GENOA – A new scholarship to support the further education of LGBTQ+ students has been created at Genoa-Kingston High School by a school alum who said he wants, in part, to support the school’s gender and sexuality club.
THE SPEAK OUT! AWARD is a college scholarship created by Genoa-Kingston graduate Tom Gustafson and his partner, Cory Krueckeberg, through their media production company SPEAK Productions. The scholarship was established to foster service within and increase visibility of the LGBTQ+ community by celebrating graduating seniors who have worked to build positive LGBTQ+ awareness.
Gustafson, who graduated from Genoa-Kingston High School in 1994, said that he was bullied for his sexual orientation in high school.
“Growing up in a small town is hard, and growing up as an LGBTQ+ individual in a small town is even harder,” he said. “This scholarship is a simple, small way to encourage and celebrate kids that do have the courage to be out. It’s not an easy thing to do. I wish I had to courage to do that when I was their age.”
Applicants must be graduating seniors entering a 2-to-4 year college in 2022 and must identify as LGBTQ+. The one-time $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to one or more deserving recipients. The deadline to apply is April 1. Recipients will be announced at the Genoa-Kingston Senior Academic Awards Night.
Embracing identities in high school isn’t always easy, Gustafson said, which is why he wants students to know he celebrates them.
“They are true to themselves and fully embracing their identity,” he said. “It’s exciting and inspiring to see that they fully embrace who they are and are not shy to speak their truth.”
Gustafson said that one of the reasons he created the scholarship was in support of LGBTQ+ students at Genoa-Kingston High School after the Sexuality and Gender Equity Club stipend was delayed by the Genoa-Kingston school board in November 2021. The delay spurred some public outcry in the community. In January, the board unanimously approved a $717 stipend for the club’s advisor to use for club activities.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to be true to yourself,” Gustafson said. “I hope the scholarship will bring some attention to the students as well as increase awareness to other schools. It’s important to embrace these courageous students and let them know they are welcomed, appreciated and celebrated.”
SPEAK Productions’ work has won more than 60 awards and screened at more than 250 film festivals around the world. The production company’s film, “GLITTER & DOOM,” which is in post production, is the first to use the iconic tunes of “Indigo Girls” as a musical storytelling. Gustafson graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in film and television. Krueckeberg graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Professional Actor Training Studio at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
To apply for the SPEAK OUT Award 2022, visit forms.gle/FRZA7cbcsbusYQNk7.
For information or to request a PDF of the application, email firstname.lastname@example.org.