Transgender First Applications are being accepted until Dec. 31, 2020; Recipients chosen after that
By: Patrick DuBois/Trans Headlines*—
Transgender and non-binary college applicants are at disproportionate disadvantages due to socio-economic barriers, social anxiety, family isolation, and many more challenges than their counterparts. Additional barriers include hostile college environments, financial hardship, lack of familial support, homelessness, and more. It’s no surprise that transgender students also face unfavorable conditions when it comes to most aspects of life, including college life for those who can afford it. When you add all of those factors to other inequities, the odds seem insurmountable for transgender and non-binary students applying to colleges and universities around the country.
To continue to bring the best information to our readers, Trans Headlines contacted the minds behind the “TransgenderFirst National Scholarship” concept. Transgender First is “the first national scholarship, exclusively dedicated to helping underserved Transgender [and non-binary] students get affordable access to a college education,” according to its website. Although they don’t hold a non-profit designation yet, the newly formed organization is seeking 501(c)3 status while it also awards its first scholarship to its first recipient.
Trans Headlines recently contacted Michael Robles (He/Him/His), the administrator at Transgender First National Scholarship to find out more.
Q: What is Transgender First? What is the mission of the organization?
A: The Transgender First National Scholarship is a program dedicated to the Transgender community and the biased difficulty they face on a daily basis. Whether it’d be getting full-time employment to afford school, losing family and parental support after coming out, or lacking the ability to access student housing on campus, transgender students are at a disadvantage when it comes to affording the large costs associated with a college degree. Our mission is to shine a bright light on the underserved Transgender students and to help them get affordable access to a college education and bring necessary funding from donors everywhere.
Q: Is it a non-profit organization 501(c)3? I ask this because people who donate may want to know if it’s tax deductible or not.
A: Not yet! We wanted to get this out as soon as possible, but are now working on how we can move to a non-profit status. We encourage potential donors to either contribute or keep in touch for when that migration takes place so their donation could be tax-deductible!
Q: Who are the founders? And, why did you create or found Transgender First?
A: The Transgender First National Scholarship was created by the Aldrich Family, who are behind the creation of the college affordability and accessibility platform, OnlineDegree.com. After learning about the challenges the Transgender Community faces in affording college through a transgender family friend, they felt compelled to take action.
Q: Do you think there are enough resources out there for the transgender community?
A: Absolutely not! Immense struggle is one of the first things that come across to me when thinking of the constant hardships Transgender students are wrapped up in. I obviously do not think there are enough resources for the transgender community (not at all!) and hopefully, this spearheads a greater movement of fairness towards the community.
Q: Have there been any recipients so far? If so, who are they?
A: We’re very happy to announce this will be the first year awarding a student with the Transgender First National Scholarship and many more to follow in the years to come!
Q: How many people have applied for scholarships? Also, how many scholarships are available per academic year?
A: So far we’ve had over 100 since our launch last month! Support from universities and from social media, in general, has been astounding. Almost 100 universities have already promoted this scholarship to their students as well. Currently, we have 1 available and are about ready to add a second soon.
Q: Do you also fund non-binary people or just transgender-identified people?
A: We support non-binary [applicants] as well—absolutely!
Q: Does that mean that the person has to provide specific paperwork to be eligible? If so, what paperwork are they supposed to provide?
A: It’s a simple online form located at http://transgenderscholarship.org. The process and all details are further explained in the link.
Q: Is this only for young people who are recent High School graduates, or can anyone from any age group apply?
A: Any age group, at any stage of higher education are eligible. Really looking forward to seeing all applicants and helping as much as we can!
Q: Is this a national scholarship? What about people outside of the USA?
A: As of 2020 it’s a national scholarship (U.S. only) and applicants must identify as Transgender, plan to pursue a degree, or [are] currently pursuing a degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution, have a high school diploma or GED, and are a U.S. Citizen. Going forward our goal is to make it available for Transgender students outside of the U.S. as well.
Q: What will the scholarship cover (books, tuition, room and board, transportation, etc.)? Be as specific as possible, please.
A: Awards will be made directly to the award recipient’s U.S.-based post-secondary accredited institution, and may be used for tuition, fees, books, or other educational expenses.
Q: How much money do you give the applicants or is it based on need?
A: The TrasngenderFirst National Scholarship has a $2,500 award and will be given to one recipient. The deadline to apply is Dec 31, 2020, and it’ll be a recurring scholarship.
Q: When will you start the funding process?
A: Thanks to our initial donor, we already have annual funding in perpetuity!
Q: What do you mean you have funding in perpetuity?
A: No problem, I understand. It simply means that we’ve received annual commitment into the foreseeable future for the current scholarship. In other words, it’s not just a one-time award. We have funding in perpetuity for the 1 award of the $2500 scholarship and are actively approaching donors to add additional awards annually as well.
Q: Do students have to apply to colleges that are approved by or which solely work or are affiliated with OnlineDegree.com?
A: No, not at all. Although OnlineDegree.com was the founding organization and donor to help the project, it has nothing to do with the ongoing operation of the organization. The TransgenderFirst scholarship can be applied to any post-secondary accredited institution in the United States for educational related expenses.
Q: Why is this done under OnlineDegree.com and not separately? Is it because of the Aldrich Family’s funding?
A: The website is TransgenderScholarship.org, and will be a future standalone website in the near future. For the speed of launch, so we could get this into public hands during COVID, OnlineDegree.com offered to host the page for us to both expedite the development and to alleviate hosting costs and fees. We are in the process though of making it a standalone website and should have that finished soon. In other words, when visitors use the URL Transgenderscholarship.org in the future, it will remain on that URL with the entire standalone website, rather than redirecting to our current page. Regardless, it doesn’t affect student’s ability to apply, or anything of that nature, and will maintain all of the current messaging and branding.
Q: Why do you ask applicants to write about “why it is hard for transgender students to afford and approach college” followed by a request to “include a link back to TransgenderFirst page?” Why is that last step important to you for prospective applicants? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of keeping your gender identity yours (to raise awareness of transgender students), if the student wishes to remain stealth due to safety concerns?
A: In addition to the importance of providing necessary funds for transgender students to afford a college education, the other key initiative of what we’re doing is to raise awareness of the problem in general. Very few people are aware of how transgender students are at such a disadvantage when it comes to affording college. So, we do ask that applicants contribute to the awareness by sharing it on a blog or social media and linking back to the project. This helps educate the public of the issue. However, it isn’t mandatory since we are sensitive to the fact that many students or applicants would not like to share this. [That] is why we have another question preceding this one, which indicates if the student is not comfortable with sharing; if they indicate that they aren’t, that’s completely fine.
Q: Will a student be disqualified from receiving the funds if they do not submit a Blog/Social Media Post?
A: No. They can indicate if they are comfortable, or would like to submit that or not.
Q: How many scholarships do you approximately plan to award by 2020? By 2021?
Our goal is to have two to four additional awards in 2021!
Q: If organizations and/or people want to donate, what do they do? Who do they contact?
A: Any and all donations would be extremely appreciative and welcomed to further the educational goals of transgender students. The best contact to get that process going would be to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help share this important milestone and raise awareness of the difficulties the transgender community faces in higher education.
Transgender First’s initial award will be presented in December 2020. Robles said they’ve had close to 100 applications so far, although he wasn’t able to share any applicant information with Trans Headlines at this time. But, we’ll bring you the scoop on the recipient or recipients, once we hear back from the organization.