The Colin Higgins Foundation has announced the award winners of the Youth Courage awards, who will go on to receive a $10,000 grant and a trip to LA Pride.
Jacques Agbobly, 16, of Chicago, IL; Ashton Lee, 17, of Manteca, CA; and Edidiong “Didi” Adiakpan, 19 of San Antonio, TX are the proud recipients of this award.
They are being recognized for their extraordinary personal leadership and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ youth.
The Colin Higgins Foundation is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth in underserved communities. Since 1993, over 341 have been awarded by the Foundation.
These recipients have endured hardships and yet have come through them with grace and dignity.
Meet the recipients:
Jacques Agbobly was born in Togo, Africa and came to the U.S. at nine years old. His family moved to Chicago to help with treatment for a family member with HIV/AIDS, as well as better education for their children. He was frequently bullied, not only for the color of his skin or accent, but his sexual orientation as well.
However, Jacques chose to remain positive. In eighth grade, created an anti-bullying PSA which was featured in Time Out Chicago and was asked to speak at the national convention for the organization “Facing History and Ourselves.”
He is currently attending the Chicago Academy for the Arts and is an ambassador for National HIV and AIDS Awareness Day.
Ashton Lee recently turned 17, but before that he helped change California law. Without his advocacy and petitioning the historic transgender student bill, “The School Success and Opportunity Act,” also known as Assembly Bill 1266 would not have happened. The law is the first of its kind in the country, and ensures students K-12 can participate in all school activities that match their gender identity.
Ashton grew up in rural Mount Shasta, California. At a young age he noticed he was different than his peers. It was when his family later moved to Manteca, California is when he began to understand his gender identity. He quickly began to advocate for himself and others and this is when he truly began to flourish and was recognized as an activist for transgender rights.
Edidiong Adiakpan, who goes by “Didi,” is a Nigerian immigrant and a current student at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She immigrated to Texas with her Evangelical parents, and struggled with deep-rooted belief systems which condemned her bisexual identity. She felt she had to choose between being loyal to her family or being true to herself.
Didi, however, found her voice through writing and through being involved in the LGBTQ community. She was vice president of the GSA at her high school, there she helped start a tradition of charity benefit concerts for LGBTQ organizations.
She is a strong advocate for women and queer people of color. She played a part in helping pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in the city of San Antonio. And continues to work to help de-stigmatize LGBTQ people through connection of other groups. Her writing has accumulated a large online following. She currently writes for the Paisano Independent Student Newspaper at UTSA, The Rainbow Hub (an online LGBT media site) and runs her own blog on Tumblr called Qualr for LGBT people and women in hip-hop and rap.
These young people serve as inspiration for many in the LGBTQ community. With hope, they will continue doing great things in the future and make change possible for many across the world.