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SMYAL Launches 2016 Scholarship Program

2015 SMYAL Youth Award Winners

SMYAL Award Winners Kaaliyah McDowell (left) and Emily Pearson-Beck (right)

A youth leadership award for D.C. metro area LGBTQ youth


2015 SMYAL Youth Award Winners

2015 SMYAL Award Winners Kaaliyah McDowell (left) and Emily Pearson-Beck (right)

As high school seniors scramble with college and scholarship applications in their final semester, SMYAL is launching it’s 2016 Youth Leadership Awards, a program that could make a big difference to youth that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Selected students will receive a cash award of up to $2,000 during their first semester in college that can be used without restriction.

“The SMYAL Youth Leadership Award scholarships are a major initiative for SMYAL to help launch the next generation of leaders. It complements our efforts supporting Gay Straight Alliances at metro area high schools and conducting leadership “boot camps” for upcoming student leaders,” says Sultan Shakir, the Executive Director of SMYAL.

The initial funding for the first three years of awards was donated by Neil Starkey, a retired IBM Distinguished Engineer to, as he puts it, “encourage and embolden that young person who, as a result of coming out, may have had to deal with adversity or struggled with their identity, family life or academics but has emerged as a leader and role model to their peers.”

“Receiving the SMYAL Youth Leadership Award has been a complete honor. Not only did this scholarship help me financially but it took a burden off mentally and emotionally. Working with SMYAL over the last few years has been a pleasure and I hope to see many LGBTQ youth prosper like I did!” said Erika Johnson, 2015 Youth Leadership Award Winner. The link to view the 2015 winners is

The 2016 SMYAL Youth Leadership awards will be announced in May. The deadline for student applications is April 15. More information and an application can be found at

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