The University Of Toronto’s largest queer student group has now raised half of the funds required for its ambitious new student awards program, just as the nomination period opens for the award’s first recipients.
Lesbians Gays Bisexuals And Transgendered Of The University Of Toronto (LGBTOUT), probably best known for its successful all-ages Homohop dances, started fundraising in 2004 with a goal of $60,000. The first fruits of the campaign, two awards of $1,000 each, will be presented this spring.
“This award is important for young queer people, who have barriers in achieving their educational goals and dreams. This makes it a little bit easier,” says campaign director and U of T alumni Mark Riczu.
“There’s a real lack of recognition within the university for the unique academic, emotional and financial challenges faced by queer students, as well as for the outstanding community work and antioppression activism that queer students do, often struggling with great difficulty to balance such activism with their school work.”
Eventually, three awards of $1,000 will be given out each year.
“While we are looking for a commitment to academic achievement, we want to downplay the academic element of it, which is why we’re calling it an award rather than a scholarship,” says Riczu. “The most important thing is to recognize the important community service and activism work that many U of T students do.”
Thanks to a grants-matching program from the Ontario Student Opportunities Trust Fund (OSOTF), donations to the LGBTOUT Student Awards Fund will be matched, dollar-for-dollar.
“I’m excited by the warm reception the awards have received and the generous donations people have made, but we still have a long way to go,” says Riczu.
To help bridge the gap, LGBTOUT is hosting a fundraiser cocktail party the first week of April. The catered event will feature the presentation of the first two awards. Entertainment will be provided by U of T’s engineering musical sensation the Skule Jazz Combo. Riczu hopes the event will bring in $5,000 to $10,000.
The award will be administered by the Centre For Sexual Diversity Studies at U of T’s University College.
“This is a natural partnership for us because it creates a strong link between LGBTOUT and this world-renowned academic centre,” says Riczu, “and because it ensures sound financial management of the endowment by the university while still keeping the award decisions in the hands of people who understand its spirit and significance.”