By Brittany Berger
For many parents, 2024 will bring drastic changes to their households. The journey of a high school senior preparing for college is a monumental milestone for both the student and their parents. However, for parents of Queer high school seniors, this transition comes with unique challenges that demand careful consideration. One of the primary concerns for parents of Queer high school seniors is the safety and well-being of their children, especially as they venture into new environments. While progress has been made in fostering inclusivity on college campuses, instances of discrimination and prejudice still exist. Parents worry about their child’s vulnerability to discrimination, harassment, or even violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Add in financial barriers and the statistics that go against our Queer youth, this time can be full of panic and anxiety for parents. As a parent of Queer teens, I have been doing research as we prepare for this journey in our future. Here’s some information parents need to know:
While there are many inclusive and safe colleges to consider across the nation, students in San Diego County have local access to one of the best voted campuses for LGBTQ+ students. With a campus population of over 32,000 students and an excellent in-state tuition, San Diego State University was rated 5 out of 5 stars by CampusPrideIndex.org. The Campus Pride Index is an overall indicator of institutional commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policy, program, and practice. SDSU delivers on everything from LGBTQ+ campus safety, to housing, to academics, to student life. They have mentorship opportunities, counseling, affirming health services, and even paid staff with responsibilities for LGBTQ+ support services. They meet the mark on so many levels, but there is still some work to be done when it comes to simplifying the process for transgender students to change their gender identities and they do not report having a committee that deals solely with LGBTQ+ issues. For San Diegans who want to keep their Queer kids close to home, I highly recommend taking a campus tour and reaching out to their Pride Center. Contact info for the Pride Center at SDSU can be found on their website @ https://sacd.sdsu.edu/pride
Parents, you have done so much work to get your kids to this point where they are applying to college and about ready to fly from the coop into new adulthood territory. College is expensive and so is the cost of living. One of the best things we can do to be supportive this month is to assist graduating seniors with applying for scholarships. Your student may still be busy with college applications and their last months of senior year, and many also have jobs and extra-curricular activities. Sourcing scholarships and grants and assisting with the application process can be one easy way to help lessen the burden.
The first place to look for LGBTQ+ scholarships is the Point Foundation. They have two scholarships available right now. The current open application is for LGBTQ+ students planning to go to community college, which closes on Feb. 8th. Then on Feb. 8th, applications open for BIPOC LGBTQ+ students planning to attend community college or four-year college/university. The Point Foundation website also offers great tips for how to apply for scholarships. Find them @ https://pointfoundation.org/scholarships
The next place to look is the Markowski-Leach Scholarship. The Scholarship award is $2,500 annually for up to two years of eligibility. They will start accepting applications for the 2024-25 academic year this month! Their mission is to assist in the education of LGBTQ+ individuals who demonstrate promise for becoming a positive role model for other LGBTQ+ people. Learn more about the Markowski-Leach story and application criteria @ https://mlscholarships.org/
The League Foundation is another important resource that offers awards to multiple recipients annually. According to their website: “Currently, the scholarship program’s focus is on graduating high school students moving directly into higher education, since the high school dropout rate for LGBTQ+ students is one of the highest along with the largest number of suicides while in high school. Statistically, if a student crosses over from high school into college, the number of suicides and even drop-outs from college exponentially reduces. The LEAGUE Foundation provides financial resources for America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender high school seniors entering their first year of institutions of higher learning. The scholarship application opens annually in January and closes in April with awards distributed in the summer of each year.” Learn more about their program criteria, what awards are offered and how to apply @ https://www.leaguefoundation.org/
Two other scholarship funds to know about that open up for applications in the spring are the Stonewall Community Foundation and Out to Innovate Scholarships. Mark your calendars to remember to apply for these large awards! The Stonewall Foundation has scholarships for LQBTQIA+ students who plan to work in or demonstrate a commitment to the fields of fashion design, retail management, mental health, or social justice advocacy and for Lesbians who show academic achievement, community service and leadership, and commitment to impacting LGBTQ issues. Find The Stonewall Community Foundation @ https://www.stonewallfoundation.org/scholarships . Out to Innovate Scholarships are designed to promote academic excellence and increased visibility of talented LGBTQ+ students in STEM careers. Find more information @ https://oti.memberclicks.net/scholarships
As parents prepare to send their Queer high school seniors off to college, it’s essential to acknowledge and address the unique challenges they may face. By prioritizing safety, seeking affirming college environments, providing emotional support, and fostering empowerment, parents can contribute to a more positive and enriching college experience for their LGBTQ+ children.
Foster a supportive and open relationship with your child. Encourage them to seek mental health resources on campus, such as counseling services or LGBTQ+ support groups. Remind them that it is okay to ask for help and prioritize self-care. Encourage open communication with your child about their concerns and experiences. Research the college’s policies and support systems for LGBTQ+ students, and help your child develop a safety plan, including knowing where to seek help on campus. Research colleges that prioritize LGBTQ+ inclusivity and provide resources such as LGBTQ+ centers, support groups, and inclusive policies. Encourage your child to attend college visits or virtual tours to get a sense of the campus culture and support systems. Lastly, provide your child with resources on LGBTQ+ rights, organizations, and support networks both on and off-campus. Encourage them to engage in activism or join LGBTQ+ student organizations to build a sense of community and empowerment.