There were more than a few teary eyes at the 2015 LOUD Foundation awards gala when Janine Fuller introduced the newest student scholarship on June 4.
The LOUD (Leadership, Opportunity, Unity, Diversity) Foundation annually recognizes the achievements of young LGBT people from across British Columbia who demonstrate a commitment to community engagement. The latest award is the Jim Deva Memorial Scholarship, named after the respected community leader and business owner who died suddenly last September. He had been a staunch supporter of the LOUD Foundation since its inception in 2009, with one of the annual awards already bearing the name of his bookstore, Little Sister’s.
“I’ll see if I can keep myself together in this moment but it’s kind of a tough one because Deva loved this scholarship amazingly,” Fuller, his longtime friend and colleague, told the audience. “It’s something he talked about at the bookstore with an unbelievable passion.”
Seven awards, totaling $12,000, were distributed this year, including the Little Sister’s scholarship and the new Jim Deva recognition, which was given to two different students.
“The legacy of Deva is the legacy of this room. All the people in it,” Fuller said. “The people who are winning this award — it just reinforces all of the things Deva cared about.”
One of those winners, Caroline Doerksen, reflects Deva’s involvement with a wide range of community groups and organizations. Doerksen, a 20-year-old gender, sexuality and women’s studies student at Simon Fraser University, volunteers in Surrey with an LGBT youth advocacy group, sits on the board of the New West Pride Society, and is a member of the SheTalks YVR advisory committee.
“Through the LGBT community I’ve found my passion for activism and that’s a huge part of my life now,” she tells Daily Xtra. Doerksen plans to pursue her master’s or study law when she finishes her undergraduate degree.
“This [award] will help me move forward and progress,” she says.
For Dora Ng, 27, the Little Sister’s scholarship she received will do the same, allowing her to return to university and finish her degree in history.
“I see a lot of LGBT youth or young people struggling with school or finances or whatever because there’s just so many barriers to everything. To recreation, to employment, to school,” she says, noting that these were some of the factors that led to her dropping out of school.
In addition to the financial support that comes with her award, the LOUD Foundation also wrote a letter of support to the University of British Columbia’s readmission committee for Ng.
“Not finishing school is one of those things that’s always weighing on the back of my mind,” she says. “Being able to complete it — having this encouragement to complete it — it’s super empowering.”
That sense of empowerment is exactly what LOUD hopes to achieve with its awards, says Blair Smith, a LOUD Foundation director and co-organizer of the gala.
According to Smith, fewer than 25 people applied for scholarships this year, which is not enough given the scope of the awards and the amazing work young people are doing across the province.
“What’s really difficult about the fact that we don’t get more applicants, is that the applicants themselves don’t value themselves,” he says. “We found in the last few years that we need educators, counsellors, family members and friends to encourage people to apply for scholarships. It’s been a bit of a revelation.”
Smith says the foundation is aiming to boost the number of applicants, especially those under the age of 20. Over the next three years, the Vancouver Pride Society will begin offering scholarships through the LOUD Foundation, with both organizations increasing their focus on high school applicants.
“They are doing incredible things,” Smith says. “They don’t see what they’re doing as heroism or incredibly important, but it is.”
Smith hopes that more members of BC’s queer community will establish new awards the way Kasey Reese and Javier Barajas did in 2014.
“I’m so humbled. It feels incredible,” says Victor Ryan, winner of this year’s Barajas-Reese Scholarship. “It’s a nice call to arms to continue reaching out to the community and maybe begin reaching out to the community in different ways.”
The 2015 LOUD scholarship recipients:
Barajas-Reese Scholarship ($2,000): Victor Ryan
LOUD Scholarship ($2,000): Jaclyn Sauer
LOUD Scholarship ($2,000): Marli Rachel Bodhi
Intentional Success Scholarship ($1,000): Nona May Robertson
Little Sister’s Scholarship ($1,000): Dora Ng
Jim Deva Memorial Scholarship ($2,000 each): Christopher Severight and Caroline Doerksen