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$7000 in Scholarships for Trans Students

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The Grand Rapids Trans Foundation awarded $7000 in scholarships to four local students.
Hal Swain

Hal Swain /Courtesy of Grand Rapids Trans Foundation.

Grand Rapids Trans Foundation

Grand Rapids Trans Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, currently focusing on providing scholarships to individuals who are experiencing financial barriers to their continued education.  They founded in December 2015.


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Clockwise from upper left: Hal, Beau, Aaminah, & Finn

Clockwise from upper left: Hal, Beau, Aaminah, & Finn /Used with written permission.

This year, Grand Rapids Trans Foundation (GRTF) is pleased to award a total of $7000 to four local college students. This is the Foundation's second year awarding scholarships. 

GRTF's Academic Scholarship program invests in trans & gender non-conforming individuals by removing financial barriers to education. All applicants must self-identify on the transgender spectrum, prove financial need, and be enrolled in a Kent County post-secondary school.  

The need for such a program is unmistakable. 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.  Additionally, this group remains at high risk for other hardships including rejection, homelessness, lack of healthcare, discrimination, and violence. Not surprisingly, statistics show that obtaining a degree or certificate can positively affect the financial situations of transgender people.

GRTF is seeking to engage with the Grand Rapids community in efforts to foster greater access to education, resources, and financial stability. If you want to help us bolster trans lives, please consider donating here or emailing at <[email protected]> to ask about how to sponsor GRTF.


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


Photo of Hal Swain

Hal Swain, he/him pronouns 
Aquinas College, Business Administration
AWARDED: $2500
"I stand confidently as a transgender man, feeling more like myself than I have ever felt in my 21 years of life. However, being in college has created some new anxieties, fears, and predicaments. Although there are some amazing people at Aquinas who support me, institutional support like housing, professors, and paperwork have been a challenge. The other challenge being that I love playing lacrosse but can not be on the team while starting my transition.
I have a dream to design and sell my own clothing line targeted for the queer community, a career that will not only support my family but also my community."
Photo of Beau VanSolkema
Beau VanSolkema, he/him pronouns
GVSU, Social Work
AWARDED: $2500
"I'm a first-generation student who started college at age 28. I struggle with depression, learning disabilities, and health issues, but I don't let these things hold me back. Education has empowered me and offered me the tools necessary to become a recognized leader both on- and off-campus. 
I plan to initially work for the Kent County prison system, but my ultimate goal is to be a transgender LGBT therapist with a focus on elderly transgender folks and sexual assault victims."
Photo of Finn Marcks.
Finn Marcks, they/them, he/him pronouns
GVSU, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies    
AWARDED: $1500
"My identity has led me to meet some of the most amazing and spectacular human beings on earth, and I have flourished within the trans community both at GVSU and in GR. I'm a leader and activist on campus. I'm neurodivergent, and with no financial assistance or support from my family, I struggle a lot in school because of my identity, anxiety, depression, and stress... and I want nothing more than to help students in similar situations.
My goal is to become a director in a university's LGBT resource center, so I can help struggling LGBT students be as successful as possible."
Photo of Aaminah Shakur.
Aaminah Shakur, they/them pronouns
Kendall College, Art History
"I identify as Two-Spirit because it is the proper term within my Indigenous tribes to describe genderqueer identities.
I'm a non-traditional student--age 43-- mixed race, disabled, self-supporting, and returning to school for the first time due to poverty. Blending art history and critique of culture, I hope to bring to light the work of more queer, disabled artists of color."
GRTF will begin collecting applications for the next scholarship cycle (2018-2019 academic year) on January 1, 2018.

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