[dropcap]H[/dropcap]onoring six high school and college undergrads who have made an outstanding contribution to public service and leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship shines a light on the promise of the next generation. Like Pedro Zamora, the AIDS educator, activist and co-star of MTV’s The Real World (San Francisco) in the early nineties, these young students are using their voices and skill sets to make a positive difference at their schools, in their communities, or in their academic fields. Zamora, you may remember, shot into the public eye when he disclosed his HIV-positive status on the television show and used his on-air and off-air time to destigmatize the disease and educate about HIV/AIDS. He passed away from AIDS-related causes in 1994, but his legacy lives on.
The National AIDS Memorial Grove, the San Francisco-based non-profit that grants the scholarships, recently announced the latest recipients. Launched in 2009, the scholarship is open to high school seniors and college undergraduates, but this year’s recipients are all at the college level and hail from six different states. The scholarship program is primarily funded through grants provided by UnitedHealthcare, Wells Fargo, and Project Inform. Students may use the funds to support their ongoing educational endeavors in both their chosen fields and community work related to HIV/AIDS. The program awarded more than $40,000 this year (with two students receiving two-year awards for 2015 and 2016), the largest distribution of funds in the history of the scholarship.
The scholarships recipients include:
Raymond Jackson • School: Essex County College, Newark, New Jersey • Currently working on: Associate’s degree in business administration • Goals & Activities: work with the Global Economics Department at the CDC to improve financial resources of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries; currently works as a peer educator at Project (WOW), where he uses his experiences and insights as an individual living with HIV to educate.
Adrian Nava (second-year recipient) • School: University of Denver, Denver, Colorado • Currently working on: In third year toward a bachelor’s in International Studies and Sociology. • Goals & Activities: Work in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on health and healthcare access for LGBT people and people of color; already five-years strong in the sexual health field, at state and national levels.
Uzo Okoro • School: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island • Currently working on: A senior majoring in public health, soon to pursue her medical degree at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University • Goals & Activities: Chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for NYHAAD (National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day) by Advocates for Youth; advocates for HIV-positive survivors in community spaces and on social media; lead coordinator of the Sexual Health Awareness Group (SHAG), a sexual peer education organization at Brown.
Abdon Orrostieta (two-year scholarship recipient) • School: University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida. Currently working on: third year • Goals & Activities: Volunteers with Latino Salud, a nonprofit HIV services agency; member of the Health Awareness and Prevention Society.
Shira Smillie • School: University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia • Currently working on: sophomore double-majoring in American Studies and Latin American Latino and Iberian Studies; studies the intersections of identity, poverty, power and privilege in the United States. • Goals & Activities: Works at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing on an HIV/STI prevention program for black youth with mental illness.
Manuel Venegas (two-year scholarship recipient) • School: University of Washington, Seattle, Washington • Currently working on: In third year, studying Latin American & Caribbean Studies with an emphasis on Global Health. • Goals & Activities: AIDS advocacy, organizing, and mobilizing on community, state, and national levels; chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for NYHAAD by Advocates for Youth; serves on the City of Seattle LGBT Commission, drawing on his own experiences as an individual living with HIV.
For more information about the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and other National AIDS Memorial programs, log on to: www.aidsmemorial.org or reach the organization by phone at (415) 765-0497.