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.”

To further elevate their advocacy and educational efforts, each 2013 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award winner will receive a grant of $10,000 and be honored on June 29 in New York City.

The 2013 Youth Courage Award winners are:


Isaias Vazquez Martinez (Age 21, Denver, CO)

Isaias was born in Zacatecas Mexico to a family of farmers. When the NAFTA agreement was passed, Isaias’ family could no longer get by in agriculture and they immigrated to Colorado in search of a better future. Isaias always dreamed of becoming “legal” by the time he graduated high school. Frustrated by the lack of resources and counseling available to him when he was looking into college options, Isaias learned that half the population of his high school were also undocumented. They banded together and with Isaias’ leadership, created an outreach guide which is now in place with Denver’s guiding counselors. Showing gratitude to his parents’ sacrifice, Isaias believes that to educate himself is to help his community and fulfill just one of his parents’ dreams. Isaias has had to overcome the dual stigma of being both undocumented and queer, but states that he is now unafraid and will no longer “live in the shadows”. He is a charismatic story teller who is passionate about immigrant rights and LGBTQ justice.


Katherine Tabares (Age 18, Corona, NY)

Originally from Colombia, Katherine came to the US with her parents three years ago. Never wasting time, Katherine is the example of someone who takes advantage of every possible resource to empower herself.  Katherine’s accomplishments are striking: within a summer, Katherine taught herself English, graduated with a 3.9 GPA, worked many jobs and all the while poured her passion into the organization Make The Road NY, working around the clock to support immigration reform on local and national levels. Unafraid, Katherine propels forward using her own story, as well as her mother’s growing voice and sense of power, as the inspiration to be a fierce advocate. Katherine greatly values family and she emphasizes her gratitude and acknowledges the generations before that have sacrificed to provide more opportunity for their children. Katherine believes that “it is not so different being undocumented and being queer” and she is finding unique ways to represent the crossover of these two communities by tirelessly building upon the momentum from both movements to empower each other. Katherine is “undocumented and unafraid, queer and unashamed.”


Alan Pelaez (Age 20, Waltham, MA)

Originally from Oaxaca Mexico, Alan endured a childhood of poverty, domestic abuse and familial, racial and class discrimination. After his sister’s death, Alan and his mother escaped to the U.S., but as many others, they arrived undocumented.  Alan had to grow up fast in the U.S., and overcame a great deal of self-harm, coming to embrace his identity and empower his newfound home and community.  Alan’s courage is immense in his decision to not only be out as gay, but to “go public” with his story as undocumented, with one goal in mind: LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform. Alan has slept in the streets protesting; he’s held roundtable events with U.S. Senators, and presented at Capitol Hill. The number of deportation threats and verbal abuse Alan has endured seem only to give him further motivation to be a voice for the movement. Alan’s passion is in building bridges between immigrant communities across the United States. By sharing his story, he provides support and resources for those oppressed by discrimination based on their identities as undocumented, queer, indigenous, or all.





Colin Higgins, acclaimed screenwriter, director, and producer of films such as Harold and Maude and Nine to Five, established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986 to further his humanitarian goals. In addition to the Youth Courage Awards, the Foundation supports numerous LGBTQQ organizations, ranging from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender outreach and AIDS prevention programs. The Foundation focuses on organization and projects that work with LGBTQQ youth in geographically underserved communities such as low-income, rural, transgender and communities of color. To learn more, visit www.colinhiggins.org.

Colin Higgins is administered by Tides (www.tides.org), which has awarded more than one billion in grants to nonprofit organizations to-date. Since 1976, Tides has partnered with donors and institutions by offering donor-advised funds, philanthropic advice and management services for progressive social change philanthropy. Tides is committed to strengthening community-based nonprofit organizations and the progressive movement through national global philanthropy—creating a positive impact on people’s lives in ways that honor and promote human rights, economic justice and a healthy, sustainable environment.

Copyright © 2013, Colin Higgins Foundation, Tides. Other names used in this press release may be trademarks of their respective owners.