Youth Leadership Award

The SMYAL LGBT Youth Leadership Awards are individual post-secondary education scholarships of up to $5,000 for Washington, DC Metro Area youth who have demonstrated leadership in their school or community.

The SMYAL LGBT Youth Leadership Award Program will provide up to $20,000 of financial support to offset costs related to continuing ones education, including (but not limited to) technical, and trade school, and two and four year colleges/ universities. Individual awards range up to $5,000 and are paid directly to the student when they begin attending their program of choice.

Self-identified members of the LGBTQ community from the DC Metro Area, who have demonstrated personal growth and leadership in their school or community are encouraged to apply!


  • Self-identify as  a member of the LGBTQ community
  • Have demonstrated personal growth and leadership in your community.
  • Not be related to, the spouse of, the domestic partner of any Selection Committee member or SMYAL board or staff member.
  • Consider your comfort level with being selected. Winners will have their picture and biography publicized.
  • Be age 24 or younger
  • Either be in your last year of high school, have already graduated high school, or complete a GED by the end of Spring 2021


Join an upcoming information session to learn more about YLA before you apply!

Join former YLA winner Monet and SMYAL Youth Leadership Manager, Ty Kitchen at a virtual info session to learn more about the Youth Leadership Awards, how to apply, and what kind these awards mean for young leaders like YOU!

Upcoming Dates:

Tuesday, April 20th @ 6 pm EST
Thursday, April 30th @ 4 pm EST


We know that not every leader is the loudest voice in the room. Leadership can be, but is not limited to:

  • Participate in/lead a GSA or other student club
  • Supporting your community or friends through the pandemic
  • Working in the community to increase education and awareness
  • Involvement in social movements like BLM, climate action, gun control, etc.
  • Hosting conversations at a religious or community-based organization
  • Involvement in political advocacy
  • Arts activism

Applicants should also demonstrate personal growth and the desire to make a difference in the world.


To apply for the Youth Leadership Awards, you will need:

  • A personal essay (maximum 1,500 words) that addresses the question, “As an out LGBTQ leader, how have you positively impacted the lives of those around you in your school or local community?”
  • Two letters of support from individuals who can speak to your suitability for this award
  • A list of programs where you have submitted active applications and any acceptance letters you’ve received

Previous Winners

2020 Winners

2019 Winners

  • Nathan Handberg

    Nathan Handberg is a recent graduate of  Freedom High School in Chantilly, Virginia. Nathan is a compassionate leader, having run their school’s LGBTQ club and…

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  • Jonathan Yannes

    Jonathan Yannes is a recent graduate of  James Hubert Blake High School in  Silver Spring, Maryland. Jonathan is  an outspoken leader in not only his school, b…

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  • Malik Ivey

    Malik Ivey is a  recent graduate of  the SEED School of Washington, DC. Malik brings energy, creativity, and curiosity to his many leadership roles. Malik is a…

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  • Jackson Newman

    Jackson Newman is a recent graduate of  George C. Marshall High School  in Falls Church, Virginia. Jack  is fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth in the DMV area. As…

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  • Hannah Jones

    Hannah Jones is as recent graduate of  Wakefield High School in Claremont, Virginia. Hannah is a natural leader, having served as the President of her school’s…

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  • Max Hancock

    Max Hancock is a recent graduate of Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland. Max is an exemplary leader, having served as the President of his high school…

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2018 Winners

  • Zion Miller

    Zion Miller is a senior at Stonewall Jackson High School, in Manassas, Virginia. Zion is the president of Pride Club, Black Student Union, and Peer Diversity. …

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  • Leo Bassow

    Leo Bassow is a proud leading member of the School Without Walls’ Gender and Sexuality Alliance. An avid artist, Leo focuses much of his artwork around the ide…

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  • James van Kuilenburg

    James van Kuilenburg is a trans youth advocate in his school and community. He is the founding president of his school’s GSA, as well as the grassroots trans a…

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  • Vivian Soler

    Vivian Soler is a high school senior at the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, VA.Vivian’s work through a leadership class at H-B Woodlawn focused on…

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  • Grace Dolan-Sandrino

    Grace Dolan-Sandrino is an activist and advocate for marginalized youth. She has written for publications such as Teen Vogue, and The Washington Post, and has …

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  • Elizabeth Moore

    Elizabeth Moore graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Virginia. As a senior, Elizabeth was Vice President of her GSA. Elizabeth focused on growing t…

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  • Addison Moore

    Addison Moore graduated from Paul International High School in Washington, DC. They co-founded their high school’s GSA to make the school safer for LGBTQ stude…

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  • Reeves Gift

    Reeves Gift is a Trinidadian-American filmmaker who strives to heal the world. His work with youth advocacy has come through engagement with his school communi…

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2017 Winners

  • Miles Max Davis-Matthews

    From advocating to have a GSA in his high school, to connecting his peers with resources, Miles is being acknowledged for his strong commitment to helping othe…

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  • Queen Griffin

    Queen has started her own organization, Keeping the Arts Alive (KAA), which advocates for arts education to remain a well funded area in schools and reached ou…

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  • Joshua Horvath

    Joshua is being recognized for his involvement in Wilson’s Gay-Straight Alliance, SMYAL’s Activist Camp, and his leadership in theatre.

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  • Brandon Odemns

    Brandon is being recognized for being an active member of his school community by being a leader and advocate in his school’s Student Government Association...

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  • Rowan Woldridge

    Rowan is being recognized for his ability to educate others about issues facing the transgender community and for his constant search to find justice.

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2016 Winners

  • Olatunji Coleman

    We are honoring Olatunji for his strength and perseverance in the face of bullying and mis- understanding at school, for his dedicated giving back to his commu…

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  • Nancy Brooks

    We are honoring Nancy for her integrity and drive, for her commitment to being an out and proud leader in her school, and for being a visible resource for her …

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  • Bennett Shoop

    We are honoring Bennett for their commitment to social justice, their perseverance in the face of bullying, and their demonstrated personal integrity.

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  • Azariah Kurlantzick

    We are honoring Azariah for their tenacity as an out LGBTQ leader, for their incredible intentionality in their approach to leadership, and for their unwaverin…

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  • Rami Zein

    We are honoring Rami for his perseverance as an out LGBTQ leader in the face of his personal obstacles.

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  • Monet Umana

    We are honoring Monet for her commitment to her radical politics, for her drive to eradicate spaces where people may feel disposable or undervalued...

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2015 Winners

  • Erika Johnson

    Erika Johnson is a recent Oxon Hill High School graduate where she was the president of her Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

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  • Kaaliyah McDowell

    Kaali- yah was co-president of her GSA, in which she facilitated weekly conversations on is- sues facing LGBTQ people.

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  • Carlos McKnight

    Carlos is excited to advocate for issues such as workplace discrimination and adoption rights that many LGBTQ people still face.

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  • Maya Parker

    At Wanda Alston, Maya shined as a leader, using her motivation to work with her peers to realize their passions and support them in their struggles.

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  • Emily Pearson-Beck

    Emily Pearson-Beck graduated from Washington-Lee where she was Co-President for her school’s GSA. Recently, she organized a letter campaign to allow middle sch…

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