Maui Pride’s Board of Directors recently presented $14,000 in scholarships to six college students from Hawaii at its Annual Gala Awards Dinner. The non-profit also honored the Maui Aids Foundation, and community members Deborah Vial and Caron Barrett for their continued dedication to Maui’s LGBTQ community at the Oct. 3 event, which was held at Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku.
Maui Pride Vice President Chuck Spence said the nonprofit works year around to raise money for the scholarship program. “The sole mission of Maui Pride is not about teaching tolerance,” Spence said. “Instead, we work tirelessly toward achieving appreciation of all forms of diversity in society through education and enlightenment. What better way to accomplish this mission than through the Maui Pride scholarship program? It is the pinnacle of the work this organization does all year-round.”
Maui Pride enlisted the help of special guests Senator Roz Baker and Ms Hawaii Flecha Tovar to present the scholarship awards and community honors at the annual Awards Dinner Gala. Baker and Tovar presented general scholarships to four individuals who have demonstrated that they will continue to be leaders in the LGBTQ community through education, volunteerism and continued work for equality. The board also presented the Raja Shortell Memorial Scholarship to two individuals who they believe will carry on Shortell’s passion for social justice with a focus on helping troubled youth.
The first recipient of the Maui Pride General Scholarship went to Lynda Barry, a 58-year-old transgender woman from Wailuku who has overcome adversity, including mental health issues and societal expectations. Barry, who studies Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology at University of Hawaii Maui, is very passionate about many issues including inequality, discrimination, abuse and violence towards women and gender variant persons. Barry accepted a $1,000 scholarship.
The second General Scholarship went to Ikaika Moreno from Pahoa, HI. Moreno, a Native Hawaiian, is studying nursing at George Washington University in Washington DC. Moreno also is a member of the National Honor Society and has worked toward educating the LGBTQ community about the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Moreno, who received a $2,000 scholarship, plans to work as a Nursing Family Practitioner after graduating from GWU.
The third recipient of the General Scholarship was Wailuku resident Chasity Cadaoas, who has demonstrated a commitment to LGBT community with her work at Maui Aids Foundations and her volunteer work at Women Helping Women. Cadaoas is studying human services at University of Hawaii Maui College and has impressed community members with her specialized training, family-style leadership and compassionate service to others. She received a $2,500 scholarship.
The fourth Maui Pride General Scholarship went to 19-year-old WenLu Duffy, a two-time scholarship recipient from Kula. Duffy is a musician who has played violin in the Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and recently appeared in Evita. Duffy has set a great example for young members of the LGBTQ community by dedicating herself to her music and to community service since she was just a child. Duffy, who received a $2,500 scholarship, attends UH Maui and will continue her education next semester at University of Hawaii in Hilo, where she plans to study Marine Science.
The evening’s first Raja Shortell Memorial Scholarship went to Jade Chihara, whose parents fostered a transgender sibling while Jade was still in high school. The Lahaina resident is studying woman’s and gender issues at Smith College in Massachusetts. Her parents accepted the scholarship in her honor and father Walter Chihara gave the most moving speech of the evening. He quoted a Jackie DeShannon song from the 1960s at the end of his acceptance speech: “What the world needs now is love sweet love. Not just for some but for everyone.” Chihara’s family accepted a $3,000 Raja Shortell Memorial Scholarship on her behalf.
The final 2015 scholarship went to Raysha Mamala, a transsexual woman who is studying at University of Hawaii Maui College. In addition to being a full-time student, Mamala is a dedicated volunteer with the Queen Liliu’okalani Children’s Center’s Youth Leadership Program. She also is an active member of the Lahaina Hawaiian Civic Club and has a passion for educating others about Hawaiian culture. Her dedication to mentoring lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexuals through their social struggles demonstrates she will continue to be a leader in the LGBTQ community. Mamala accepted a $3,000 Raja Shortell Memorial Scholarship.
Baker and Tovar also presented community awards to the Maui Aids Foundation for their longstanding work to support the health and well being of the island’s LGBTQ community; and to Deborah Vial and Caron Barrett for years of dedication to Maui Pride and other community organizations
Funds for the scholarships are raised through various Maui Pride events including their annual Pride Festival Weekend, annual Lava Soiree and monthly Rainbow Dine-Out events. If you would like to support the scholarship fund, visit mauipride.org for details about upcoming events and giving opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Llevellyn Lightsey, LightSea Images