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LGBT Youth

rom left, 2016 Models of Excellence Scholarship Ceremony. Carl Johnson, UGLA Board Member, Angela Olivares, Scholarship Recipient, Carl Matthes, UGLA President, Dr. Virginia Uribe, Founder Project 10

The attack on Orlando’s Pulse night club showed a diverse - kaleidoscopic view - of America’s LGBT community. This savage gun spree, which ended the lives of so many, has sparked momentum toward curtailing the sale of assault weapons in our country. Young lives taken away by a senseless shooting.

But, from tragedy, a ray of hope. According to Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA), after Democratic Congress members staged an historic sit-in and after his own anti-gun rally in downtown Los Angeles, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives may bring forward some type of gun control measure upon returning from vacation. Xavier's words of caution? It may not be an effective bill.

Back in the 1960s, it was a rebellion by diverse LGBT folk at New York City’s gay Stonewall Inn, against police harassment and brutality, which ignited hope and a nationwide LGBT rights movement.

The AIDS epidemic started in the early 1980s and the LGBT community began to rally as one, attracting many to the fight against this ravaging virus and eventually galvanizing America - and the world - in the decades long fight.

The fight for Marriage Equality and against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which started in the 1990s, brought solidarity to LGBT folk and our allies resulting in the fast-tracking of these issues into the American psyche.

Founded in 1984 at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles by teacher and counselor Dr. Virginia Uribe, Project 10 has provided education and support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning (LGBTQ) students, and other sexual minority youth.

And now, the 2016 Orlando attack has awakened all of us, and especially our youth, to continue fighting for civil and human rights. Today’s LGBT youth has learned that it is only through hard work, cohesiveness and perseverance that the world will listen and make way.

We know that the LGBT community is represented in every racial, ethnic and religious demographic. We come in every shade, speak each language and are faithful practitioners of all religions - and of no religion. With this barbaric massacre, our relevance, safety and vibrancy has been fused with America’s 21st century social and political culture.

LGBT youth have now learned first-hand how precious is life and how easily hate, ignorance and extremism can extinguish the brightest flames.

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One of the groups supporting and fighting for LGBT youth is Project 10.

Founded in 1984 at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles by teacher and counselor Dr. Virginia Uribe, Project 10 has provided education and support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning (LGBTQ) students, and other sexual minority youth. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Uribe said, "Every young person has a right to a sense of self-respect and dignity. In public education we serve the needs of all our students. Some are gay and lesbian and we need to serve them too. We're supposed to be teaching them to live in an increasingly diverse society. This shouldn't be a place where prejudice is fostered. It's where discrimination should be fought."

In 1986, Friends of Project 10 (FOP10) became the nonprofit arm of Project 10. FOP10 took on the challenge to help fund the LGBTQ Prom, the annual conference on the Models of Pride youth conference, Youth Lobby Day, the Models of Excellence Scholarship Competition, and the Make It Real Project.

Last month, the annual Models of Excellence Scholarship ceremony took place in Eagle Rock, CA. A total of $25,000. in scholarships was awarded to 16 young high school graduates, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and who have advanced the civil rights of LGBT folk in Southern California.

Gail Rolf, Education Director of FOP10, said, “Our awardees have shown, by their high school and college activities, a commitment to advancing the civil rights of the LGBT communities. Their resumes demonstrate involvement on every level from the GSA Network (“Gay/Straight Alliance” now morphing to “Gender and Sexuality Alliance”) to participating in Days of Silence, the AIDS Walk, Transgender Day of Empowerment, and numerous workshops on bullying. FOP10 congratulates the recipients and encourages them to continue the fight for justice and equality.”

As President of Uptown Gay & Lesbian Alliance (UGLA), I participated in the Models of Excellence Scholarship ceremony again this year. The sixteen recipients came from high schools from Chula Vista to Yucca Valley and from Saugus to South Gate. UGLA’s scholarship went to Angela Olivares, a graduate of Yucca Valley High School who will be attending UC Riverside. It was exhilarating to meet the recipients and to learn about their hopes for the future. UGLA has supported FOP10 since the early 1990s.

In building towards the future, another project, the Models of Pride Conference, created in 1993 by FOP10, will be held on Saturday, October 29, 2016 on the campus of the University of Southern California. Since 2010, it has been presented by the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s LifeWorks program. This free one-day conference focuses on the concerns and interests of LGBTQ youth up to age 24, and their allies.

Organizers, who are continuing to build on Project 10’ s mission and the Uribe/Rolf vision, will be offering “over 100 workshops, a huge resource fair, exciting entertainment, lunch and dinner, and an evening dance with a DJ. The workshops cover many areas of life that are experienced by LGBTQ youth transitioning to adulthood including but not limited to LGBTQ issues.”

Young LGBT folk are now challenged to build on the progress of past decades. To fight against assault weapons, to fight discrimination, revamp our immigration policy and prison system, support Black Lives Matter while fighting police brutality and injustice, fight for a living wage, demand universal health care and access to debt-free college education. To raise their voices until everyone - regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation is equal under the law.

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Carl Matthes