By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
CENTER LINE – In June, the Forum Foundation awarded three scholarships to outstanding pro-gay student activists to help them along in their studies.
Liana Mulholland, Russell Sommer, and Aryn Leigh McCumber were each awarded $1,000 to further their academic careers with either an undergraduate or graduate degree.
The scholarships were the latest round in the “roughly $20,000” worth of help that the foundation has given deserving students in the past five years, said Forum Foundation Treasurer John Di Donato.
Donato said that the Foundation has existed since about 1983 and that they have been focusing on scholarships “since around 2000.”
According to Donato, the foundation targets pro-LGBT youth because “there are a lot of scholarships out there for the straight community but there weren’t very many for the gay community.”
Recipient Russell Sommer said that he is out and active in the community. “Me being gay, it was difficult growing up and I wanted to make a change for people coming up,” he said. “Hopefully by the time I have kids it won’t be so difficult for them.” Sommer will be pursuing a “Masters program in educational leadership with a Higher Education student affairs track,” and is considering working in a college LGBT office upon graduation.
Liana Mulholland is active in racial equality issues as well as being an LGBT activist. According to the Forum Foundation, Mulholland “is currently working to defeat the anti-affirmative action referendum that the state of Michigan will be facing in the fall 2006 elections, and worked with a variety of other students and allies to start a GSA at Cass Technical High School,” where she graduated with honors last summer. Mulholland will be attending the University of Michigan School of Art and Design in the fall.
According to the Foundation, Aryn Leigh McCumber is a “graduate of Central Michigan University and will be attending law school at Michigan State University the in fall. During college she designed an online web page where members of the LGBT college community could communicate in the safe and positive environment. She also served as a role model, not only as a student, but as a member of the college soccer team as well.”
According to Di Donato, while the Foundation doesn’t specifically ask about the sexual orientation of scholarship applicants, “We ask for them to give a statement of what work they have done in the community so we have an idea of where they’re coming from.” The scholarship is limited to Michigan residents.
In order to keep helping LGBT activist students, the Forum Foundation holds two main fundraisers as well as other smaller activities and events. The two main fundraisers are a Sweetheart Ball in February in Warren and a summer cruise on the Detroit river.