LGBT students at Madison Area Technical College will soon have a scholarship available to members of their community through an endowment fund from a national insurance company.
QBE North America, a branch of the Australian insurer QBE, gave $20,000 to the Madison College Foundation to create the Rainbow Scholarship, the scholarship’s director Julia Haseleu said.
The scholarship would be available in three years to allow the money to earn the interest needed to be self-sustaining, but the college is hosting a fundraiser at Bunky’s Cafe in May in hopes of making the scholarship available for next year’s spring semester.
The amount of the scholarships will be based on the average interest earned on the endowment over that three-year period, which is anticipated to be about $1,000 and would be split evenly between two students.
But the money isn’t everything for this scholarship. Students and staff feel MATC, also known as Madison College, is sending a message to the LGBT community.
Business management student Kaci Sullivan, a transgender and gay man, said creating the scholarship at MATC tells students and Madison as a whole that the community is worth investing in.
“It says ‘We recognize the adversity you face ... We want to level the playing field,’” Sullivan said, adding that LGBT students may not have the family support other students have and may face discrimination based on their gender or sexual identities when seeking employment or housing.
Haseleu said that when she tells LGBT students about the Rainbow Scholarship, “their eyes light up and they feel like ‘Somebody’s listening to me.’”
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The American Psychological Association estimates about 6 percent of people identify as part of the LGBT community. Using that percentage at the approximately 37,000 students enrolled each year, Haseleu said more than 2,200 students could be LGBT.
Haseleu said she has had about 10 to 20 students each year come out to her.
But that number might be smaller, Haseleu said, because LGBT students who aren’t supported by their family or community may not have the means to enroll in college. The Rainbow Scholarship will help those students break those barriers, she said.
The committee working out the logistics of the scholarship hasn’t decided what criteria will be used to award the scholarship, Haseleu said, nor has it determined exactly what the application will entail. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students as well as LGBT allies will be eligible.
Joy Matthews, who is one of the leaders of QBE’s pride group, said the scholarship at MATC was the right fit for the company’s funding because the college is one of the institutions in Madison that strives for inclusivity.
Kat Storch, who is in her final semester at MATC, said the scholarship shows it’s not just individual faculty or staff at MATC that support LGBT students but that the institution as a whole is backing those students.
“I have questioned my identity since middle school,” Storch, 22, said. She said the scholarship shows that there will be constant support for people like her and a welcoming environment.
Storch said she was inspired by Haseleu when she spoke to her class and referenced her wife. While she said she does not feel sexual attraction, Storch said she felt like she could imagine herself one day having a wife — or husband — and feeling free enough to talk openly about it.