Congrats to our President and Founder Michael Piña, gender pronouns she and he, for winning the Youth Courage Award from the Colin Higgins Foundation.
The Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award salutes and celebrates courage in the face of adversity and discrimination by awarding grants to "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two Spirit, Queer and Questioning youth activists (through age 20) who have transformed their experiences with bigotry and discrimination into opportunities to inspire others by taking action, rallying support, building community, and working to change the systems and institutions that impact their lives."
With the help of various community members and continuous support from Ashley Acosta-Para (she/her), Sierra G. Perez, and Dalia Santana Zamudio (she/her), Michael founded Central Valley Scholars at the age of 19, pursuing to not only help alleviate the obstacles Central Valley students face while trying to attain access to higher education but to also create a safe, welcoming, and accessible space for all students.
In a letter sent to Michael from the Colin Higgins Foundation Board, they share, "You[Michael] have demonstrated enormous courage in overcoming obstacles in your personal life as well as in your impressive activism for LGBTQ causes in Fresno County, California. Your compassion and inclusive community outreach are clear reasons for your continued achievements in the pursuit of equality for all. Your Central Valley Scholars Foundation is a crowning achievement on its own."
This award is a huge win for both Michael and our Central Valley Scholars organization. Over the past year, Michael has volunteered her time in order to provide free college services for students across the entire Central Valley. Her work and advocacy have made great impacts in the realm of access to higher education. As a senior at UC Berkeley, Michael plans to use this grant to pay for her education, but also plans to use the award to fund next year's LGBTQ+ scholarship.
"I never started Central Valley Scholars as a means to win awards or receive any type of recognition," Michael states, "but that doesn't take away how beautiful and heartwarming it is to be celebrated in this way. While the grant on its own is extremely helpful, this award does much more. The Youth Courage Award recognizes me, all of me, a Queer Fem advocate doing important work to create equal access to higher education."
You can view Michael's reaction to receiving the award in the video linked below.