PRESS STATEMENT

Due to the overwhelming number of LGBTQ+ youth nominations, the Colin Higgins Foundation is modifying its Youth Courage Awards nominating process. Beginning in 2021, Youth Courage Awards nominations will only be accepting by select LGBTQ+ organizations – invited by the Colin Higgins Foundation. Youth Courage Award winners will continue to each receive $15,000 grants, while the nominating organization will also receive $5,000.

As of 2021, the Colin Higgins Foundation is no longer affiliated with the Tides Foundation.  We would like to thank Tides for nearly thirty years of excellent service in handling our affairs.  Together we have left a legacy of which all of us should be proud. With Tides’ help, the Colin Higgins Foundation has handed out $5.8 million in grants to a wide variety of institutions, groups and individuals.  In the last decade, the foundation has focused primarily on LGBTQ youth.

LGBTQ+ organizations will be selected and notified in January 2021.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

20TH ANNUAL COLIN HIGGINS FOUNDATION YOUTH COURAGE AWARDS HONOR LGBTQ YOUTH ACTIVISTS WITH $15,000 AWARDS

Winners from Des Moines, WA, Jacksonville, FL and Kerman, CA

LOS ANGELES, CA – With National Coming Out Day on Sunday, the Colin Higgins Foundation is proud to announce its 20th Annual Youth Courage Award winners including Kendall (17), Michael Piña (20) and Elias (20). The award recognizes extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) youth and includes a $15,000 award. [Editor’s note: Bios and images below]

The 2020 Youth Courage Award Winners:

Kendall is 17 years old and is from Des Moines, WA. When Kendall was a baby, their mother passed away from complications related to cancer. Kendall grew up in a place that was not very accepting of their identity or of their activism. Kendall had the courage to lead the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at their single-gender Catholic school. As a GSA leader since 2018, Kendall has brought community resources to school to help connect LGBTQ+ students with creative, supportive outlets and adult role models.

Elias is a transgender organizer from North Florida. They struggled with their gender identity as a teen and their queerness was often met with harassment and discrimination at school and friction at home.

Michael is 20 years old and was born and raised in the small, conservative, farming community of Kerman, CA. Growing up in a Latinx household in California’s conservative Central Valley, Michael experienced harassment, discrimination and was subjected to a lot of trauma. She even battled her own high school administration that was attempting to censor her quote that referenced her sexual orientation in her senior yearbook – a battle that she won. Michael has since established her own non-profit organization that gives out scholarships to other Latinx queer students in the Central Valley.

“When we live in a world where politicians rule by fear, it’s amazing to see LGBTQ+ youth activists with immense courage to stand up and say enough is enough,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “This year marks the 20th anniversary of our Youth Courage Awards and Colin Higgins would be so proud that today’s youth expect and demand to be treated equally and will not be silenced. We need our youth activists now more than ever.”

Hollywood filmmaker, Colin Higgins established the Foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 600 grants totaling more than $5 million and since 2000 has honored more than 65 Courage Award winners.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards

Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

YOUTH COURAGE AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED ON THE EVE OF STONEWALL UPRISING 50th ANNIVERSARY

Transgender Military School Graduate Among the Winners, Now with Uncertain Future Due to Transgender Military Ban; Other Winners Showed Courage by Educating Medical Professionals, Protecting Students from Bullying and By Becoming a Star Ballerina

19th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award Winners Each Receive $10,000 & Trip to Creating Change Conference

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 19th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth. The 2019 winners are: Kristina Hernandez, 16, from Las Vegas, NV; and Daniel Landry, 17, from Glenpool, OK; Oliver Burnett, 18 years old from Pittsburgh, PA; and Jayna Ledford, 19 years old from Frederica, DE; [Editor’s note: Bios and images below]

Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses paid trip to attend the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2020 in Dallas, TX.

Award winner Daniel Landry’s story exemplifies how the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban is impacting real lives. Growing up in Oklahoma, Daniel did not know the word or anyone that was transgender. So, when he explained his feelings to his siblings at age 11, they were the ones that supported him and helped him find the resources. He still wanted to follow in his older sister’s footsteps by attending Thunderbird Youth Academy, a prestigious military school. He was accepted at Thunderbird and Daniel quickly rose to a position of leadership. He was even formally recognized for his performance where he was in charge of a 35-person platoon. After graduating with several awards, Daniel was accepted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

Daniel is now grappling with an uncertain future with the current Trump Administration’s transgender military ban and a new Naval Academy admissions rule that bans trans applicants. Daniel’s hard-fought full ride to attend college is no longer an option. He works three different jobs to support himself as he grapples with his newly uncertain future.

The three other Youth Courage Award winners are helping medical professionals understand transgender patient needs, advocating so LGBTQ students feel safe at school and performing in the ballet…

  • Kristina, 16, transitioned at age 11 with a supportive single mother, but in an atmosphere where she experienced bullying and violence. Kristina has become an unrelenting advocate for trans youth in Nevada, where her activism is centered around education. She works alongside her mother at Gender Justice Nevada and leads peer support and community outreach. She recently was instrumental in Nevada in passing SB225 that ensures that all students are protected in school. She is currently continuing her activism in Nevada and pursuing her GED in the hopes of attending college and earning a degree in early education.

  • Oliver, 18, has been a frequent visitor to doctors, specialists, and his local hospital due to several medical conditions. Because of Oliver’s health challenges, he has become uniquely exposed to the medical community.  While navigating the healthcare system, he experienced a lot of pain and obstacles while trying to obtain the care he needed.  He also became acutely aware of the discrimination that many of his friends faced while trying to obtain medical care. In response, he volunteers at the University of Pittsburgh addressing inequality in healthcare for the LGBTQ population, and specifically that of transgender patients. This involvement led him to develop a workshop designed to educate doctors and medical staff on transgender patient care. This workshop has been implemented to train all of the first-year residents at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He does this while enrolled in college pursuing a double degree in physics and linguistics.

  • Jayna is a resolute 19-year-old transgender dancer who is redefining the modern-day ballerina by being the first transgender ballerina to ever compete in a national ballet competition (that took place in March 2019). Unwilling to exist solely within the confines of gender as a child, Jayna Ledford’s personal evolution as a transgender female has been a lifelong process. She describes herself as always being genderfluid and having strong family and community support. It wasn’t until age 18, last year, that she came out as a trans woman. Ballet has been her passion. As a child, whether identifying as male or female, Jayna was practicing ballet. She was recognized for her skill and ability early on and has been afforded a platform which she is now using to tell her story. Currently, she is making plans to pursue a degree in communications and continue her ballet training.

 

“Transgender youth bear a huge burden under the Trump Administration, but they are also showing an incredible amount of courage by just being out and sharing their stories,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “Colin Higgins would not only take pride in each our Youth Courage Award winners, I’m sure he would have wanted more people to know about their strength, determination and courage to be true to themselves.”

Hollywood filmmaker, Colin Higgins established the Foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 660 grants totaling more than $5.7 million and since 2000 has honored more than 62 Courage Award winners.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards

Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.

About Tides

The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LGBTQ YOUTH COURAGE AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED

18th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award Winners Each Receive $10,000 & Trip to Creating Change Conference

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 18th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth. The 2018 winners are: Moises Rodriguez, 20, of Chicago, IL; Grace Dolan-Sandrino, 17, of Washington, DC; Mahad Olad, 20, of Ithica, NY and Dwayne Cole, Jr., 20, of Detroit, MI. [Editor’s note: Full bios and images below]

  • Moises Rodriguez, a DACA recipient and community organizer, identifies as queer. He has shown tremendous courage in speaking his truth about both his sexual orientation and undocumented status. He is a leader in fighting for the rights of both immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
  • Grace Dolan-Sandrino, an Afro-Latina trans teen​, recently graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts high school and will be attending Bard College in upstate New York in the Fall. She uses her voice as a young artist and journalist to tell of her trans experience. Since she came out at a young age, she has been a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ community.
  • Mahad Olad a young gay Black African immigrant, has shared his harrowing story of escaping conversion therapy through his journalism. He writes about racial politics and the intersection of religion and sexuality for his college newspaper.
  • Dwayne Cole, Jr. inspires his fellow LGBTQ youth activists by his kindness and his motivation to help others. He carves out inclusive spaces for the community and helps tell their story through his leadership.

Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses paid trip to attend the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2019 in Detroit, MI.

“On those days when the future of our country looks bleak, we only have to look to these young people who inspire us with a renewed commitment to protect our communities and do good in the world,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “The courage we see in each one of them Colin Higgins would have been extremely proud to support.”

Hollywood filmmaker, Colin Higgins established the Foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 650 grants totaling more than $5.6 million and since 2000 has honored more than 54 Courage Award winners.

Meet Moises, 20

Moises was 5 when he came to the United States with his family. As a Mexican family in a predominately white town in the south, Moises was bullied early on for both his ethnic identity and for his effeminate demeanor. Despite these obstacles, Moises excelled at school.

Due to his undocumented status, several of his teachers and counselors asked him why he worked so hard because his home state does not have in-state tuition. Still, he discovered a program called Quest Bridge and was awarded a four-year scholarship to University of Chicago. There he works as a community organizer with United We Dream and his own organization, Fuego, where he fights for the rights of undocumented young people with a clear eye on intersectionality.

Despite his vulnerable position, he still fights for what he believes is right. “Even though I am fighting for a Dream Act right now, I’m not just fighting for immigrants’ rights. I’m fighting for LGBTQ rights. I’m fighting for the people who can’t go back to Mexico for the fear of being killed.”

Meet Grace, 17

Growing up between Maryland and Washington DC,​ Grace navigated the challenges of having divorced parents, coupled with confronting harmful​ gender norms. As Grace says, she always knew she was a girl. Her social​ transition started early, between the ages of 11 and 13.
Her work now focuses on education and safety for trans girls and women of color. She has worked to inform policies that protect and ensure the safety of trans kids in schools. During the Obama administration, she was an Ambassador to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

She brings light to issue of the unjust criminalization of black trans girls and women and the disproportionate violence against them. ​ Grace​ considers herself a citizen artist because she does her activism and education through her art. “This is not ‘the trans story’ but this is my story, this is our story, this is the story of my sisters, of my brothers, and it is for us and us only to really tell. So, just really centralizing the trans identity and all things trans.”

Meet Mahad, 20

Mahad is from a tight-knit Somali community in Minnesota. His family was very conservative, religious and insular. In middle school, he began to come to terms with his sexuality, but kept it hidden from his family. He established the first GSA chapter at his high school where he engaged with the community. He had to keep all his activity secret from his parents because they were intolerant of LGBTQ people.

He was able to piece together a financial aid package to Ithaca College on his own and went off to school where he began to write for his college newspaper. At the end of his Freshman year, he wrote an article about his sexuality and religious beliefs. This eventually reached his parents, but they did not confront him about it. Instead, they took him to Kenya under the pretense of a vacation. There, they told him he would not return to college and they were placing him in conversion therapy. His mother told him the program would physically punish him to make him stop being gay.

Through his friends and connections back in the U.S., he was able to escape in the middle of the night to the U.S Embassy. He went back to college but is now completely cut off from his family. He wants to become a lawyer and help LGBTQ asylum seekers. “I want to help make it easier for other people who have been in my situation to speak out for the US government to step in and do something about this.”

 

Meet Dwayne, 20

Dwayne Cole Jr. knows what it’s like to go through hard times. He spent a large part of his life homeless. His family struggled to keep the family together as they faced eviction and poverty. He watched as his family worked though depression and financial instability and is now determined to uplift his family as well as his community.

It wasn’t until Dwayne came out and discovered the Ruth Ellis Center (REC) that he became happier and started doing more for his community. He has served as a member of their Youth Advisory Board and their Out in the System program, working to review and change policies in the child welfare system. After completing REC’s two-year leadership program Dwayne became one of the first young people to be hired on to their professional staff, serving as a Development Associate and as the lead facilitator of the Youth Advisory Board, collaborating and uplifting young people to bring out their own leadership potential.

He also produced videos highlighting the legacy of LGBTQ activist Ruth Ellis and the experience of LGBTQ youth within his community. He lives by this bit of wisdom, “your current struggles are only a story for you to tell during your future success.”

 

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards

Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.

About Tides

The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

Contact:
Charlotte Waldo
(323) 285-1459
charlotte@goodpr.com

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LGBTQ YOUTH COURAGE AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED

17th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award Winners Each Receive $10,000 & Trip to Creating Change Conference

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 17th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The 2017 winners are: Daniel Garcia, 18, of Gulfport, Miss.; Julieta Ramirez-Solis, 18, of Gresham, Ore., and Dafahlia Mosley, 21, of Lodi, CA. [Editor’s note: Full bios and images below]

  • Daniel, who identifies as queer and gender non-conforming, is receiving his award because he has demonstrated courage and leadership by carving out inclusive spaces for LGBTQ youth in the very deep south. Even after experiencing a lot of trouble in his home life, he has always found ways to help others in his community.
  • Julieta is an undocumented immigrant, who identifies as queer. She was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and currently lives in Gresham, OR. She does not let her immigration status prevent her from doing all she can in her school to help LGBTQ youth, whether they be transgender who are finding it difficult to come out to their parents or making sure the school administration knows about student concerns.
  • Dafahlia, a woman of a trans experience, spends a majority of her time organizing communities of queer people of color and to dismantle the harmful effects of institutional racism. She has channeled her energy into helping young women experiencing incarceration to find their inner strength and voice.

Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses paid trip to attend the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2018 in Washington, D.C.

“These young people recognize the challenges society faces in these extraordinary times and lead with a commitment to change not only their communities but our world,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “With their strength and courage in the face of adversity, we see the spirit and legacy of Colin Higgins.”

Hollywood filmmaker, Colin Higgins established the Foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 355 grants totaling more than $3.4 million and since 2000 has honored more than 50 Courage Award winners.

Meet Daniel, 18

Daniel’s life involved many kinds of storms, including one that destroyed his home at a young age – Hurricane Katrina. By the time he was 7, he had lost both parents and found himself moving across the country several times amid a custody battle. Abuse and neglect, including starvation, plagued his young life. In 2015, his life made a turn for the best and his friend’s family became foster parents to him in Gulfport, MS. That experience gave him a new perspective on life. His friend’s family gave him the love and light he needed during his darker times.

Daniel faced years of harassment and bullying. He used that experience to help others faced with similar situations. As an officer of several high school clubs, he makes sure that other LGBTQ people feel comfortable so all students can give back to the community together.

“I make it a point that everyone knows the boundaries of speech and the boundaries of inclusivity in these clubs.” One of Daniel’s missions is to expand services and resources for LGBTQ youth living in the deep south.

Daniel spends time volunteering in the library, making sure that LGBTQ youth is represented in the books and no the display shelves. “We’ve been fought by older, conservative members in the community that we’re ‘exposing children to LGBT life’, but I think it’s important to expose children and everyone as a whole.” Daniel is a member of the Debate Club, Youth Legislature and Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America.

He was accepted into several top schools including Stanford and Princeton, and has decided to attend Pomona College in the Fall. He hopes to give back to the South and make sure that LGBTQ youth have access to resources like the Rainbow Project.

Meet Dafahlia, 21

Dafahlia, now 21 years old, comes from a background of inequity and oppression that she continues to navigate to move her and her community forward. Having been raised in a single father household, she experienced physical and emotional abuse by family members in attempts to expel any displays of outward femininity. Raised in Stockton, she felt isolated in school, in her family and in her black community for not fitting into a gender binary. Having already experienced oppression on an intersectional level, it wasn’t until she navigated homelessness that she recognized her personal reliance.

As a young, black, woman of trans experience she’s had multiple interactions with the police. She felt these experiences invalidated her femininity as well as failed to recognize her legal gender and name change. This prompted her involvement with the #NoNewJail collation. In her time working at LYRIC, a non-profit in the Castro, she assisted in creating a framework for SWAG (Sex Worker Advocacy Group) which she facilitated.

She currently works with the Young Women’s Freedom Center where she facilitates focus groups at the juvenile hall in San Francisco. While the organization is not specifically LGBTQ focused, she serves young women and girls who have been marginalized by society and have been systematically oppressed. She often finds LGBTQ youth don’t have the language to articulate or contextualize who they are. “Oftentimes, our voices- our narratives- are written for us. I don’t like to say that I’m their voice, but I like to help them exercise their personal power.”

She hopes to purchase a car with the grant money so she can continue her work and travel safely without relying on public transportation. She wants to create spaces for trans and gender non-conforming youth to come together and connect in the Central Valley region of California.

Meet Julieta, 18

Julieta is an undocumented immigrant, queer leader born in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her parents moved to the United States 6 months after she was born, leaving her behind in the care of her grandparents. Julieta was reunited with her parents when she was 5 and they brought her to the United States. It was difficult for her to connect to other people at first because she did not understand English. She applied for DACA status a few years ago, even though it was a difficult process and her parents feared that the government would deport her back to Mexico if they knew her status.

Due to her immigrant status, Julieta has always empathized with those finding themselves marginalized by society. She is the President of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at her school. She helped change the name of the club from the Gay-Straight Alliance so more gender identities and sexualities were included. She is working with her school to get gender neutral bathrooms and lockers and has had meetings with the architect who is designing the school’s reconstruction. “I think it takes a lot of courage doing activist work,” Julieta said. “With the gender-neutral bathrooms, we’ve had a lot of people go against our club and tear down our posters, but we keep on doing what we’re doing because we think it’s important.”

She also spearheaded a project called “A Night of Unity in the Community” which had a big turnout and all the proceeds went to a Portland non-profit called IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization), which assists immigrants and refugees.

She hopes to use the grant money to help finance her college education. Due to her undocumented status, she is unable to apply for FAFSA which limits her abilities to finance a college education. She has gotten into some great liberal arts schools across the country, and the Youth Courage Award funds will assist her in pursuing her dreams of a higher education. Julieta hopes to become a teacher so she can influence others and open their minds.

 

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards

Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All of his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.

About Tides

The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

Contact:
Charlotte Waldo
(323) 285-1459
charlotte@goodpr.com

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STATEMENT BY COLIN HIGGINS FOUNDATION ON TRANSGENDER STUDENT RIGHTS ROLL-BACK

The Colin Higgins Foundation strongly condemns and deplores yesterday’s roll-back of President Obama’s Federal protection of the rights of Trans’ kids’ by the Trump/Republican administration, the change led by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

The Foundation, named for Screenwriter/Director Colin Higgins, was created to celebrate the talents, intellects, courage and activities of LGBTQ Youth. (the T standing for Trans, Mr. Sessions). This roll-back presents another example of the quality of Trump’s cabinet members, each of whom appears to threaten the civil and human rights of the citizens of their respective secretariats. In the case of transsexual children, Trump, his Attorney General, and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, shame themselves with the expunging of President Obama’s humane, well thought out and well informed Protection of the Rights of Trans’ Kids. That informed point of view sought to protect these young Americans. Now they are at risk.
Trump and his appointees either fail to understand, or don’t care about the danger faced by these school children. The current government does not understand that every student in the United States should be afforded the same protection and civil rights regardless of where they live. To use the “states’ rights” excuse to abrogate the Federal government’s role in protecting all students is granting a free license for discrimination and a regrettable return to a hostile, bullying, threatening and non-productive environment for our most vulnerable of students.We urge all concerned citizens to vociferously condemn this rollback by the Trump/Republican administration and to actively participate in our Constitutional right to assemble, protest and to demand equal opportunities and protection for all students throughout the United States.

The Board Members of the Colin Higgins Foundation
James Rogers
Sally Fisher
Joel Moffett

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transgender, Gender Queer & Gay Youth Activists
Honored for Courage in Fighting for Fair Representation in the Media, Immigrant Rights and Access to Safe Spaces
16th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation
Youth Courage Award Winners Each Receive $10,000

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 16th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The 2016 winners are: Andrew O’Donnell, 18, of Omaha, NE; Landyn Pan, 20, of Orange, CA; and Pablo Rodriguez, 20, of San Francisco, CA. [Editor’s note: Full bios and images below]

  • Andrew is receiving their award because they have demonstrated courage and leadership by creating safe spaces for queer youth in conservative communities. Even after experiencing homelessness, Andrew has always looked for ways they could help others.
  • Landyn has been a trailblazer from a young age, using his talent in media and fine arts to provide a voice for the trans community that crosses the boundaries of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. He uses his “artivism” as a way to represent the queer and trans movement and other marginalized groups.
  • Pablo represents a young person that has many years of experience implementing tangible results for undocumented queer youth. As a two-spirit immigrant who has faced many challenges he has provided resources for many struggling youth in his immediate community and in the community at large.

Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for the Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride parade and festival—one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations—in June, when they will also be recognized at an awards ceremony. They will also attend the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2017 in Philadelphia, PA.

“These young people are our next generation of leaders who have faced challenges with extraordinary strength and a commitment to change our world,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “In their fierce courage and abilities, we see the spirit and legacy of Colin Higgins.”

Colin Higgins, screenwriter of the classic film Harold and Maude and writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, established the Foundation to support LGBTQ youth in underserved communities. The characters in his films—much like the Courage Award winners—handle themselves with grace and dignity in the face of overwhelming hardship.

Since 2000, the Colin Higgins Foundation has honored more than 50 Courage Award winners. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than 355 grants totaling more than $3.4 million to further Higgins’ humanitarian vision.

andrew1

Meet Andrew, 18
Raised in a Catholic household in rural Omaha, Andrew, came out as queer to their family at a very young age. Andrew took on the responsibilities to sustain themself and even experienced homelessness. This unstable environment led Andrew to a devastating eating disorder that took them away from their supportive school community for almost two months. Even through all their struggles, they were still able to overcome the hurdles and manage a full load of schoolwork including AP courses, write their first book, Nicoteane and other Foolish Mistakes, lead a support group for other queer youth, and organizing a counter protest against the Westboro Baptist Church.Facing harassment, denial, and disapproval, Andrew stood their ground and stepped out on the other side as a stronger advocate, demanding visibility. Andrew encountered their first “run-in” with a high-ranking figure at the all-boys Catholic high school they attended their freshman and sophomore year. Their idea to start a GSA at the high school was rejected, but that didn’t stop their motivation to create a safe space for other queer students who were attending a private or religious school.Andrew’s leadership skills have blossomed from their early days of founding the Coffee Talk Program for queer youth attending schools, serving as the Events Coordinator for the Queer Nebraska Youth Network, and now working as a fellow for the Hillary Clinton Campaign.“I would say the two most important [issues] are queer homelessness and also queer death. I think it’s terrifyingly astounding to me how bad the rates are when it comes to queer youth,” Andrew said. Andrew also stresses the importance of intersectionality.  “You can’t sit silent and idle and watch others being discriminated against and then ask for your own oppression to be lifted because that’s not actual justice, that’s just asking for privilege.”
landyn

Meet Landyn, 20

Landyn’s family relocated from China to the Seattle, WA when he was just six years old. Coming to terms with his gender and sexuality in the context of a conservative family was very challenging for Landyn. He assumed a co-“head of household” role, helping his mother manage their home and autistic brother, while also going to school and being involved in various extracurricular activities. That’s where he tapped into his own artistic talents of photography, graphic design, filmmaking, and screenwriting. He began to channel his energy into his “artivism”. As one of the earliest out students at his high school, Landyn began his outspoken LGBTQ activism in the greater Seattle area before moving to Orange County to attend Chapman University. No matter what life threw at him, he pushed through and became stronger because of his struggles.

By reclaiming space around the Asian/Pacific Islander and queer movement through his art and public speaking, he has attempted to fill a gap where there is heavy underrepresentation. He currently serves as the development and creative director for Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER), an organization dedicated to transforming the kindergarten through college environment for transgender and gender nonconforming students. He started out at as a graphic designer for the organization at the age of 16, inventing “The Gender Unicorn” and designing many other LGBTQ-themed infographics that have been published by major media outlets such as Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, translated into multiple languages, and distributed in print internationally. His viral infographics propelled the early organization into national prominence. In his current roles, he recruits other young trans leaders as board members, trained hundreds of activists on youth-led transformative justice activism through presentations at conferences, and oversees the production of all creative material. He is also on the planning committee for TSER’s inaugural Trans Youth Leadership Summit, the only national activist development program run by and for trans youth.

He has continued to take the initiative to connect with the media to create larger, wide-ranging LGBTQ representation by interning with NBCUniversal. He will be interning with ABC Television Network in the summer and plans to continue interning at major media companies for the rest of his college career.

Landyn hopes to continue his work with the media, broadening the very definition of representation. “When you feature only one trans narrative and one type of trans person, usually white, cis-passing, straight, and financially well-off, it creates a further gap between those people and other trans people who are of color, who are poor, who are disabled, homeless, in foster care, or in prison. It makes them seem less deserving of acceptance, love, and justice. That’s what I want to change.”

 

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Meet Pablo, 20

Pablo is an undocumented, unafraid, queer leader born from Guatemalan Mayan ancestry. His mother moved to the United States when he was six years old, leaving him behind in the care of his aunt. Pablo began to feel isolated when he started to experience his queerness. At the age of 14, Pablo moved to San Francisco to be reunited with his mother. He came out two years later about his sexual orientation and gender– “Two spirit” a modern umbrella term used by some indigenous North Americans to describe gender-variant individuals in their communities, and that left Pablo in an unstable and unsafe situation. Although homeless, he continued to go to school and eventually found the GSA club and LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center), a local non-profit that serves queer youth.

Pablo is most interested in focusing on intersectionality between gender, sex, race and class and created workshops for teachers on how to address these issues in the classroom. “For me it was not just an act of awareness, but an act of survival,” Pablo has said of his volunteer work. “[It is] an act of keeping this knowledge alive, keeping the LGBT2S people alive, keeping the queer people of color alive.”

He has helped set up a program at Communities in Harmony Advocating for Learning and Kids (CHALK) to do an UndocuQueer drop-in where youths can get resources like screenings for Visas for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and other services.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards
Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All of his films celebrate honesty and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness.

About Tides
The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.
Contact:
Calvin Fleming
(323) 484-6707
calvin@goodpr.com

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bisexual and Transgender Youth Activists Honored for Courage in Fighting for Transgender, Immigrant & Workers Rights 

15th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation
Youth Courage Award Winners Each Receive $10,000

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 15th Annual Youth Courage Award winners, whom it will recognize for extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The 2015 winners are: Alex Bergeron, 20, of San Francisco, Calif.; Anthony James (AJ), 20, of Columbus, Ga.; and Victoria Villalba, 19, of Phoenix, Ariz.Each winner will receive a $10,000 award as well as an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for the Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride parade and festival—one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations—in June, when they will also be recognized at an awards ceremony. They will also attend the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy and organizing event, in January 2016 in Chicago, Ill.

“These remarkable young people have faced and overcome extraordinary challenges and met them with tremendous courage,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “In their resilience and strength, we see the spirit and legacy of Colin Higgins.”

Colin Higgins, screenwriter of the classic film Harold and Maude and writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, established the Foundation to support LGBTQ youth in underserved communities. The characters in his films—much like the Courage Award winners—handle themselves with grace and dignity in the face of overwhelming hardship.

 alex-graduation

Meet Alex, 20
A queer transgender man who fled an intolerant household, Alex has endured homelessness, drug addiction and bullying, as well as challenges reconciling his identity with his conservative Muslim upbringing. What keeps Alex strong and sober is his community and his drive to help those facing adversity like he has. He dreams of creating a safe space for LGBTQ youth to seek counseling and to express themselves using art and music therapy.

Already, Alex has demonstrated great commitment to the LGBTQ community. He works with the Queer Resource Center at City College of San Francisco, where he is a student, and he volunteers with the city’s LGBT center and the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center. Alex also served on the board for the 2014 TransMarch in San Francisco.

“I was really given opportunities where I could jump in and be useful,” Alex said of his volunteer work. “The more useful I feel, the more my stability and everything continues.”

anthony-james

Meet AJ, 20
A bisexual man raised in a poor black Southern neighborhood, AJ has a keen sense of intersectional awareness. He not only fights for LGBTQ rights, he also is a staunch advocate for workers’ rights, including his support of getting the minimum wage increased.

Even as he works three part-time jobs to help support his parents and attends the University of Alabama, AJ devotes himself not only to the LGBTQ movement but also to amplifying the voices of women, immigrants, people of color, and people living with disabilities. Bringing humor and a positive spirit to his work has made AJ a respected, beloved organizer on campus. Among his accomplishments: playing a part in the successful effort to expand the university’s non-discrimination policy to cover gender identity and expression. Studious from an early age—when he turned to school as an escape from troubles at home—AJ aspires to be a doctor, organize health care workers, and advocate for LGBTQ health care.

“My motivation really comes from taking a step back and realizing that in order to achieve my own sense of liberation as a queer person, as a black person, as a working class/working poor person, in order to achieve my liberation in those identities then it’s necessary for me to fight for the liberation of others,” AJ said. “My motivation is centered around this idea, to paraphrase Fannie Lou Hamer, ‘No one is free until we’re all free.’ ”

victoria2

Meet Victoria, 19
An undocumented immigrant, Victoria first came to the U.S. at age 3. When her father was deported, the family returned to Mexico. It was there that Victoria, at age 15, came out to her parents. When they rejected her, this put Victoria in an unstable and dangerous situation. For three years, she lived on her own, and as a queer transgender woman she encountered physical, emotional and verbal abuse while seeking employment and housing. She then sought political asylum at the U.S. border. However, her request was denied, and she was held in a detention center. The situation drew more dire still after Victoria reported the injustices taking place in the detention center. Victoria was then put in solitary confinement for three and a half months; a community outcry led to her release.

Shortly after being released, Victoria joined United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Rights Project (QUIP) chapter in Arizona, and she has focused on fighting for the liberation of transgender and queer people in U.S. detention centers. Her activism has included launching hunger strikes, organizing informational conferences for undocumented transgender people, and spearheading success efforts to have three transgender women released from detention. Living with the constant threat of homelessness, as well as food insecurity and the risk of deportation, Victoria plans to use her grant to secure housing, complete her GED, and then pursue a college education.

“I feel like someone who was formally detained, and undocumented and trans, it’s something powerful that motivates me to keep fighting every day,” Victoria said. “I know I’m not the first one, and I know I won’t be the last. That’s why I’m standing up against this, so hopefully the system stops discriminating against us and treats us as humans. There’s no border that separates us because we’re all human, and as humans we have rights because no one is more or less than another person.”

Since 2000, the Colin Higgins Foundation has honored more than 50 Courage Award winners. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than 340 grants totaling more than $3 million to further Higgins’ humanitarian vision.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards
Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All of his films celebrate honesty and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness.

About Tides
The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

For Interviews & Additional Photos:
Calvin Fleming, calvin@goodpr.com or at (323) 484-6707.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2014

COLIN HIGGINS YOUTH COURAGE AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED

HIV/AIDS Activist Jacques Agbobly, 16, of Chicago, IL;

 Transgender Rights Leader Ashton Lee, 17, of Manteca, CA; and

Media Advocate Edidiong “Didi” Adiakpan, 19, of San Antonio, TX

 14th Annual Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award Winners Receive $10,000 Grants & Trips to LA PRIDE & Creating Change Conference

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation today announced its 14th Annual Youth Courage Award winners including: Jacques Agbobly, 16, of Chicago, IL; Ashton Lee, 17, of Manteca, CA; and Edidiong “Didi” Adiakpan, 19, of San Antonio, TX. The winners are being recognized for their extraordinary personal leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

“The legacy of our friend Colin Higgins lives on through the advocacy of these exemplary youth. Jacques, Ashton and Didi each have shown a great deal of courage as they stand up and make a difference in their communities,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “Their courage is apparent in their everyday lives as well as in their push to give a voice to issues such as HIV/AIDS, transgender rights or helping to de-stigmatize LGBTQ people in immigrant African communities.”

Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Like the characters in his films, Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award recipients have endured overwhelming hardships, yet have handled themselves with the utmost grace and dignity.

Colin Higgins Foundation is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth in underserved communities and the programs and organizations that foster and build their leadership and empowerment. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded over 341 grants totaling over three million dollars to further the humanitarian vision of its founder, Colin Higgins.

This year’s award winners will each receive a $10,000 grant as well as an all-expense paid trip to LA PRIDE and the Task Force’s Creating Change conference. The award ceremony will take place in Los Angeles during Christopher Street West / LA PRIDE in June. Since 2000, the Colin Higgins Foundation has handed out fifty Courage Awards to outstanding individuals in the LGBTQ community and their supporters.

Jacques

Meet Jacques, 16 Jacques was born in Togo, Africa and came to the U.S. when he was nine years old. He moved to the Chicago with his family to seek treatment for a family member with HIV/AIDS and better educational opportunities for his siblings and himself. The transition was very difficult for Jacques and he suffered from frequent bullying; he was ostracized not only because of his skin color and accent, but for his sexual orientation as well.

Rather than focus on the prevalent hardships or dwell on the traumas of his past, Jacques chooses to look at the bright side of his story. In the eighth grade, Jacques (who now identifies as gay) produced an anti-bullying PSA which was featured in Time Out Chicago and was asked by the organization “Facing History and Ourselves” to speak at their national convention. At the assembly, he spoke to more than 700 people in hopes of de-stigmatizing the LGBTQ identity.

He currently attends high school on full scholarship at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. He is also an ambassador for National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day, where he volunteers as a fundraiser and speaker on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Ashton2

Meet Ashton, 17 Ashton recently celebrated his 17th birthday, but before that he helped change California law. Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic transgender students bill “The School Success and Opportunity Act,” also known as Assembly Bill 1266, that went into effect on January 1, 2014. The law is the first of its kind in the country, and ensures students K-12 can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity. It could not have happened without Ashton’s tireless advocacy and petitioning.

Ashton grew up in rural Mount Shasta which is located in Northern California. At a very young age, he noticed he was different than his peers. When his family later moved to Manteca, California he began understanding first his sexual orientation as lesbian and then, feeling that wasn’t quite right, his gender identity as transgender. Ashton quickly began to advocate for himself and others and it is then that he truly began to flourish and be recognized as an activist for transgender rights.

Didi

Meet Didi, 19 Edidiong, who goes by the nickname “Didi,” is a Nigerian immigrant, who is currently a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She immigrated to Texas as a young adult with her fervently Evangelical parents. She struggled with deep-rooted belief systems that condemned her newfound bisexual identity that made her feel that she had to choose between being loyal to her family or being true to herself.

Didi eventually was able to break out and find her voice through writing and through being involved in the LGBTQ community. In high school, she was vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, where she helped begin a tradition of charity benefit concerts for LGBT organizations.

She is a fierce advocate for women and queer people of color. As a volunteer, she played a part in helping pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in the city of San Antonio. She continues to work to help de-stigmatize LGBTQ people by building bridges to other groups, including her African immigrant community or with the fraternity and sorority groups on campus. Her writing has helped her establish a large online following, where she adds a much needed point of view to discussions around LGBT issues. She currently writes for the Paisano Independent Student Newspaper at UTSA, The Rainbow Hub (an online LGBT media site) and also runs her own blog on Tumblr called Qualar for LGBT people and women in hip-hop and rap.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the writer/director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All of his films celebrate honesty and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness.

About Tides The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides financial and management services to donors and doers. Tides actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

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Media Contact:

Calvin Fleming

calvin@goodpr.com

 

2013

UNDOCUMENTED, QUEER AND UNAFRAID

The Colin Higgins Foundation Honors Undocumented LGBTQQ Youth Leaders

 

SAN FRANCISCO – JUNE 11, 2013— As immigration rights and marriage equality continue to dominate the daily headlines, three remarkable young changemakers are being recognized for their extraordinary personal leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ)-inclusive immigration reform.

To recognize these pioneering youth changemakers’ enduring sense of self and fierce determination, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded them with its 13th Annual Youth Courage Awards. Faced with the dual challenges of fighting for both their national identity and personal freedom, this year’s Youth Courage Award winners have overcome extraordinary personal challenges – including brutal poverty, domestic abuse, and the discrimination associated with being both queer and undocumented – to emerge as powerful agents of change with an unwavering commitment to social justice.

The Colin Higgins Youth Courage Awards are bestowed each year to acknowledge remarkable young people who refuse to be silenced by societal norms and demonstrate profound courage in the face of hardship, intolerance and bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin.

“The Colin Higgins Foundation is honored to recognize these remarkable youth who have fought for their own identity with tremendous determination, while most kids their age are listening to pop music and attending school dances,” said Stephanie Hartka, of Tides, the Award’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor. “This year’s Youth Courage Award winners are planting the seeds for a better tomorrow within their local communities and the LGBTQQ community at large.”