Elsie Frank Scholarship Recipients
2014 Elsie Frank Scholarship Winners
Cydni Burton is a senior at Bedford High School who has started an open dialogue on LGBTQ people in the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club in Boston. After learning about the struggles and experiences of LGBTQ people she brought the film “Pariah” to the Boys and Girls Club and showed it to 30 teens who then discussed the film. She will continue to present more opportunities to talk about race and sexuality within black, middle class, urban communities. Cydni plans to continue her education in hopes of studying gender studies, accounting, and/or education.
Celene Chen is a senior at Hingham High School who, as president of her school’s GSA, raised awareness of LGBTQ suicide rates, organized the school’s first Day of Silence, Ally Week and Youth Pride trip. Celene is highly active in her school and community. She created an LGBTQ lesson plan for teachers to include in their classes. She plans on studying economics and women’s & gender studies.
David D’Isola is a senior at The Learning Prep School who started his school’s first GSA after petitioning for multiple years. He argued that just because he and his peers are special needs students didn’t mean they were not LGBT or questioning. He has changed his school where it was once not ok to be who you are. He hopes that by setting up the GSA, he will help to create a safe and welcoming environment for all of the students that follow his departure from the school. David is involved in NAGLY and plans to continue his education in Middlesex County College’s Transition Program.
Warren Jackson is a senior at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School who, tripled the size of his GSA and created and presented lessons for younger students at his school about LGBTQ bullying and suicide prevention. His creativity with the lesson plan and activities sparked a significant improvement in the climate for LGBTQ students in his school. Warren plans to be the first in his family to continue his education by studying marketing and advertising.
John McLean is a senior at Hudson High School who produced and directed The Laramie Project in his high school. After discovering a tweet from the Westboro Baptist Church that said they would come and protest the production on opening night, John was shocked to see how many students stood up and protected the show from the WBC. Through this production John was able to witness a community that was ignorant change and embrace LGBTQ people. John will attend the New York Film Academy to study filmmaking.
Ryan Palmer is a senior at St. Mark’s School who worked to amend the non-discrimination policy at his school to include protections for transgender and gender nonconforming students. Since then he has worked tirelessly to continue to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for the students that follow him at St. Mark’s—he has changed the name of his GSA to Gender-Sexuality Alliance to further include trans* and gender nonconforming students, organized trips to LGBTQ-focused conferences in the area, and organized his school’s first Spirit Day in which students showed support for the LGBTQ community by wearing purple. Ryan plans to continue his education and study international relations and/or nonprofit leadership.
2013 Elsie Frank Scholarship Winners
Zachary Kerr is a senior at Methuen High School who has made an impact in support of LGBT rights at the local, state, and national levels. At Methuen High, Zach is the president of the GSA and has led staff trainings especially focused on transgender education. When his guidance counselor was unable to provide him resources as a transgender student, Zach recognized the need for better training and helped to create it. He has subsequently brought his expertise and experiences to other schools across the state as a speaker for the Massachusetts Safe Schools Program. He is on the Massachusetts Commission for LGBT Youth and urged Governor Patrick to include gender identity in the state’s student anti-discrimination law, a change that was made before the law went into effect last summer. Finally, Zach has met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to ask for support for state programs like Massachusetts’ Safe Schools Program for LGBT Students. Zach’s leadership on LGBT issues has gone far beyond the state border and he plans to continue that leadership in college and beyond.
Franconia “Kikie” Burg is a senior at North Reading High School and has been instrumental in founding their school’s first GSA. Though the administration has been oppositional in allowing the GSA to form, Kikie has written a proposal for the school committee to allow the GSA full school club privileges next year. In the meantime, as part of an area Youth Group program, the GSA has organized an “Acceptance for All Awareness Concert,” attended the GLSEN conference at MIT, and helped organize the Day of Silence at the high school. Additionally, Kikie is a speaker for the North Shore Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth. Kikie’s goal is to “pave the way for a better school culture,” and by all accounts she has been very successful.
Markiesha Duverneau is a senior at the Academy of the Pacific Rim and has been a tireless ally in changing a difficult school environment. Markiesha was instrumental in organizing 8th grade trips to see Reflections of a Rock Lobster, the Day of Silence, and Academy of the Pacific Rim’s participation in the annual GLSEN conference. In addition, Markiesha founded the school’s Day of Remembrance to honor LGBT victims of bullying and hate crimes. Markiesha uses social media such as Facebook and YouTube to connect with and help LGBT youth who are struggling. She plans to continue helping LGBT youth as a psychologist after college.
Anthony Senesi is a senior at Minuteman High School where he is active in the school’s GSA, student government, drama club, and SkillsUSA. As a member of the GSA, Anthony helped organize the Day of Silence and a new event called the Coffee House, which helps students become familiar with the mission of the GSA. As a state officer for SkillsUSA, Anthony has proposed a change to the organization’s constitution to include sexual orientation as part of its antidiscrimination policies. Anthony will speak in favor of this policy change at the national conference in Kansas City, Missouri this spring. In addition, as an Eagle Scout, Anthony has experienced first-hand the current controversy over gay scouts. Anthony came out to his Camp Director and is currently working as part of the local Boy Scouts Council with the Camp Director and Council Executive to develop a more inclusive non-discrimination policy and an “It Gets Better” video supporting anti-bullying initiatives. Anthony’s love of the outdoors has led him to pursue a degree in Environmental Science at one of several New England schools to which he has been accepted.
Saer McCliment is a senior at Falmouth High School who came out as transgender during his junior year. Since then, Saer has taken on a leadership role in educating not only other students but the faculty and staff at his high school as well. He has expanded the school library with a selection of LGBT books, done speaking engagements at the local middle school, and helped organize an LGBT college fair. In addition, Saer, who is also the editor of the Falmouth High School literary magazine “The Shoal,” provides an online safe space for queer and transgender youth through his blog. Because of Saer’s experiences, he plans to pursue a career in gender therapy.
Brian Cook is a senior at Methuen High School who has blazed a trail on the football field as a transgender varsity lineman for the Methuen High School football team. He also participates on both the indoor and outdoor track teams. He has become a leader by example on the field in sports and also off the field as a speaker for PFLAG and with Dr. Norman Spack in support of transgender medical care at places like Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In addition, Brian performs onstage and works as a stagehand for Acting Out Theater Company. His stage experience has translated into making him a better public speaker for transgender rights. Brian plans to pursue a degree in a Criminal Justice.
2012 Elsie Frank Scholarship Winners
Oliver Joseph, from Stoughton High School, sought to raise awareness in his school by exhibiting an independent photo-art project chronicling his transition from female to male. Oliver’s personal journey and his struggle alongside his family and friends against the school administration to see his project exhibited helped to “create a conversation [and] promote understanding in [a] conservative town.”
Willie Rogers founded the first Gay Straight Alliance at the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston. From a conservative Brazilian and Cape Verdean family, Willie turned his struggle with verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his peers into a motivational poem, which he shared at PFLAG’s Pride & Passion Fundraiser. Willie observed, “Nothing in life is supposed to be perfect but that does not mean you should give up on the meaning of life or your dreams.”
Brandon Sides made the courageous decision to come out to his football team at Acton Boxborough High School. After winning the support of his coaches and teammates, Brandon hopes that others will receive the same, because “[k]ids don't really deserve having enemies on their own team.”
Olivia Harvey was president of Chelmsford High School’s Gay Straight Alliance when a group of students at her school started an offensive hate group on Facebook. In response to the administration’s inadequate response to the matter, Olivia led the fight to publicize the incident and the school’s inaction in local media.
Nicholas Diaz arrived at Brighton High School after leaving a previous school due to bullying. Brandon has become an active voice against bullying, serving on the Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN) and speaking before former Attorney General Martha Coakley’s panel on high school bullying. Nicholas was also featured on Boston.com and Channel 5’s special, “Growing Up Gay.”
Brandon Lee Markowitz graduated from Taunton High School despite being kicked out of his home because of his sexuality. Brandon has served on the Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth, traveled to Maine to protest the repeal of marriage equality, and participated in the National Equality March. Brandon’s independent photo-art project, Love and Pride, was exhibited in Boston as a Gold Key Award winner in the Scholastic Art and Writing competition.
Vanessa Velasquez was a leader in the Gay Straight Alliance at Triton Regional High School in Byfield. Inspired by her two moms and a gay brother, Vanessa led the GSA in hosting “Ally Week,” producing the play Removing the Glove with the Drama and Art Department, airing segments of the Trevor Project and the It Gets Better Project on the school’s TV channel, and putting on an assembly that garnered 263 pledges from student allies.
Samantha Scovill was president of Falmouth High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, where she helped to plan her school’s Ally Week. Samantha served on the planning committee for her school’s No Guff program to combat bullying and has organized student trips to BAGLY and has spoken for Greater Boston PFLAG. Samantha was chosen as a Channel 5 A+ student and is credited by her teachers for “making it safe to be openly gay” at Falmouth High.
William Lukas served as a senior class president at Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton. William founded STAND, Students Taking Action in a New Direction, which functions as the school's GSA and serves to promote "a message of LGBT equality and human rights and a more universal social justice."
Zachary Silberman served as co-president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Andover High School. Zachary has organized LGBT fundraisers, social outings, and even a regional GSA conference. As a speaker for PFLAG, he addressed local middle school faculty on how to more effectively address LGBT issues in an effort to "show them there are many answers to the questions they may have, and to help them realize asking these questions is a necessary part of the journey."
Kaden Belanger the president of the senior class, student government, and the school's GSA at South Hadley High School. After the tragic suicide of a student, Kaden organized the school’s No Name Calling Week. As a young transman, Kaden is a trailblazer among even his LGBT peers, and his legacy at South Hadley will remain long after his graduation.
Barbara Morrison served as president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Westford Academy. Barbara helped organize an anti-bullying and LGBT awareness program for her school's incoming freshmen, and when some faculty objected, also organized a staff diversity training as well. Using her position on the school newspaper, Barbara even "challenged the town of Westford to step into the present and commit to tolerance."
Kayla Kantola, of Andover High School, co-founded the Merrimack Valley Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (McVAGLY). Kayla is an avid videographer and has published videos on her YouTube channel that "played down the drama of coming out, and made it something light, something funny, something understandable."
Michaela Junior was a founding member of the Gay Straight Alliance at Codman Academy in Dorchester. Michaela has interned at Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services and often speaks to students about her own coming out process. Despite being homeless after coming out to her family, Michaela fought to make it safer for others to be open and out at Codman. Despite the loss of family support, Michaela has found she "has the power to be her own inspiration."
Abigail Carpenter-Winch, of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, led Project 10 East, the school's GSA, and was an active member of BAGLY. In addition, Abigail served as Chair of the Youth Committee for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and founded the Massachusetts Transgender Youth Summit, which "empowered so many youth to stand up for themselves and for their rights, and gave them the knowledge that there is a community to support them." Abigail also worked for The Trevor Project, the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, the GLSEN National Jump-Start Student Leadership Team, and completed her senior internship with GLAD.
Elizabeth Bender, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. Liz is a common sight at rallies and protests in Massachusetts. She is well on her way to her goal of becoming a “conscientious global citizen.”
Jackson Davidow, Newton North High School. Jackson’s “writing has allowed [him] to embrace [his] voice as a force for change,” and the impact is already being felt.
Andrew Korstvedt, The Bromfield School in Harvard. His “goal is not merely to achieve, but to grow through achievement.” Andrew discovered his responsibility to “represent the gay community as the diverse patchwork of identities it truly is” both at home and abroad.
Lena Amick, Amherst Regional High School. Lena has helped “unite LGBT students and allies from other local schools” by organizing an event that allowed many GSA’s in the area to meet, network, share ideas, and create an “inspired connection.”
Eric Kimball, Manchester Essex Regional High School. As a straight ally, Eric has distinguished himself as a “pioneer for gay rights. . .with phenomenal fortitude and integrity.”
Amanda Mikulski, Millbury Memorial Jr/Sr High School. Amanda’s “greatest act of bravery and maturity” came while delivering an award-winning speech on How has modern media affected our lives? Amanda’s coming out as part of the speech “was truly inspiring and solidified her role as a consummate leader amongst her peers.”
Zoë Peters, home-schooled student from Jamaica Plain. Zoë wants to help people “to not just own but also to celebrate their sexuality, to break down barriers and improve everyone’s lives in the process.”
Erwin Mo, South High Community School in Worcester. Erwin has found a place where she can “break patterns [and has] earned respect and has fought for her rights” as a transsexual.
Meredith Nicholson, Brookline High School. Meredith is “determined to advocate for the right of all people to openly identify with the sexual orientation or gender identity that accurately reflects their sense of self.”
Edmund Hu, Malden High School. Edmund initially struggled with acceptance from his traditional Chinese family, which led to difficulties with self-esteem, depression, and suicide. However, once he joined the GSA, Edmund became an advocate for other students like himself. As a role model within his school, Edmund has become, in his words, a “strange underworld hero to Asian-American and gay students.”
Richard Kelley, Danvers High School. Richard’s GSA advisor commends him for “going above and beyond the expectations of any student,” and continues by stating that she has “yet to meet another student as dedicated as Richard.”
Sebastian Urrea, Leominster High School. When Sebastian recognized that he was gay, “I gave myself a very hard time about it for months, and became very depressed, suicidal even.” After coming out to his mom and dad and receiving their support, he flourished. “Now, I am openly gay, and proud of who I am.”
Amanda Blackstone, Millville Regional High School. When someone yelled, “faggot” as she walked to the stage, no one said or did anything. After that horrific moment, she spoke about the incident in a “School Climate Meeting”. She said, “… half the issue with intolerance in the school are the teachers, and if they can’t find it in themselves to be leaders, then what are we, as students, supposed to do?”
Alex Morse, Holyoke High School. Alex is committed to using his voice for positive change today and in the future.
Christopher Bynes, Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester. As the first student to come out at his school, Christopher has a unique perspective on diversity and understanding.
Ryan Gorski, Sabis International Charter School in Springfield. After coming out, Ryan quickly grew into, what he calls, an “individual activist.” That is, he prides himself on not simply attending protests and demonstrations, but on working every day to speak out and fight for equality.
Elliot Holloway, Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield. Though acceptance can be hard to find, he is proud of his status as a trans male and dedicated to work for that community.
Samantha Sass, Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge. Sammy is willing to stand up to a challenge and fight for what she believes in.
Kevin Teague, Landmark School in Prides Crossing. “I feel that I am doing what is natural and what feels right. I feel that I have made a positive impact and have come one step closer to having LGBT people respected and accepted as equals.”
Huy Quoc Ngo, North Andover High School. “I know I’m a better person now because I’m being true to myself….. Being a gay youth has only made life more memorable.”
Jessica-Kate Ogungbadero, Jamaica Plain
Johanna McLellan, South Hadley
Tiana Veldwisch, Belmont
Darren Gallant, Hamilton-Wenham
Paige Kruza, Franklin
Andrew Yates, Newton
Hannah Zipple, Somerville
Richard (Chad) Newman, Peabody
Jason Lydon, Kingston
Alex Cole, Arlington
Nathan Weiner, Brockton
Abigail Machson-Carter, Newton
Catherine (Katie) Cunningham, Hudson
Eric Balas, Cambridge
Carolyn Bloomberg, Lexington