By Josef Molnar
Before the PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation offered Christopher Wick a $10,000 scholarship to attend college, making ends meet was not easy. In addition, he was dealing with the realities of being a transgender male.
“I was waiting tables, and I worked two jobs for a while trying to put myself through school,” he said. “I was also transitioning, so it was very difficult for me then.”
The scholarship helped him to attend cosmetology school so he could earn more money than waiting tables would allow. And while he is the recipient of the largest scholarship that the Youth Scholarship Foundation provides, he is not the only one: the organization awarded $90,000 in scholarships and scholarship extensions last year.
Wick is now a sophomore at Lone Star College and is planning to transfer to the University of Houston next year.
“The scholarship gave me a huge doorway into a higher education,” Wick said. “It also allowed me to develop a trade and continue to go to school. I’m now on the president’s list, and I’ve done very, very well. That would not be possible if I was still working two jobs.
“My life is dramatically different,” he added. “I don’t know what would have happened without the scholarship.”
Helping LGBT youth to improve their lives and become the next generation of community leaders is the goal of the PFLAG/HATCH scholarship organization, and one of the ways it raises money is through its annual Spring Fling, which will be held on April 29, 7–10 p.m., at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. The event is a meet-and-greet opportunity for attendees to see the faces of the future, and for people who actively support the gay community to receive awards for their efforts. Attendees are asked to donate $50 or more to support the foundation’s efforts; wine and hors d’oeuvres will be provided. Like all of the work done at the foundation, Lonnie Davis, a PHYSF trustee, said the organization will funnel all of the event’s proceeds to its scholarships.
“All of the money that is raised [by the Spring Fling] goes toward scholarships,” she said. “We pay for every part of the event by either getting sponsors, or we get our board members to do it.”
The PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation scholarship is available to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth in the Houston area for college costs. While public service to the LGBT community is not required, the recipients are encouraged to do volunteer work. To be considered for one of the awards, LGBT applicants must be between 17 and 26 years old, show a financial need, write an essay, and undergo an interview. The scholarship application deadline is April 30, and last year the organization awarded 17 scholarships to LGBT students.
Davis hopes that both gay and straight Houstonians will step forward to offer much-needed funds for the scholarships. The organization, like other nonprofits around the country, has seen declining donations because of the economy, and Davis encourages people who can make small monthly donations—perhaps $10 or $25—to do so through the PHYSF website at physf.org.
People who want to help in other ways can also volunteer for the scholarship application review committee.
“We’re hoping this event will get us back up to previous funding levels,” she said. “We don’t want to shortchange any kid, and since I’ve been on the board, we have not turned away any kid who really needs that money. If they apply and they show they need it, we will find the money from somewhere.”
For more information about the PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation or to submit an application, visit physf.org or call Linda Enger at 832/215-8548.