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Coming Out And Getting Cut Off: Scholarships For LGBT Students

UMKC has recently received some national attention for having a particularly gay-friendly environment.

One of the innovative things the school is doing is offering scholarships for LGBT students. When some college students come out, they face the danger of being cut off financially from their parents.  

That's what happened to recent graduate Courtney Monzyk.  

“I was actually outed, instead of coming out,” Monzyk says. 

She grew up primarily in Washington, Mo. After she went off to college, Monzyk says her best friend from high school told her parents that Monzyk was in a relationship with a girl, because her friend thought she was going down a path of sin.

Monzyk’s family is very religious, and they hoped to “convert” her to being straight. She says they had committed to paying for four years of college, but after she was outed, they told her they weren’t going to pay for any more schooling.

Monzyk took out student loans, found a work-study position and watched her budget. When she told UMKC’s then-coordinator of LGBT services and he told her about several  scholarships available to students in her situation. 

“We hear about it more often than we’d like,” says Jonathan Pryor, coordinator for LGBTQIA programs at UMKC. He says there’s a need for these types of scholarships on campus.

Kristi Ryujin, UMKC’s assistant vice chancellor for diversity, says staff members were hearing more and more stories of students leaving college because their parents had abandoned them financially, and even kicked them out of the home. The university began fundraising in 2008 for LGBTQ “hardship” scholarships.

The emergency scholarships are not based on academic test scores or GPA, they’re geared towards supporting students staying in school. Ryujin says she doesn’t know of any other school in the country that offers funds for LGBT students who are financially cut off from their parents.

“Lots of us are in situations where our home communities, our families, have not been able to accept our … identities,” Ryujin says. “University time is actually a wonderful time to create new families, too.”

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
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