship
    Deciding to go back to college during the pandemic? So original! But that’s exactly what I did, 6 years after dropping out of an undergraduate BFA degree in the performing arts. In 2014 I was working full time as a performer and going to school for theatre full time. It was exhausting! Unfortunately, i had to drop out of school to work more hours just to survive. Both my parents are actors so the performing arts are in my blood. My first time acting in a show was at five years old, and I’ve never looked back. I love being able to become a character and tell the story though my body language and acting skills. There is nothing more fun for me than to entertain people. I want to make the audience forget that they’re watching a performance and become enmeshed into the world they were observing. As a transgender person, I wasn’t always allowed to audition or perform in the roles that i was the best fit for. One of the most defining moments of my acting career was at 8 years old. I was cast as a boy named Bobby who was the main character in a show called “Through the Roof!” Upon announcing the cast, the director stated that my character would now be called Bobbi and become a girl. I announced that I would decline the role if I was going to be forced to betray myself just to play it. I am a boy, and I won’t pretend to be a girl. I had to decline many roles that didn’t fit my gender identity (I rejected every female role because I do not identify as a girl). This experience was both traumatic and inspiring because I had to get creative about acting. I couldn’t participate in school theater shows because i was barred from playing boy characters because of the gender i was assigned at birth. I had to search for roles in community theater and regional productions, which significantly broadened my talents and experiences far more than high school theater would have. You must always stand up for who you are and be honest and direct about what you will and will not do. Integrity is more important than money or fame. Acting is my life’s passion but I won’t betray who I am to do it. I am proud of my journey and I am proud of my talents. When I turned 18 I moved forward in my acting career into stage performance in Chicago as a backup dancer, understudy, and a cast member of a popular dinner theater. I eventually got a job performing in a theater group my parents had belonged to in the 1980’s! I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to work as a stage actor and immediately began a steady stream of work. I performed in chorus, as a backup dancer, as an extra, a side character, and eventually even the main character in Cabaret! All was going well with my performance career in LA, which is not often the case. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit and i lost all my jobs. I used up all my savings and then decided to go back to school to finish my BFA in performance art and here I am, almost done!