The Markowski-Leach Scholarship rewards LGBTQ leaders within Bay Area Colleges
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The Markowski-Leach Scholarship rewards LGBTQ leaders within Bay Area Colleges

a difference. The Markowski-Leach Scholarship Fund rewards Bay Area students who are positively impacting the LGBTQ community.>>I identify as a trans woman of color and bisexual/queer. I knew at a young age that I was, like, trans and queer, but I wasn’t able to outwardly express those identities growing up.>>I really like the word “queer” for myself. For me, “queer” ends up having a sense of community, where it’s I have more in common with other folks in the community than I do with folks outside.>>I remember getting an e-mail relatively late at night. It was, like, a really simple e-mail, and it was very short. I remember looking at it and seeing the Markowski Scholarship logo on it. I was awarded the Markowski-Leach Scholarship, and I was ecstatic.>>Tom Markowski and Jim Leach met in Houston and moved to San Francisco in 1982. They loved the Bay Area. They were great guys to be around. They were fun, they were so supportive. In the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the mid ’80s, they realized that they were becoming ill. And Tom, especially, was very serious. And it was his idea to come up with this scholarship.>>The Markowski-Leach Scholarship, I believe, is open to folks at San Francisco Bay Area institutions, like Stanford and UC Berkeley.>>The scholarship fund was established by the estate of Tom Markowski and Jim Leach. They were a gay couple living in the ’80s during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and, as you can imagine, that was an incredibly traumatic time, you know, being a gay man or being gay men in SF during that period. And so one of the things that they wanted to really establish was to basically create a generation of LGBTQ figures for the next generation.>>The notion behind it was, from the beginning and still is, the idea of identifying tomorrow’s leaders and helping to facilitate their education.>>And we received our first applications in 1991. Since then, we’ve given away 363 scholarships totaling $508,500, which just blows my mind when I think about it.>>Our applicants are a courageous and trailblazing group of people.>>Growing up in India, being trans wasn’t really seen as a culturally accepted thing. And even kind of being gay or lesbian or, generally, queer still had a level of stigma attached to those identities. And it was only until I came to the U.S. in college where I was given the space to create a queer community and basically be who I am today.>>All of our recipients are doing important work that’s part of what we’ve been able to identify in selecting them to receive a scholarship.>>I’m a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering right now, and I do research on soft robotics and control systems for NASA. My family has been relatively supportive, overall, but I do come from a background, a particular religious background, that made it challenging for me to come out.>>We’re probably the only minority that grows up — all of us — in a family of non-LGBTQ people. There is no one to teach us about how to be an LGBTQ person in the world as we’re growing up, so we’re dependent — completely dependent on one another.>>As a mentor, I’ve set the culture in lab. The culture that I’ve ended up setting has been based on these same kinds of principles of inclusiveness and community in a way that I wasn’t offered at some places in the past. As a teaching assistant in the classroom, I’ve been out, and I’ve been an example for people, and I’ve had students come and talk to me and say how grateful they are, “You’re the first queer person who I’ve met who’s been an instructor.”>>There’s so many ways to be a figure, and that doesn’t necessarily mean through visibility but through the type of work that you do. And kind of the type of work that I’m trying to focus on is on ensuring that science, specifically neuroscience, is inclusive of trans and queer identities, specifically, like, of color, too. At least in what I can accomplish, I think, is to be, like, a supportive figure and to maybe be, for a number of young people, like an older sister or mom that maybe they didn’t really have support from.>>One of the great things about the Markowski-Leach Scholarship has been that it actually gets to be on my résumé up at the top. And so when I go and apply for jobs and when I go and talk to people about the work I do, this is something that’s front-and-center. Like, “Hi. I’m queer. This is me.”>>It’s not just the money. It’s the recognition. And I think they’re out there, and they’re impactful, and, you know, if nothing else, than by example, they will help the community at large. ♪

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1 thought on “The Markowski-Leach Scholarship rewards LGBTQ leaders within Bay Area Colleges

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