LEAP Scholarship winners talk about how the GBLT Chamber made a difference in their lives
Pam Hancock has won the North Texas GLBT Chamber’s LEAP Scholarship twice. And now teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage where, she said, she can’t see Russia from her front door.
Hancock was celebrating this week because her marriage in her new state was recognized as a result of a court ruling over the weekend. She was also excited that another round of LEAP Scholarships is due to be awarded. Her scholarship meant she was able to finish her dissertation and apply for her current position.
She said LEAP was the first LGBT scholarship she applied for and received.
“I received it at the exact time my funding was running out,” she said. “It was perfect timing that allowed me to get equipment necessary to finish my dissertation.”
But, Hancock said, winning the LEAP Scholarship meant more than just funding.
“Beyond the financial, the whole board took me under their wing,” she said. “That was just as valuable as the financial contribution.”
Hancock called LEAP’s nurturing approach to assistance “holistic” and said board chair Candy Marcum’s ideas helped her complete her degree.
LEAP, which stands for Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, began awarding scholarships three years ago, according to Marcum. Funding comes from one annual fundraiser, previously known as the Holly Jolly Ball. Marcum said that was too close to Christmas and Thanksgiving, so this year the LEAP board pushed the event back to Halloween and renamed it Spooktacular.
Spooktacular takes place on Saturday, Oct. 18 and features a silent auction, a costume contest and a cork pull — match a cork with a bottle to win the bottle of wine.
As successful as LEAP has been in its first years, Marcum said she wants the program to grow.
“I’d like us to give more and more every year,” Marcum said, noting that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce awards $1 million in scholarships.
Marcum said LGBTs, children of LGBTs and allied students are all eligible to apply for LEAP scholarships. The application should be online at GLBTChamber.org in February.
The funds may be used for anything from trade school or community college to undergraduate or graduate studies.
“The best way to get ahead is with an education,” Marcum said.
Larisa Maxwell won a LEAP scholarship last year, enabling her to complete her law degree at Texas A&M.
“I thought it was a great honor to be recognized,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell’s scholarship also involved a bit of nurturing from the LEAP board and eventually helped in kicking off her career.
Her work in the community is among the things that impressed the board in granting her the award. In Dallas, Maxwell volunteered at Lambda Legal. At A&M, she restarted the OUTlaw group for the school’s LGBT law school students.
Maxwell also traveled to Austin to lobby legislators with Equality Texas during the last legislative session. Among the bills being considered that session was one to cut funding for state schools with an LGBT resource center. A&M was the principle target of the bill.
Since graduation, Maxwell has returned to Dallas and is working in Rebecca Covell’s law firm. Covell is an estate-planning and business attorney with more than 25 years experience working in the community who met Maxwell through the GLBT Chamber and LEAP.
Maxwell continues to show her appreciation for being a scholarship winner by serving on the LEAP board and chairing the silent auction committee for Spooktacular.
Maxwell said she funded most of her graduate education through loans.
“The scholarship eased my financial burden,” she said, “and let me stay focused on school work more.”
Now, as a LEAP board member, her focus has turned to helping other LGBT students finish their degrees and graduate with less of a financial burden.
Spooktacular takes place in the Great Room at ilume Park, 3109 Douglas Ave. Oct. 18 at 7–10 p.m. $50.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 17, 2014.