Daniel Gomez-Ortega was honoured to receive a Bill 7 Award scholarship in the Fall of 2015, when they were an undergraduate at Ryerson University. Daniel, who has since graduated and is an active volunteer in the Toronto-area LGBTQ community, shares their reflections on what the Bill 7 Award meant to them and how it’s impacted their life as an LGBTQ graduate at the start of their career path.
What did it feel like winning that $2,000 scholarship?
Winning the Bill 7 Award scholarship was a huge honour and it made me feel like I mattered. Often, volunteering can be a thankless job and even though there are struggles that come with it, you sometimes wonder if people notice your hard work. Being acknowledged among such a great group of people and other winners made me feel like the work I did really made a difference.
How did winning the Bill 7 Award help you?
For the past couple of years I have been studying full time and working part time, but that has taken second and third seat to my volunteer commitments. Some of the organizations that I have been involved with in a leadership role have been PrideHouseTO, Pride Toronto, and the Toronto Police Service. Winning the Bill 7 scholarship allowed me to focus less on making ends meet, and more on the community work that has the potential to impact so many more, especially through my roles on the board of directors for Toronto PFLAG and Out and Out, the LGBTQ outdoor recreation group, helping other members of our community connect.
What have you been up to since you won the award?
Since winning the award I have finished my Bachelor of Arts in English at Ryerson University, and have been hired by Ryerson full time in a Client Service Ambassador role in the Registrars Office. In this position I have the opportunity to help prospective students, parents, and visitors with their admission questions, enrolment, and financial assistance. In the near future I hope to achieve a Masters in Public Administration and bring my experiences and education to a position in government, helping others in a brand new capacity.
Do you have a particular message to young LGBTQ post-secondary students?
Growing up LGBTQ, we are only shown one very narrow picture of what it is to be LGBTQ, and therefore feel some pressure to fit into this mold to feel part of the “community.” Even though representation in the media has evolved, many colours of the rainbow still are not being reflected in what we see every day. My advice to other LGBTQ post-secondary students would be to use your education to show others what being LGBTQ can be, and what it means to you. Try your best and push yourself to your full potential and be the best example of your authentic self that you can be not only for others, but for yourself. Aim to become the role model you wish you had growing up.