Oceanside CA– MiraCosta College student Geoffrey Koch was strolling by the cafeteria one recent afternoon when he came across a girl encouraging people to fill out applications for scholarships at the school. Koch took the advice. Not long later, he learned he had been named the first recipient of the Gay Straight Alliance’s new endowed scholarship, a $1,000 award granted to a current student who identifies as a member of or as an ally to the LGBTQ community.
“I had never applied for a scholarship at MiraCosta College before, so I was really surprised when I found out,” said Koch, a straight-A student planning to transfer to UC Davis in fall 2015. “I’m really flattered to be awarded this scholarship, but I think it’s even more awesome that the GSA Alliance has gotten to the point where it can do this.”
MiraCosta College is one of the few community colleges in the nation to endow an LGBTQ scholarship. There are a number of scholarships offered to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer/questioning students nationwide, but few exist at the community college level.
“MiraCosta College has a long history of promoting diversity on campus, and this is a continuation of that tradition,” said Steven Deineh, instruction librarian who serves as director of the North County Higher Education Alliance and a faculty co-adviser to the Gay Straight Alliance at MiraCosta College.
Koch, 28, has long been active in LGBTQ issues. He has worked with the San Diego HIV Health Services Planning Council, has done volunteer work with gay advocacy groups and is a member of MiraCosta College’s Gay Straight Alliance. He enrolled at MiraCosta College in the fall of 2013 and plans to work in the field of sustainable agriculture. He ultimately hopes to go into consulting and perhaps government work.
The effort to finance an endowed scholarship began two years ago when students with the Gay Straight Alliance were discussing a fundraiser. Deineh suggested the money raised should be used to fund a scholarship in perpetuity. By hitting their goal of $25,000, students were able to build an endowment through the MiraCosta College Foundation that funded the annual award.
Fundraisers over the past two years included the annual Queer Cupcake Party, a silent auction and sales of rainbow wristbands with the words “Free To Be Me”. The most recent fundraiser, held in April, pushed the total to more than $29,000, prompting the Gay Straight Alliance to set its sights on growing the endowment to give additional scholarships.
“MiraCosta College employees, community organizations and the students themselves have been extremely generous in donating money and time to our fundraising efforts,” Deineh said. “It’s been an awesome experience.”