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Scholarship program serves LGBTQIA students

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The Bobcat Pride Scholarship Fund is the first private to exclusively support members of the Texas State LBGTQIA community, according to its website. The organization has raised over $40,000 for around 37 students over the past six years.

The BPSF was initiated in 2010 to support students of all minority gender identities and sexual preferences through financial assistance and representation. The program’s mission is to support a culturally diverse community, assist scholarship recipients with educational goals and promote leadership.

The organization offers three different scholarships for LGBTQIA students: Academic Achievement, Leadership Development and the Jeremy O. Torres Emergency Stabilization Fund.

The Academic Achievement Scholarship awards $3,000 to students who are able to maintain a 3.0 GPA while engaging in community involvement. Any undergraduate or graduate student that meets the requirements are eligible to apply before the May 15 deadline.

The BPSF has given this award to 16 students, amounting to $25,400 total.

Madi Tabersmith, director of student programming for BPSF, was a recipient of the Academic Achievement Scholarship for the spring 2016 semester.

Tabersmith and her wife had moved to San Marcos from Austin, and had one vehicle. She found herself paying for Uber and Lyft rides to get back and forth from class, and it was becoming unaffordable.

“It was a rough semester for sure,” Tabersmith said. “I went for the scholarship and got an awesome recommendation. When I found out I was awarded, I used it to help buy a car.”

Tabersmith said the scholarship changed her life, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to get through the spring semester without receiving extra financial support.

“Through my interactions with picking up the check, being involved and working with everybody, I realized this would be a good volunteer opportunity for me,” Tabersmith said. “I liked my experience so much that I ended up on the board of directors.”

Tabersmith said the BPSF wants to offers students a home, community and network.

Jeanne Heinen, executive director for BPSF, said the organization is not affiliated with the university, so recipients can allocate the scholarship funds toward anything they see fit.

“All of the funds that go to students don’t affect financial aid,” Heinen said. “They earn the money, so they can spend it however they need.”

The Leadership Development Scholarship awards recipients with airfare and conference registration for Camp Pride—the nation’s only leadership conference for LGBTQIA students.

Applicants must have a 2.25 GPA and submit their applications before the April 1 deadline. The BPSF has awarded 5 students with $6,500 total.

“Often times, students who get this award are very involved on campus,” Tabersmith said. “We want to foster our student leaders, help send them to the camp and then bring them back to campus to share their experiences.”

The Jeremy O. Torres Emergency Stabilization Fund Scholarship is open year-round for students needing immediate assistance. Due to unforeseen medical, accidental and unemployment circumstances, the funds can be used toward any bills that could interfere with completing the current semester.

Students who apply must have a 2.00 GPA and have a 67 percent completion rate. However, transcripts proving continual improvement will still be considered for the scholarship.

The Emergency Stabilization Fund has been awarded to 16 students, totaling $19,335.

Tabersmith said this specific scholarship is important because some LGBTQIA students have to go through extenuating circumstances, like being financially cut off from parents after coming out.

“The Emergency Stabilization Fund is sort of a safety net,” Tabersmith said. “It’s important to recognize there are situations real people go through.”

Heinen said the program wants to praise resilience, because despite all of the challenges LGBTQIA students have to go through they are able to persevere and maintain academic excellence.

Maria Wasley-Valdez, director of operations for BPSF, said every marginalized group has to endure unique situations, so it is important LGBTQIA students have a program to support them.

“We’re always here to provide resources to students, and invite them to come hang out with us,” Wasley-Valdez said. “We want to keep in touch with our student recipients.”

One of the fundraising events the BPSF invites former recipients and the entire community to is Drag Out Funny.

Local and Texas-based entertainers will perform at the drag, comedy and variety show at 8 p.m. April 1 at San Marcos’ only LBGTQIA bar, Stonewall Warehouse.

In 2016, Drag Out Funny raised over $13,000 from over 500 attendees. The BPSF aims to increase that number to $15,000 for the 6th annual event in April.

The 2017 theme is Candyland, and the event will feature burlesque and acrobatic performances in addition to comedic drag. A silent auction raffle with a grand prize for a two-person trip to anywhere Jet Blue flies will be offered.

All proceeds from the event will directly benefit the scholarship funds, so every penny raised will go into the pockets of students.

“Creating a sense of community, providing this opportunity for students and encouraging their academic growth and future leadership in order for them to grow their own communities and make change is really what it’s all about,” Wasley-Valdez said.

For more information on scholarship registration or how to donate, visit the Bobcat Pride Scholarship Fund website.

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