By Jessica Wootten - Scholarship Manager & Development Associate
This month over 100 volunteers came together to begin the inspiring, yet difficult, journey of selecting the 2014 GSBA Scholars. This is an experience that goes on to change not only the lives of students, but also change the lives of volunteer interviewers. The chance to read such personal accounts of aspirations, challenges, and resilience stay with our interviewers for a lifetime. We are grateful to have such a unique group of interviewers. We have volunteers from every letter of the alphabet ranging from 23-77 years old. Retired professors, former scholars, Microsoft recruiters, Boeing engineers, AmeriCorps members and even a police captain - we are thankful for the investment our volunteers are making in the GSBA Scholarship Fund!
In recent years, as the need for financial support from our LGBT and allied students has increased, so has the interest in becoming more involved with the GSBA Scholarship Fund. The now-coveted honor of selecting the next class of GSBA Scholars is no easy task. The three-step process begins with an orientation which provides training on issues such as diversity, gender and sexuality, interviewing skills, and team expectations and dynamics. Each team of five-to-seven volunteers is led by a facilitator who is there to answer questions, manage conflict and to make sure that the interview process flows as smoothly as possible.
This year, we were fortunate to welcome back the wonderful trainers from Reteaching Gender & Sexuality. This innovative group presents fresh perspectives on gender and sexual diversity. The interactive and thought-provoking training focused on rethinking the popular narratives about gender and sexuality. Together the group focused on intersecting identities, queer youth action and resilience, creating more liberating spaces and institutional accountability. This training prepared our interviewers to begin reviewing scholarship applications with an open-mind and a fresh understanding of what it means to be queer in today’s world.
With a toolbox full of knowledge, our interviewers have begun the painstaking process of reading through the applications and will meet in March to choose the applicants to invite for an in-person interview in April. The Selection Day process can be difficult for some teams and easy for others. Many times there are clear stars that rise to the top, but more times than not there are more stars than interview spots.
Four-time interviewer and former scholar Eddie Um says that the selection process "is very difficult because there are so many qualified students with unique life experiences that make it very challenging to decide who is most deserving of a scholarship. Thankfully, I have an amazing group of team members, whom I met during orientation that will help me narrow down the applicant pool to two awardees. Everyone on my team brings their own perspective but share the same goal of finding the best representative that embodies the essence of the GSBA."
"Each year, I hope the decision of whom to grant scholarships to would get easier but it doesn't. There are amazingly talented students and leaders from very diverse backgrounds with fascinating dreams to fulfill ahead of them. Sadly for every scholarship we are able to grant, there are 3-4 who are just as worthy. It is an emotional process during the interview for both the scholarship committee and the candidates," says interviewer Carrie Caron. "This is an impactful program for our LGBTQ and Puget Sound community and especially to me. I feel inspired about our community’s future given the talent of many of our recipients."