One of the high points of Pride Month in Iowa is presentation of the Des Moines-based Eychaner Foundation's Matthew Shepard scholarships, this year to 16 winners. The presentation dinner and program were held June 2 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines.
The scholarship program honors the memory of Shepard, gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie during October of 1998. Scholarships have been awarded since 2000. The program is open to all out LGBTQ+ high school seniors in Iowa, based upon academics, leadership, service and need.
This year's class of Matthew Shepard Scholars was the largest ever --- 16. They are (from left) Olivia Habinck, Cedar Falls; James Simmons, Donnellson; Simon Hamilton, Carroll; Elijah Willig, Grinnell; Julia DiGiacomo, Marion; Lukas Daniels, Ames; Bryce Schulte, Boone; Tyler Loew, Carroll; Connor Johnson, West Des Moines; Spencer Willett, Belle Plaine; Greyson Davis, Eagle Grove; Malycki Manon-Sosa, Calamus; Christie Nguyen, Cedar Rapids; Courtney Beck, Belle Plaine; Spencer Navara, Grimes; and Krystal O'Morrow, Des Moines.
The scholarship program was established by entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ activist Rich Eychaner. The Eychaner Foundation, which administers the program and several others related to it, is headed by Donna Red Wing, who took on these duties after retiring last December as director of One Iowa, the state's leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.
So there's a bit of positive news in what was otherwise a bizarre week. I'd be interested in hearing what young folks in this age category, straight and gay, think of our current political situation --- but none of the folks out there doing battle seem particularly interested in asking.