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A Scholarship for Equality: LGBTQ+ Student’s Path to Success

 3 min read

Perhaps now more than ever before, scholarships designed to support people within the queer community significantly promote the education of these LGBTQIA+ students, providing them with the tools to actualize their dreams.

Among these transformative scholarships is the MarcDavid LGBTQ Endowed Scholarship, established at Jefferson in 2014, which provides essential academic and financial assistance to undergraduate students who exhibit active leadership and advocacy for LGBTQ causes within and beyond the University community.

Joni Kashner, the 2021-2022 recipient of the MarcDavid LGBTQ Endowed Scholarship, says the scholarship allowed them to continue their education at Jefferson and empowered them to make an impact in the community they love.

Kashner, who identifies as pansexual and non-binary, graduated in December with a BS in health sciences. Aspiring to become a speech and language pathologist, they are preparing to attend graduate school for speech therapy. Kashner plans to focus on women and individuals whose experiences receiving therapeutic services at the intersection of autism and queerness are “highly underrepresented.”

“Having the financial assistance [of this scholarship] puts less of a financial burden on me, which gives me more time to seek out these sorts of interactions that I’m using to educate myself and learn about people’s experiences,” says Kashner. “Being able to sit and have a deep and thorough conversation with these people [is crucial] because these people are the future patients I might be working with. It’s important for me to be able to connect with them.”

Kashner credits their research interests, and motivation in pursuing their professional future, to the empathy and acceptance gained through their long-standing and active involvement in LGBTQIA+ communities. These spaces have profoundly influenced Kashner, motivating them to make a meaningful difference within the community and positively impact the world.

“Being a member of the LGBTQ community has definitely shaped me in [many] ways,” explains Kashner. “It’s taught me to approach people with an open mind and always be willing to listen to other people’s experiences, which is something I definitely want to carry into both my career and my studies.”

As Kashner reflects on this year’s Pride Month, they hope others witness the importance of queer visibility, community, and—of course—joy.

“Inevitably, there are some people that are speaking out about it, but they are a very loud minority,” says Kashner. “But it’s a month of acceptance, love, and celebration for a community that’s so open and inclusive of everyone with open arms. It’s a month I really do associate with a lot of happiness and a lot of joy—queer joy. And that makes me very, very happy.”

The gratitude that Kashner feels for their community is matched by their appreciation for the MarcDavid LGBTQ Endowed Scholarship and for those who made it possible.

“Scholarships like it really do empower a lot of change by giving resources to students,” says Kashner. “You’re assisting them with being able to make the changes that they want to see in their community, which I think is a beautiful thing. So, thank you again for your generous donation. It really does mean a lot. It’s going to help make some change.”