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LOUD scholarships support tomorrow’s queer leaders

Important for gay businesses to invest in community, Deva says

The GLBA's Isabelle Swiderski, with scholarship winners Kristy Mosher, Ran Ya Chib and Scott Mackay (and LOUD Awards host Barb Snelgrove, centre). Credit: Beth Hong photo

Three promising leaders from Vancouver’s queer community received recognition for their leadership and community service on Sept 27 at the fourth annual Leadership, Opportunity, Unity and Diversity (LOUD) Scholarship Awards in Vancouver.

Presented by BC’s Gay and Lesbian Business Association (GLBA), the LOUD awards are given to queer students and allies enrolled in post-secondary programs who demonstrate that they have the “capacity and vision to improve some aspect of the GLBT community.”

The awards ceremony, usually held in the spring, was rescheduled to September this year because many board members had family commitments that came up, says Isabelle Swiderski, who sits on the GLBA’s board of directors.

“We felt that we weren’t as able to commit as much as we needed to at the time and to ensure we got the audience we needed, and to make this event as great as it can be,” Swiderski says.

The rescheduled event was held as usual at CBC headquarters and featured a silent auction, a live harp performance and a DJ.

Ran Ya Chib and Scott Mackay each won $2,000 LOUD scholarships, while Kristy Mosher won the $1,250 Little Sister’s Scholarship.

Chib says he is humbled and honoured to receive the award. The 21-year-old human resources student at Kwantlen University lives life at a hectic pace, volunteering with the Health Initiative for Men and the Kids Help Phone, and giving presentations to high-school students about sexual abuse. Chib says the award helps ease the financial burden.

“It’s helped me a lot; it’s enabled me to not have any restraints with school,” he says. “Before I always worked and had to do full-time work and studies in between volunteering — this released me from that stress.”

Mackay, 24, says he, too, is humbled to receive the award. “I’m humbled because there’s so many people in this city at my age or younger, and they do so much for the community as well,” he says. “Just to be recognized for something I was doing was humbling for sure.”

Mackay came out four years ago, when he moved to Vancouver from Victoria, where he grew up. He volunteered with various local foundations, such as the Kidney Foundation, BC Cancer Foundation and Kids Help Phone.

Last year, he was crowned Imperial Crown Prince of Vancouver by the Dogwood Monarchist Society, where he volunteered as a special events coordinator. Mackay says he plans to pursue marketing once he graduates from Langara.

Jim Deva, co-owner of Little Sister’s Bookstore, says he donates his time and money to LOUD because he thinks it’s important for gay businesses to invest back into the community.

“It shows the depth of community strength and maturity that we can now gather together as business people and create scholarships,” Deva says.

This year’s award winners were older than in previous years. Swiderski says that’s just the way it turned out. “There’s no age limit; people can be youth or not youth,” she says.

Mosher, who received the Little Sister’s scholarship, volunteered with the Special Olympics in Vancouver and disabled baseball leagues, and threw a fundraiser for the BC Civil Liberties Association at WomynsWare last year.

The 33-year-old graduate from Douglas College’s sport science program says the scholarship came at just the right time.

“The scholarship came through right when I graduated in May, and now I run my own elemental fitness circuit-training classes at Trout Lake Park,” she says. “It’s amazing. I’ve never won a scholarship ever, and this was totally shocking and I’m totally thrilled.”

“Basically, I think of LOUD Awards as people trying to be the best person they can possibly be, and contributing to society around them in whatever small way they’re passionate about,” Swiderski says. “So it’s a way of showing these people that it matters to the community and that the community is behind them and wants to see them continue and have an impact in whatever way they choose.”