Activism-based GLBTQ scholarship achievable
Applications for LGBTQ activism scholarship can be found at The Welcoming Project website and are due by March 1.
A new, activism-based scholarship sponsored by The Welcoming Project, currently is accepting applications from current undergraduates and future undergraduates for the fall semester.
The $500 scholarship will be awarded to a student who has made an outstanding contribution to GLBTQ activism, said Meredith Worthen, co-founder of The Welcoming Project and assistant professor of sociology. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is March 1.
“I think that many times, [activism] efforts go unrecognized,” Amanda Fehlbaum, chief administrative officer of The Welcoming Project, said in an email. “I hope that by offering this scholarship, The Welcoming Project is encouraging future and current undergraduates to continue their efforts in LGBTQ activism.”
Worthen started The Welcoming Project in 2011 in an effort to encourage local businesses, health care providers and churches to display openly their acceptance of all patrons, regardless of gender, sexuality, race and religion, among other things.
The project provides cardstock signs featuring a rainbow flag and the words “all are welcome” to interested businesses free of charge. Traditionally, the rainbow flag is considered a symbol for GLBTQ rights, but Worthen hopes it will come to symbolize the rights and acceptance of all people, according to the project website.
“I like the idea of the sign opening up a dialog about these issues and contributing to a cultural shift [toward acceptance],” Worthen said.
Since many scholarships are based primarily on academic merit, Worthen felt an important area of achievement was being ignored.
“I really wanted to give a scholarship to somebody that was volunteering and doing activism in the community,” Worthen said. “The scholarship is in the spirit of what The Welcoming Project represents.”
The scholarship is funded entirely by donations from community members, though the Women’s and Gender Studies Program has provided vital support by cosponsoring events to raise awareness of scholarship. It is open to all students who will be attending a degree-granting institution this fall. The winner will be selected by a committee of external reviewers from the LGBTQ community, Worthen said.
The Norman chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) also offers a GLBTQ activism scholarship for $1000 to high school seniors . However, The Welcoming Project scholarship is unique in the Norman community, because it is open to undergraduates who already are enrolled in higher education, according to the project’s websites.
“We want to recognize people for the great things they’re doing,” Worthen said. “Sometimes when you’re involved in a non-profit, it can feel like what you do doesn’t matter. Having the award is a way to say yes, you matter, and yes we want to celebrate you.”
As the fledgling organization grows, Worthen hopes they will be able to offer more scholarships as well as coordinate regional training for the public and the businesses that display rainbow signs to learn more about GLBTQ issues.
“LGBTQ folks face prejudice and discrimination across a number of areas in their daily lives,” said Fehlbaum, a sociology Ph.D candidate at OU. “It is important to show support in order to battle against prejudice and discrimination as well as step closer toward equality for all.”