It’s been about five years since I accidentally stumbled upon the Aqua Foundation’s scholarship ad. I remember casually flipping the pages and suddenly stopping myself to read about the scholarship for LBT women and girls going to college from the South Florida area. I looked at the application due date; it had passed. Yet, I felt inclined to call the office the following day and ask if there was anyway I could still apply, considering I was a lesbian-identified senior in high school, looking for any money I could add to my ever-too-small college fund. Needless to say, I applied to the scholarship, and three years later, the Aqua Foundation has funded nearly $16,000 of my college education at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL.
Although the money has definitely been an incredible gift these past three years, the Aqua Foundation has given me much more than any check ever could: an outlet to find myself within the lesbian community, and a place to feel open and honest about who I am as a woman. I was 18 when I first applied, and now that I am 22, I can tell that my experiences growing up with the support of the Aqua Foundation have undeniably shaped who I am. I have become more confident and aware of myself as an LBT woman, and through the countless conversations, interactions, and experiences among the women of the foundation, I have really gained a sense of belonging in the South Florida lesbian community.
Quite frankly, the scholarship granted me the opportunity to meet and learn from the most incredible group of women and mentors in the LBT community, which has been an invaluable experience. And even though I spend much of my year in Chicago at school, I feel the most at home when I am in South Florida, and do everything I can to be a part of our community again; I spent two summers interning at the Aqua Foundation office, I attend events and parties, and t maintain the friendships I have made with women in the foundation. Without a doubt, I love the feeling of being around the thriving and supportive Aqua Foundation community in South Florida.
Five years after first applying for the Aqua Foundation Scholarship, I truly understand the importance of having a program where LBT women reach out to LBT youth. Not only have I benefitted from the program’s monetary support, but I have also gained an invaluable network of women mentors and friends. I know that I am lucky to have the Aqua Foundation to support me, and (as is already happening) I intend to share my own experiences with younger LBT youth, as they come to me looking for somebody to talk to about feeling comfortable with their own sexuality, support, and place within the community.
This organization provides me with a scholarship and a mentor in the field I hope to enter--they didn't just give me a scholarship check and said "here is your money and let's take a picture for our press release". The Aqua Foundation has served as a family to me and has allowed me to spend more time focusing on my studies and a little less time working at my 40+ hour week job and for that, I am forever grateful!
The Aqua Foundation for Women is true to their message of empowering, educating and fostering South Florida's lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women communities. With their support my organization, The Women's Theatre Project, has developed a strategic alliance with The Pride Center at Equality Park. Together, we are bringing a nationally recognized anti-bullying campaign to South Florida. The Women's Theatre Project is grateful to the Foundation and their donors for allowing us to leverage our relationships and funding to support this much-needed and unique programming.