MEDIA ADVISORY: Local LGBTQ Students Create Programs Promoting Inclusiveness; Overcome Obstacles to Achieve Scholarship Success

MEDIA ADVISORY: Local LGBTQ Students Create Programs Promoting Inclusiveness; Overcome Obstacles to Achieve Scholarship Success
May, 2016 Client News

WHAT: San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF) is partnering with PFLAG San Diego County to recognize nine deserving LGBTQ students from around San Diego County for their exemplary academic achievements and leadership vision at the 2016 Launching Leaders Scholarship Awards Luncheon. Since 1998, PFLAG San Diego County has overseen the awarding of over 80 scholarships in the amount of more than $130,000 to LGBT scholars. Rights and equality for LGBTQ persons is at a pivotal point in our nation. And these individuals exemplify tenacity to succeed against many odds, and creating inclusive and tolerant programs in their schools and in the community. Approximately 200 people are expected to attend.

LOCATION: McMillin Event Center, 2875 Dewey Road, San Diego, Calif. 92106 (Liberty Station)

WHEN: Friday, May 13, 2016 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (best time to cover)
** NOTE: Recipients begin to arrive at 11 a.m. Program will begin at 12:10 p.m. with scholarship presentations starting at 12:30 p.m.**

WHO: The 2016 scholarship recipients include individuals who have not only overcome adversity, but also proactively addressed challenges and barriers. Total amount awarded in 2016 is $15,000. Presented in alphabetical order, recipients to be honored are:

  • Theodore “Teddy” Bruni (SDSU) – John McCusker Memorial Scholarship: Dedicated more than 100 hours of service to the South Bay Alliance writing news releases and grants, and worked passionately on the annual Chula Vista South Bay Pride.
  • Humberto Castorena (Olympian High School) – Stephen G. Bowersox Memorial Scholarship: Helped transform his school’s Spanish Literature Club into a space that exposes folks to the culture and nuances of Latin America, and attempts to fight the misconceptions of the region.
  • Jacob Garret (USD) – John Bessemer Memorial Scholarship: Volunteer for City Ballet of San Diego’s “Discover a Dancer” program, which teaches ballet to second graders at an elementary school located in a lower income neighborhood.
  • Riley Gibson (Palomar College) – Rob Benzon Memorial Scholarship: Previously homeless and now a third year student found his home in grassroots and community organizing events surrounding LGBT issues, and is currently a full-time volunteer for San Diego LGBT Pride.
  • Brandon Ishikata (SDSU) – Mary Wagner Memorial Scholarship: A victim of bullying when he was in elementary school, Brandon understands the agony many LGBT youth experience. With increasing drop-out rates, his goal is to become an elementary school teacher to not only educate students, but also professionals on the importance of supporting San Diego’s LGBT youth and their emotional needs.
  • Jairo Leon (Cal State San Marcos) – General PFLAG Scholarship: As a graduate student, Jairo is dedicated to creating opportunities for underserved college students to build in capacity, resources and knowledge.
  • Ash Matheson (Canyon Crest Academy) – 2016 Richard P. Geyser Memorial Ethics Scholarship: Transgender and leader of “Building Bridges,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to allowing middle and high school students with special needs the opportunity to bond with peer mentors and work on (largely self-directed) collaborative work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including visual arts, acting, dance and music.
  • Antonio Mendivil (San Diego City College) – Rob Benzon Memorial Scholarship: At the age of 36, Antonio was dealt a harsh, but pivotal life lesson when sentenced to serve a full year at George Bailey Detention Facility, and overcame this struggle drug free and with a clear-mind, now focused on acquiring his diploma.
  • McKenna Roudebush (Rancho Buena Vista High School) — General PFLAG Scholarship: Leader of the Feminist Student Alliance organization at her school, McKenna wanted to help other girls at her school who were interested in feminism, but never felt their voices were heard.

This year’s keynote speaker is Fernando Lopez, director of operations for San Diego LGBT Pride who is also an active advocate for LGBTQ student rights.

WHY: The luncheon will provide attendees with an opportunity to hear the exceptional scholars share their stories and goals, but also raises money to sustain the PFLAG Scholarship Fund at SDHDF. The goal is to be able to increase support to match the ever-rising cost of school, books and living expenses and reduce barriers to education for San Diego County LGBTQ scholars. Scholarship criteria range from teaching-focused goals to ethics and individual triumphs in overcoming obstacles to scholastic excellence. La Pietra Foundation is the presenting sponsor of this year’s luncheon.


  • John Brown, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation
  • Ian Morton, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation
  • Fernando Lopez, San Diego LGBT Pride
  • Mary Cruz, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (Spanish spokesperson)
  • Presentation of awards to the nine scholarship receipients with each student sharing their stories and life experiences with the luncheon attendees. All nine scholarship recipients will also be available for onsite interviews. Best time to interview is between 11 a.m. and 12:10 p.m.
  •  Expected attendance from the following legislative offices:
    • Jason Weisz, Representative, Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins
    • Adriana Martinez, Representative, Councilmember Todd Gloria
    • Roberta Walker and Janie Hoover, Representatives, County Supervisor Dave Roberts

About PFLAG San Diego County
By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG San Diego County realizes its vision through: Support for families, allies and people who are LGBTQ; Education for ourselves and others about the unique issues and challenges facing people who are LGBTQ; Advocacy in our communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ. PFLAG San Diego envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. At PFLAG San Diego County meetings and events, participants find a confidential and supportive setting to share concerns with others and find comfort and reassurance regarding our LGBTQ children, family members, friends, and selves. For more information, go to

About the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation
The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF), which will celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2016, is the sole community foundation in the San Diego region dedicated to the benefit of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. SDHDF funds programs and projects that promote equal treatment, tolerance, wellness, well-being, and above all else, human dignity. We work to strengthen LGBT organizations and leadership. The organization nurtures philanthropic giving to support LGBT people and address important issues such as aging, arts and culture, health and wellness, youth and families, and civil rights. For more information, visit Connect on Facebook and Twitter.