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Local Trans Students Awarded $10,000

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Despite pandemic, Grand Rapids Trans Foundation awards $10k in scholarships to six local students in 2020.
From left to right. Line 1: Tom, Malakhai, Cynthia. Line 2: Anonymous, Jordan, Demetrius.

From left to right. Line 1: Tom, Malakhai, Cynthia. Line 2: Anonymous, Jordan, Demetrius. /Used with written permission.

Grand Rapids Trans Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, focusing on granting academic scholarships, providing vital document support, and creating equity for the local Trans community. They were founded in December 2015.

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For the 2020-2021 academic year, Grand Rapids Trans Foundation (GRTF) is thrilled to award a total of $10,000 to six brilliant Grand Rapids students. Since its inception in 2015, GRTF has proudly awarded over $40,000 in scholarships to local Trans students furthering their education in Kent County.
GRTF's Academic Scholarship program invests in Trans & nonbinary individuals by removing financial barriers to education and building pathways to equity. All applicants must self-identify on the transgender spectrum, demonstrate their financial need, and be enrolled in a Kent County post-secondary school.
Trans communities across the United States experience hardships that create barriers to accessing the resources they need to thrive. In the U.S., transgender people experience twice the rate of unemployment as the general public, and are four times as likely to have an annual household income of under $10,000. Statistics show that obtaining a degree or certificate are among the most successful avenues to pursuing equity. 
Grand Rapids Trans Foundation is working to build equity for Trans people in our city, opening doors and removing barriers to reaching their goals. We are building community in our city to foster greater access to education, resources, and financial stability for Trans people. We know this work benefits our entire community and is vital to making Grand Rapids vibrant and strong. If you are interested in being a part of creating stability and equity in Trans lives, please join us in our work by making a donation here or send us a message ([email protected]) to inquire about sponsoring a scholarship.


Read more about this year's six chosen applicants below!

A basic human-shaped silhouette in front of a trans flag.

Tom Kolahe/him pronouns

Davenport, Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
AWARDED: $2500

"I hope that trans people like me who have been marginalized by society and discriminated against by their families are able to share their stories, and advocate for their rights until the world realizes that we are here, we are not unusual, we are loved and we are not going anywhere. Attaining this degree is the first step in accomplishing these goals."

Photo of Khairun Hasan

Malakhai Hasanthey/them pronouns

GVSU, Biochemistry and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
AWARDED: $2500

"Growing up as a queer Muslim in the middle of West Michigan has always been a struggle to say the least. The environment around West Michigan has never been the best when existing as a trans and queer person of color, and there have been plenty of instances of bigotry, harassment, and threats of violence that I have experienced throughout my lifetime in Grand Rapids. I wish to go on after my bachelors and continue into grad school, with an eventual goal of working either as a biochemical researcher or in non-profit."

Image of Cynthia Kuk.

Cynthia Kukthey/them pronouns

MSU College of Human Medicine
AWARDED: $1500

"My life has been a dichotomy. On the one hand, I am going to be an M.D. My white coat comes with status, power, and respect. On the other hand, I am a queer, non-binary, Chinese immigrant, whose identity comes with a slew of disadvantages.

Medicine, for me, has always been about using my newfound power to empower others.

My vision for my future is threefold. First, I want to create a safe space for my patients by owing my truth and occupying space. Data shows that patient outcomes improved if they identify with their provider. I plan to overcome my fear and be as visible as possible for my patients’ benefit. Second, I want to educate, both in my workplace and in an educational setting. Third, I want to advocate. I am a part of the American Medical Association, and I plan to stay and work with my colleagues to bring about positive changes.

My career plan is to be certified in both emergency medicine and internal medicine. Most of our community still access health care through the emergency service. I want to be a friendly presence during this stressful time. Also, I would like to have a small primary care clinic that caters to the trans community. One idea that recently comes to me is to do a “provider meet and greet” at a local pride center. Many queer folks, myself included, experience anxiety in medical settings. Meeting your providers beforehand might help alleviate some of the stress going in. Hopefully, this would help lessen the health disparity faced by the trans community."

A human-shaped silhouette set in front of a Trans flag.

Anonymous Recipient

AWARDED: $1500

Image of Jordan Bradley.

Jordan Bradleythey/them pronouns

GVSU, Philosophy and Political Science
AWARDED: $1000

"I aim to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Grand Valley State University and continue studying philosophy in graduate school, with the eventual goal of becoming a professor. I am especially interested in ethics and political theory, and hope to write and speak about LGBTQ issues in the context of those fields. Any contributions I made as an academic would be informed by my experience as a non-binary person."

Image of Demetrius Burke.

Demetrius Burkethey/them pronouns

GVSU, Psychology and Social Work
AWARDED: $1000

"As the youngest of five children of an interstate couple who divorced shortly after my birth, I witness the struggle both my parents experienced as single parents with minimal secondary training and the debt they incurred over the years. With my three older sisters all graduating college before I left elementary school, I have seen the hardships they have experienced. This includes our parents inability to assist in affording their education, still being crushed by their student debt a decade later. Like most children, as I became older I made many efforts to avoid the mistakes my older family members made --- all of whom stressed the value of education.

While I may not be considered a 'non traditional' student, my education path has taken many alternative routes. One path that has allowed me to pursue my higher education with minimal loans. The most recent alternative route includes this scholarship, and pursuing my bachelors in both psychology and social work. I plan to complete a Masters of Social Work after my graduation. With help of GRTF, I am able to receive the education I need in order to become an advocate for vulnerable populations including our young gender non conforming community in the mental health and substance abuse fields. There are not enough words for me to express my gratitude in this assistance, and hope my efforts in our communities' future can repay the opportunity I have been given with this scholarship."

GRTF will begin collecting applications for the next academic scholarship cycle (2021-2022 academic year) on December 1, 2020.

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