Meet 10 Bay Area Students Making an Impact on the LGBTQ Community

Headshots of the 10 Markowski-Leach scholarship recipients

As the AIDS crisis spread in the '80s, Tom Markowski and Jim Leach, a gay couple living in San Francisco, discussed the legacy they wanted to create: They wanted to foster the development of role models for the LGBTQ community.

Through a planned gift made through their estate, the couple established the Markowski-Leach Scholarship Fund, housed at Horizons Foundation, to create their legacy. The Fund awards scholarships to Bay Area students working to make an impact on other LGBTQ people — in other words, role models for the community.

The Markowski-Leach Scholarship recently announced the recipients of this year's awards. Meet the impressive group!

Finn Black

Master’s Candidate, Advanced Public Health Nursing
University of California San Francisco

My name is Finn. I’m a student at the UCSF School of Nursing, working towards a MS in advanced public health nursing. I got an MA at San Francisco State University in geography in 2017, where my research focused on the impact of gentrification in San Francisco on people living with HIV. I decided to become a nurse to get a balance of research and direct service: focus is on providing health care and advocacy to unhoused people in the Bay Area, and public health nursing allows me to stay in touch with the reality on the streets while also working on research and policy advocacy to address root causes of homelessness. As a young trans person, I was fortunate to have mentorship from elders in my community who were HIV and harm reduction activists, which grounds my work today. Ultimately, I see nursing as a form of mutual aid, a way of providing care to my communities. I want to imagine liberatory ways of providing public health services and to demonstrate that medical services do not have to be stigmatizing or oppressive and that a better way is possible.

Cengiz Cemaloglu

MBA Candidate
Stanford University

My name is Cengiz Cemaloglu and I am a deferred admit to the MBA program at Stanford Graduate School of Business. I am currently a Senior Consultant at ReD Associates in Copenhagen – a global strategy consultancy based on the social-sciences. I work to bring humans at the center of decision making for Fortune 500 corporations, governments, and not-for-profits alike. I hold a BA in Anthropology and Government from Harvard College – where I focused my studies on the ethics and practices surrounding global financial markets with a particular focus on the rise of Islamic banking and finance in Asia. Prior to joining ReD, I worked at Goldman Sachs' multi-asset investing group, worked with the strategy team of SOHO China, and served in leadership roles on the board of the Harvard/MIT Cooperative Society, Harvard Art Museums, and the Harvard Foundation. I am incredibly honored to receive the Markowski–Leach Scholarship, as to me, this award is simply an encouragement and a reminder of all the work that is still yet to be done on advancing and securing the rights of LGBTQ+ folks and all other minority groups on a global scale.

Bre Chacon

Senior, Class of 2022
University of California Berkeley

My name is Breanna D Chacon and I am currently studying for my undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of California Berkeley. I am honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Markowski-Leach scholarship. Receiving this scholarship gives me hope for a well-educated, safe, and inclusively diverse future. In the coming semester, I am joining a leadership group called Bear closet that assists youth within the LGBTQIA+ community in their coming out story by offering support, encouragement, and personal experiences. I hope this journey will continue to prove that I am a good role model for my community through the sharing of my story, my presentation, and efforts as a member of the community.

Benjamin Clark

J.D. Candidate
Stanford University

I’m passionate about advancing grassroots solutions to build a future in which everyone can thrive. Born and raised in Georgia, I graduated from Middlebury College in 2016, where I studied history, sociology, and Spanish. In the years since, I’ve worked at the intersection of community-building, healing, and human rights among diverse groups. From 2017 to 2019 I served as the Family Network Director at the Colibri Center for Human Rights in Tucson, Arizona, where I helped build a nationwide support and solidarity network for families whose loved ones disappeared while crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. After returning home to Atlanta, I’ve helped advance policies and build coalitions for a more inclusive Georgia, serving as Chief of Staff for the first openly gay man to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives and managing a multilingual voter protection program in the 2020 election cycle. I’m so honored to have been selected for this year’s Markowski-Leach cohort; I’m proud to join a community of people dedicated to advancing equity for LGBTQ+ folks. With the financial support of the Markowski-Leach Scholarship, I’ll be able to dive all the more deeply into my studies at Stanford Law School and sharpen my legal skills to become a more effective advocate for frontline communities.

Hezi Cohen

MBA Candidate
University of California, Berkeley

My name is Hezi Cohen and I’m an admitted student to the UC Berkeley Haas MBA Program. I grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel, and then in Kadima, a small town north of Tel Aviv. For the last 4 years, I had the privilege to serve as an economist at the Budget Department of the Israeli Ministry of Finance, where I had the opportunity to build and manage the budgets of 15 ministries and agencies, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I also led digital transformation projects to improve public services and introduce innovation to the public sector. During my time in the public sector, I co-founded the “LGBTQ in the Civil Service” Community for LGBTQ civil servants.

I studied Philosophy, Economics and Political Science (PEP) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and after graduation, I worked as a financial analyst. Prior to my studies, I served as a combat soldier and platoon sergeant at the Golani Infantry Brigade of the Israeli Defense Force.

Outside of work, I volunteered for more than 3 years in IGY – the Israeli Gay Youth Organization – and instructed and managed LGBTQ teen groups.

It is a great honor to receive the Markowski-Leach Scholarship. I feel grateful to Tom and Jim, and their generation, who paved the way for my freedom. I am sure that this support will empower me to push my LGBTQ activism further, make a better future for our community, and avail disadvantaged groups of wider access to equal opportunities and prosperity.

Ron Holt

Master’s Candidate, Sexuality
San Francisco State University

My name is Ron Holt. I am a board-certified psychiatrist, speaker, and author. In addition to earning my MA in sexuality at San Francisco State University, I am a practicing psychiatrist in SFSU's student health services. My LGBTQ+ advocacy began 20 years ago when I started returning to the Midwest to volunteer present on various queer related topics, including suicide reduction, how to come out safely, homophobia, and how to support LGBTQ+ people. These presentations have expanded nationwide. I am now the gay role model I wished I had when I was young and struggling with my identity. In 2008, I broadened my presentations to include medical schools and physician audiences. These medical presentations focus on helping medical providers establish LGBTQ+ affirmative clinical environments and how to provide culturally competent care. I created a website ( that is full of free resources and information. I am very honored to be a Markowski-Leach Scholarship recipient. I feel the purpose of the scholarship aligns with my soul's goal: to help those struggling with low self-esteem, low self-worth, and self-acceptance through my advocacy; and to have a profound impact on society and its acceptance and support of the queer community. My master's thesis is entitled "The Impact of Rural Geography on Sexual Identity." Completing this master's degree will open doors to performing research on ways to support queer youth and give me a more profound knowledge base to become a more vigorous advocate, queer leader, speaker, educator, writer, mentor, and psychiatrist.

Emiliano Lemus Hufstedler

MD/MPH Student, Joint Medical Program
University of California Berkeley/University of California San Francisco

Emiliano Lemus Hufstedler is a medical student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, health disparities researcher, and trainer on transgender-affirming healthcare. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Studies at Harvard College, Emiliano worked for a decade as a community organizer, serving as founding director of Erósfera, Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Puebla, Mexico, and co-director of Bluestockings Activist Center in NYC. Their work in medical school has included coordinating a free clinic for street-based youth and LGBTQ patients, serving as the School of Medicine Liaison to the UCSF LGBTQ Advisory Council, and mentoring LGBTQ premed students and other students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine. Their recent research has explored and advocated for the health needs of transgender youth experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area. Emiliano is currently in their final year of medical school at UCSF, getting ready to go into residency in Family Medicine. They intend to practice community-based integrative primary care for LGBTQ community and Spanish-speaking Latinx immigrant communities. Emiliano is trans, proudly Chicano, a parent to five chickens and a poodle, and they love living in Oakland.

Gabby Sergi

J.D. Candidate
University of California, Hastings

My name is Gabby Sergi and I am a rising 3L at UC Hastings. I am incredibly humbled to receive this scholarship and recognize how fortunate I am to have been given the opportunity to help change the face of the legal profession. Only about 4% of lawyers identify as LGBT+ and 2% identify as Latina. This scholarship will help me finish law school and pursue a career as a public interest advocate.

Prior to law school, I graduated with honors from the University of San Francisco majoring in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology, Law and Society. Post-graduation, I educated at-risk and system-involved juvenile justice youth about their rights and the consequences of crime with FLY in Oakland. Also, I served as a CASA and was a Litigation Assistant for the Prison Law Office where I monitored conditions of confinement in California prisons and jails.

As an openly queer first-generation Salvadoran and child of a formerly incarcerated parent, I bring a unique perspective to the legal field, especially criminal justice work. I’ve been able to connect and advocate for minority communities behind bars, especially the LGBT+ community, by using the various parts of my own identity and story.

Alexandra Stergiou

Masters Candidate, Documentary Film and Video
Stanford University

Honored doesn’t begin to describe how it feels to be part of the incredible cadre of queer and trans people receiving the Markowski-Leach Scholarship. I come from humble first-generation roots in Queens, New York. As a filmmaker and scholar, I advocate for ever-stronger inclusion of queer and trans voices in media. My award-winning work in film and television has been broadcast internationally on PBS, Independent Lens, Fuse, ITV, and has screened in festivals and cultural institutions nationwide, including DOC NYC, Big Sky, IFFBoston, SXSW Edu, the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of the American Indian, and The Jewish Museum. My projects have received support from ITVS, If/Then Shorts, and the Tribeca Film Institute, and are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Kanopy, among others. This body of work manifests my interests in performance as archive, queer cinema, and utopian hermeneutics. In addition to my work as a filmmaker and scholar, I am also the Managing Editor of Don’t Give Up Your Day Job, a digital publication documenting the work that has existed, emerged, shifted and will continue shifting society toward a queer utopia. Your Gay Job celebrates and learns from people who are imagining what the future may look like through their nine-to-fives. The publication features interviews with top queer and trans thinkers and doers at places like Netflix, Glassdoor, Bonobos, Daylight, Hinge, and Stanford University’s School of Medicine, among others.

Matthew "Matta" Zheng

Senior, Class of 2022
Stanford University

My name is Matthew "Matta" Haide Zheng (they/them and he/him pronouns), and I am a rising final- year undergraduate at Stanford University. I am currently double majoring in Political Science and Human Biology with Honors in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. My undergraduate studies revolve around a self-designed academic specialization in the political economy of social-spiritual medicine. In high school, I chaired the student council and LGBTQ+ student advocacy council at UWC Atlantic College in Wales and led campus-wide reforms towards LGBTQIA+ inclusion and justice. At Stanford, I am the creator of Refuge, an interfaith LGBTQ+ community organization. Outside of academics and Refuge, I am a research assistant at The PRIDE Study and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In the future, I hope to pursue an MD/MDiv to fulfill my dream of becoming a palliative care physician and Buddhist priest. Receiving the Markowski-Leach Scholarship is an immense honor and humbling privilege, reaffirming my belief that queer community is a form of providence, and that my life's work is to serve this community.

I am also humbled by the legacies of Mr. Markowski and Mr. Leach in their life wishes to support LGBTQ+ advancement. The more I learn about my LGBTQ+ history, the more I appreciate and am in awe of the giants whose shoulders we young LGBTQ+ people stand on.