The 2019 Launching Leaders Luncheon was inspiring and motivational!

For Immediate Release:

2019 PFLAG Scholarship Recipients Announced for “Launching Leaders”

On May 11th, San Diego’s LGBTQ Community and allies came together to support LGBTQ Scholars

San Diego – May 11th, 2019 – Twelve deserving LGBTQ students have been selected from 57 applicants to receive scholarships at the 2019 Launching Leaders lunch reception. Produced in a partnership between PFLAG San Diego County (PFLAG SD) and San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF), the awards reception took place on May 11th, 2019 at the LGBT Community Center from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., providing a platform for recipients to be recognized, as they read excerpts from their application essays. Scholarship criteria range from teaching-focused goal to ethics and individual triumphs in overcoming obstacles to scholastic excellence. Funders of the scholarships include SDHDF, PFLAG SD, The Rob Benzon Foundation, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Qualcomm, as well as families and private donors. The 2019 recipients include: Ramon Aquino (Chula Vista High School), Jeremy Bloom (USD), Levin Guerra (Point Loma High School), Katelynn Gutierrez-George (Southwest High School), Gabriel Guzman (UCR), Evan Hilliard (San Diego Mesa College), Andy Huynh (Crawford High School), Laura James (Alliant International University), Kendra Kleber (Canyon Crest Academy), Will Sandke (Smith College), Isai Soto (Fallbrook High School), and Jesus Suarez (Cuyamaca College).

This year’s keynote speaker was Councilmember Chris Ward, San Diego City Council, District Three.  He shared with the attendants how proud he was of the students and hopes to follow his predecessors such as former San Diego City Councilmember, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, in supporting the community as it continues to grow.  The scholarship recipients each received a commendation from Councilmember Ward.

The 2019 scholarship recipients include individuals who have not only overcome adversity, but proactively addressed challenges and barriers.

Andy Huynh, 2019 recipient of the Stephen G. Bowersox Memorial Scholarship, shared in his essay, “Mental health is something I am very passionate about. Growing up in an Asian household, it was stigmatized. My parents, especially my father, heavily believed in gender roles such as men not being allowed to cry. When I cried they perceived it as an act of attention or lacking masculinity not because I had self-esteem issues. During high school I learned that this stigma expanded to other people of color. A Muslim friend told me that their mosque believes that you can “pray” the depression away. I was in shock. At the same time I was experiencing depression. During both my sophomore and late junior year, I attended therapy. Both instances helped me learn how to cope in times of stress, not belittle myself, and change my black-and-white thinking.

This experience inspired me. Helping others is something I am passionate about as well. I decided to combine my two passions and want to help the people of my community, teenagers specifically, mentally. I believe that by becoming a therapist, I can help those struggling with their mental health and normalize it. In City Heights, San Diego, most people come from a non-Eurocentric background. In turn, most, especially adults, do not believe in the concept of mental health and disorders. My goal is to help children and adults learn that mental health is normal and there are ways to mentally think healthier. I had a toxic mindset where I believed I had to be perfect in every aspect, and if it was not perfect, I failed. I know many of my peers still have that mindset and I want to lessen that sort of black-and-white thinking especially in a society that is increasingly competitive. I hope that parents will learn as well about the issues of mental health and the unrealistic expectations they set upon their children which can lead to self-doubt. I hope to inspire both the youth and adults the power of therapy and awareness of mental health in order to destroy stigmas behind it.

I want to be a part of the solution to help the older generation have this same realization and tell others about mental health. It is a chain reaction. By promoting discussion, the impact of my actions to promote mental health will expand further. To sum it up, I want to help teenagers like myself learn to have a healthier mindset, aid others in their personal turmoil, and spread mental health awareness to the older generation. One small change within a community will blossom to change throughout the world.”

The Launching Leaders event not only gives these exceptional scholars a chance to 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 LGBTQ scholars.

Sponsors for 2019 Launching Leaders include: “Awardee Sponsors” Phyllis Charlton & Randi Dropkin, Margo Alora, Sandy Lawrensen & Jill Sanford, PF Sevier, Barbara Morton and Mary Severine. “Table Sponsors” Barona Band of Mission Indians; San Diego City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, JoyLynn Murray, J&J Realty; LGBT Community Center; Lonnie Brunini & Louie Chavez; North County LGBTQ Resource Center; PFLAG San Diego County; Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems; and the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation. Our Scholarship Sponsors include: Rob Benzon Foundation; Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems; PFLAG San Diego County; San Diego Human Dignity Foundation; Qualcomm; Ray & Jan Aller; Donna & Jim Bowersox; Lonnie Brunini & Terrie Vorono; Marylyn & Art Carpenter, Sharon Murphy. In-kind supporters include: Mance Creative and Belladia Marketing & Design.

About PFLAG San Diego

Mission statement: By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG SDC 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. Vision statement: PFLAG 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 SDC 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 San Diego Human Dignity Foundation

The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation is proud to support over 35 organizations that work in the LGBTQ and HIV communities. It is our mission to continue to support organizations through our various fundraisers, grant cycles, and initiatives to better the community we live in and love. Organizations that are currently being supported by SDHDF include but are not limited to: The San Diego Art Institute, PFLAG San Diego County, San Ysidro Health Center, Mama’s Kitchen, Christie’s Place, Out at the Fair, Sobriety on the Sand, North County LGBTQ Resource Center, Neighborhood House, Stepping Stone of San Diego, Fraternity House, Y.E.S. San Diego, Vista Community Clinic, Family Health Centers of San Diego and San Diego Black LGBT Coalition. For more information, go to