The Rapidian

New non-profit provides scholarships to improve educational equity for trans community

The Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, introduced to the community on March 31, 2016, will be offering scholarships to local low-income trans students to remove educational barriers.
Underwriting support from:

/Jessica Mead

Thursday, March 31, 2016 was Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to bring recognition and honor to the accomplishments of trans folks around the world, while spreading knowledge and awareness of the trans community. It was on this day the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation made their public debut after being founded in December of 2015.

“We want to prop up and empower trans folks in our area, while creating a broader sense of community and justice, we’re excited about it!” says Simon Kittok, Executive Director and Treasurer of the foundation.  “I knew I wanted to start a scholarship to help low-income trans students with their schooling expenses, a big part of this was discovering some harrowing statistics about the increased rates of homelessness, and unemployment for the trans community. There are major imbalances built into so many of our systems that disproportionately affect trans lives.”

Some statistics to be noted are that trans folks are twice as likely to be unemployed and four times as likely to have an annual household income of less than $10,000 annually, and one in eight trans folks have been evicted because of being transgender. Trans people of color are six times more likely to experience violence when encountering the police than white cisgender individuals. Eight out of ten trans students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression.

“The statistics are hugely powerful and depressing but also incredibly motivating. However, not nearly as motivating as the realization that me, you, and everyone we know can be part of the solution," says Kittok.

The goal of the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation is to remove some of the financial barriers to education, and therefore, remove barriers to stable and decent employment. “Barriers to resources, to support systems and education are some of the big items holding the trans community back,” says Kittok. “We can identify what needs to be done, how we can help, and we can hop into the fray.”

With the help and encouragement of The Grand Rapids Community Foundation, The Red Project and the Grand Rapids Pride Center (formerly The Network) this first year the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation hopes to impact the life of one local trans student by awarding a $2,500 Academic Scholarship. It will help the student to pay for education-related expenses while pursuing a degree or certificate from an accredited college university, or vocational program in Kent County.

During it’s first year the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation plans to get their educational scholarship program off the ground, but doesn’t plan to stop there. “We wanted to start with the scholarship program because we see higher education, whether it’s a community college, a liberal arts university, or some type of vocational training as a way for people to empower themselves in the world. It allows for higher paying jobs, greater financial stability, access to better healthcare, and the opportunity to pursue other goals. The current scholarship program is a way for us to lay down some roots while we broaden our contact with the Grand Rapids Trans Community, and find other ways we can help,” says Kittok.

The foundation plans to expand and diversify their programming in the future.

“We would also like to address the additional needs and concerns of the community we are representing, so as we expand, we’ll be putting feelers out into the Grand Rapids trans community to see what resources are needed most”  says Kittok. “I’ve been inspired by my friends and acquaintances who happen to be trans, their love, support, and openness have been invaluable to me.”

You can find more information about the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation via Facebook, twitter and Google Plus.

To apply for the scholarship visit www.grtransfoundation.org.

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