The annual GABA Trust Tertiary awards took place Tuesday 3 December, with two bright young students honoured.
In 2008 GABA and the Trust created the GABA Secondary Scholarships to assist young GLBTI people leaving secondary school through their first year of full-time tertiary study.
This years recipients Johann Go from St Patrick’s Silverstream in Wellington and Joni Nelson from Long Bay College in Auckland have each received $3000 towards the cost of their first year of tertiary education.
The awards are offered to a student who identifies as GLBTI, is seen as a good role model by peers and teachers and who has excelled in effort and achievement in their secondary education.
Go has consistently challenged the heterosexist attitudes of the conservative Catholic college that he attended and has set up a support group for GLBTI students. With the help of the school counselor, his efforts have helped to change the attitudes of the school’s priest and headmaster.
Go will be studying medicine in Auckland this coming year and says he hopes to fulfil his lifelong dream of studying Health Science and Medicine, to hopefully become a doctor one day.
“Offering a scholarship specifically tailored to LGBTI youth is such a great way of empowering young people and showing them that their work is valued by the community,” says Go.
“Volunteering with the LGBTI community is not only challenging and rewarding, but also really fun! We seem to know how to balance work with fun, and our resilience and strength as a community never ceases to amaze me.”
Go is very active in the wider community including St John’s Ambulance, where he is a Cadet Leader and has received the Grand Prior’s Award. He set up his own group, the Compassionate Marists, to assist elderly residents in rest homes and was recognised for this work by the Upper Hutt City Council. He is also a Youth Advisor to this council.
He says: “I think the involvement of today’s youth in a wide variety of different programmes is commendable. Not so long ago, young people were seldom involved in community work. Nowadays, we have everything from students volunteering with St John Ambulance, through to organising online support forums. The shift of attitude among young people, with respect to community work certainly needs to be applauded and celebrated.”
Nelson excelled in Drama, Media Studies and Photography in her senior years of college and is planning an arts degree in psychology and media at University of Auckland. She has organised, run, performed in and directed numerous arts events and has also been very active in the GLBTI affairs at school and in the wider community: writing, creating New Zealand’s first QSA on-line forum and starting a QSA group at school and she has been a facilitator and Volunteer Committee member with Rainbow Youth.
She says she has always wanted to get involved in GABA and this was a great way to enter into the organization.
“Already it’s been really great just meeting all these new people, and receiving their encouragement and support,” she says.
“I’ve always loved people, getting to know their little quirks and why those quirks exist. I like how the GLBTI community brings so many different people together, people that would probably never have met, let alone become friends, if it wasn’t for that one thing that connects them. This can make working within GLBTI communities difficult and conflicting, but what I have learnt from the wide variety of people I’ve met has been priceless,” she says.
“We have such an interesting vibrant community – it’s so unique. I love hearing people’s stories, and learning from these varying experiences. We each have such different voices, but somehow we make lives together. It’s kind of magic, and I’m proud to work within that.”
We are sure this won’t be last we hear about this years award recipients, this is a pair with high hopes and big futures ahead of them.