The Rainbow Chamber Foundation awarded nine $1,000 scholarships for the 2017-18 school year to the following students: Marshall Dankbar, Junior, Sac State; Augistine Garcia, SCOE; Nyree Hall, 2nd year Master’s student, Sac State; Jaela Harding, Freshman, University of Southern California; Travis Legault, Junior, Sac State; Kenneth McBride, Sophomore, UC Merced; Reina Miller, 2nd year, Lincoln Law School; Heidi Nguyen, Freshman, UC Davis; and Vanessa Vallarta, Sierra College. The scholarships were awarded as part of the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce 15th Anniversary Crystal Gala, held Sept. 14 at Dante Club.
“Every year, we are inspired and uplifted by the stories of our amazing scholars, the challenges they have overcome, and their determination to succeed,” said Foundation Chair Diana DePaola. “By helping these outstanding young people get their start, the Chamber is planting seeds for the future of our community.”
Marshall Dankbar is channeling his passion for all things technological into a pursuit for a Computer Science degree at Sac State. “The LGBT community in Sacramento has also been there for me when I needed them for support when I was younger,” he writes. “I came out when I was 13, and I didn’t know any other peers in my situation. I visited the Lambda Center [now Sacramento LGBT Community Center] in midtown Sacramento, where I was able to meet other teenagers who were part of the community, and this helped me greatly in terms of my identity. Since then, I have always been proud to be gay and to be a part of the LGBT community.
“One day after I’ve completed my degree, I would love to contribute back to the community by helping LGBT youth and the community with what I have learned during my studies, so hopefully I can make the same difference in other people’s lives.”
Augistine Garcia is a 4th grade teacher in San Juan Unified School District, and, with his partner, father to four adopted children. The scholarship will help him obtain an administrative credential from the Sacramento County of Education and a master’s degree in Education from National University. With the additional accreditation, Garcia hopes to become an elementary school principal, “to create a safe environment, welcoming and open campus for all students.”
Nyree Hall, who is seeking a master’s degree in Sociology at Sac State, is the first in her family to attend a university. After struggling for years to feel accepted, she came out to family, friends and campus community when she ran for student body president. “I decided that the best way for me to make a contribution to social justice is to educate others…,” she writes. “With my degree, I hope to educate students in higher education about the importance of diversity, inclusivity, feminism, the LGBTQ community, and about positive representation.”
Jaela Harding has been an exceptional scholar all her life, beginning high school at just 12 years old, graduating high school with a 4.38 cumulative GPA, now majoring in biochemistry at USC. At her conservative, Catholic high school, she bonded with other LGBTQ students and challenged the logic of homophobic church teachings. “By standing up for myself and my LGBT+ community, I have made small, yet significant changes,” she writes.
Travis Legault, a third-year government major at Sac State, has been interested in public service since high school and plans a career in legislative advocacy and campaign consulting. He is active in the College Democrats, Sacramento County Young Democrats, Stonewall Democratic Club of Sacramento Valley, and California College Democrats and is serving an internship in the office of Sacramento Councilmember Eric Guerra. He is interested in higher education policy and getting LGBT candidates elected to office. “No matter what, I will always take time to put my skills to use for this community that I am so proud to be a part of,” he writes.
Currently majoring in Business Management and Economics, Kenneth McBride plans to seek an MBA and is passionate about community service. At UC Merced, where 7 percent of the student population is African American, he serves on the executive board of the Black Student Union, is a member of Afrikans for Outreach and Development Program and the Baseball Club. He was named “Most Outstanding Freshman” in 2016-17. “I’m not on campus just to focus on grades,” he writes. “I really try to be that positive role model for other students around me.”
Reina Miller graduated from Sac State with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, earning dean’s honors and becoming first in her family to earn a college degree, all while holding down two jobs. She currently volunteers for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) as an advocate for foster youth. At Lincoln Law School, she serves as vice president of the newly formed Lambda Law Student Association and on the boards of LLSA (Latina/Latino Law Student Association), WJS (Women’s Justice Society), and APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Student Association).
Heidi Nguyen holds a degree in business marketing and works at AT&T. She says she was inspired to seek her MBA in Organizational Behavior by friends and mentors in the LGBT community. Through the AT&T Aspire Mentorship program and its partnership with Boys & Girls Club, she discovered a passion for helping at-risk youth. “I have not stopped my support the LGBT community, because the introduction into this community has been made me a better person,” she writes. “My desire to make the world a more inclusive place for everyone has pushed me to pursue my education.”
Vanessa Vallarta is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, with a major in exercise science. Originally from Philippines, she emigrated to the United States with her family six years ago and is the first in her family to attend college. Growing up with a gay cousin, she became aware of the bullying and discrimination he experienced. “I promised him that he will never feel alone, because I will always be there for him and support him for everything that he chooses to do…,” she writes. “We all need someone to lean on, and I can be someone’s shoulder to lean on. I stand with the LGBTQ+ community.”
Rainbow Chamber Scholars are selected via a competitive application process, including a written essay. Because the program’s mission is to support local students, applicants must reside in or plan to attend a university, college, or school in the counties of Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Yolo, or Yuba. Applicants must be enrolled or planning to enroll in senior year of high school or in a university, college, or qualified vocational school and must have a minimum 2.9 cumulative GPA to qualify.
Since 2008 the Rainbow Chamber Foundation has contributed almost $50,000 to fund college and vocational education scholarships for LGBTQ and LGBT-supportive youth. The organization also provides funding support and sponsorships for youth service organizations including the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, National Suicide Prevention Program Trevor Project, GSA Network, Transgender Law Center and Gender Health Center.
The Rainbow Chamber Foundation was established by the Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce as a separate, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2007, with the mission to promote mentoring, guidance, and education, and to support programs that improve quality of life for the LGBTQ community. The scholarship program is designed to motivate and assist LGBTQ and supportive students in pursuing educational degrees or vocational certificates. Applications for 2018-19 scholarship awards open March 1, 2018, and close June 30, 2018. For more information and the scholarship application form visit https://www.rainbowchamber.com/scholarship-program/.