Ruban Lawrence, a Bill 7 Award recipient from 2004 who now lives in Portland, Oregon, credits the Bill 7 scholarship for helping him finish his degree at a particularly challenging period in his life.
“Getting the Bill 7 Award was really the final push for me to go back to school and finish the last half of my Computer Systems Engineering degree at Carleton University in Ottawa,” explains Ruban. “I had dropped out of school because my relationship with my parents had broken down, and I had been on my own for a few years. I was looking at going back to school – but I knew I would have to pay for all the costs without any help. The Bill 7 Award was that final push I needed because it said to me, ‘Hey, you can do this!’”
What’s your most memorable Bill 7 moment?
I will never forget the trip to Toronto that the Bill 7 Trust financed in order for me to attend the awards ceremony – in addition to the scholarship itself. It was a huge deal for me because I was (a) flat broke, and (b) I had never been to Toronto as a completely out gay person nor had I connected with the community there.”
I did end up reconciling with my parents some time later, and through many years of work my parents and I have a good relationship (my mom even came to my wedding!) but I wouldn't have gone back to school had it not been for Bill 7 Scholarship.
Why do you think LGBTQ-specific scholarships are important?
Scholarships like the Bill 7 Award are important for a number of reasons:
- They fight the oppression we experience by helping us educate ourselves, which opens doors for us.
- Scholarship funds like this provide emotional support because they say to the recipients, "Hey, you are part of a community and have allies who've got your back. You are not alone."
- As LGBTQ youth, we are starting off from a marginalized/disadvantaged position in society because of our non-heterosexual sexual orientations. Scholarships for us are important to help level the playing field.
Your advice to LGBTQ youth at this post-secondary stage of their life?
Among the messages I’d like to share with all LGBTQ youth:
- A career is but one part of a rich, well-rounded, happy life. Work is important, but not at the expense of one’s health or relationships.
- Take breaks from your smartphone and constant Internet connectivity. When you wonder about something, instead of Googling for the answer, ponder what the answer might be yourself. Exercise your own independent thinking and analytical ability. The birthplace of creativity, historically, has come from the depths of the weirdness that lies within each of us.
- If you’ve you been working for a while and are ready to move up to a higher-level job but still have a nagging voice that says, “No, I’m still not ready. How will I handle situations X, Y, and Z?” that means you’re ready because only people who have extensive knowledge of something are aware of how much they don’t know.
- Because we’re not heterosexual/heteronormative, many of us have a disproportionate amount of emotional baggage. While it's not fair and certainly not our fault, it’s well worth it to work through all of that baggage – even if doing so is difficult and confusing.
- The majority of the most judgmental, mean people you’ll run into are actually deeply insecure.